Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yngwie Malmsteen - Rising Force

Today (March 5th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Rising Force, the debut studio album from Swedish guitarist/composer Yngwie Malmsteen. This 1984 release went to number 19 in Japan and number 14 in Sweden. Here in the US, it spent forty-three weeks on the Billboard Album chart and peaked at number 60. It also received a nomination for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance (it lost to Jeff Beck’s “Escape”).

Performing with Malmsteen on the record were Barrie Barlow (drums), Jens Johansson (keyboards and harpsichord) and Jeff Scott Soto (vocals).

Side one begins with the instrumental “Black Star”. I like the simple, single guitar opening that leads into a darker, heavier piece. Malmsteen shows right from the get-go that his axe playing is a force to be reckoned with.

The instrumental “Far Beyond the Sun” soars into the heavens, fueled by high energy guitar licks.

“Now Your Ships Are Burned” is next. It makes effective use of pauses through out the track to add to the tension of the conflict.

“Evil Eye” was inspired by the 17th century German composer Johan Krieger’s “Bourree”.

Side two opens with “’Icarus’ Dream Suite Op. 4”, a piece based upon the 20th century Italian composer Remo Giazotto’s “Adagio in G minor”. The track is a sweeping eight and a half minutes in length and takes the listener on an epic musical journey.

The opening harpsichord of “As Above, So Below” sets up a solemn, reverent moment. It then leads quickly into a hard rocking morality play.

Next is the instrumental “Little Savage”.

The fifty second long “Farewell” provides a closing epilogue to the album.

Rising Force is the first album by Yngwie Malmsteen I have ever listened to, and I was completely blown away by it. I like where the music takes me, and each piece has nuances that can be enjoyed upon repeated listens. It really sets the bar high in the category of fusion between hard rock and classical music. The only negative I have is that it lacks some variety. I would have like to have heard some more introspective, acoustic pieces. The closing track “Farewell” is an example, but it is hardly long enough.

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