Yngwie Malmsteen – Parabellum (Album Review)

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Prepare for another grandiose Neo-Baroque assault.

In terms of showmanship with an eye for technical flair, few can match the ability and historical significance tied to the name of Yngwie Malmsteen. Many have come in the years since his stints with Steeler and Alcatrazz in 1983, to speak nothing for the riveting display of virtuosity that was his 1984 solo album debut, with such noted names as Jason Becker and Joe Stump being among the impressive acolytes to take up a similar stylistic mantle. Likewise, the Neo-classical dabbling of Uli Jon Roth and Ritchie Blackmore during the 1970s laid a foundation of precedence for what this mad, Strat-toting Swede turned icon would unleash upon the masses. But in terms of taking the concept to its logical conclusion and truly elevating the electric guitar as an instrument capable of reviving the common practice brilliance of the 18th century in a metal context, Malmsteen’s impressive body of work over the past several decades has been the linchpin.

Though Yngwie’s flagship project Rising Force was established primarily as an instrumental vehicle for his technical and songwriting abilities, the subsequent commercial success that followed can largely be credited to him adopting a more traditional, band-oriented format. One can’t really help but hear seminal classics like “Marching Out,” “Trilogy” and “Odyssey” without noting the highly impressive vocal feats of Jeff Scott Soto, Mark Boals and Joe Lynn Turner, and the singers that would follow suit in the 90s and 2000s would be no slouches either. But the 2010s has largely seen this project return to its primordial format, with instrumental songwriting featuring wild shredding passages being the main attraction, while more traditional songs have exclusively featured Malmsteen himself handling vocal duties. Following a more blues/rock based interlude with the lion’s share consisting of cover songs that was “Blue Lightning” in 2017, the godfather of Paganini-inspired shred has opted for a more metallic approach for 2021’s “Parabellum.”

With a Latin title that translates as “Prepare For War” in English, this is an opus that pulls no punches and stands firmly on Malmsteen’s power metal credentials. The production that subsumes each track mirrors the rough, modern character that has been a consistent staple of his work since the late 1990s, landing the closest to the particularly chunky and percussive sound that typified 2002’s “Attack” and its 2005 follow up “Unleash The Fury”. For his part, Yngwie is in top form on the six-string, often channeling the unfettered rage and organic precision that he brought to the table on 1995’s “Magnum Opus,” while his songwriting remains firmly rooted in the often fast-paced, and otherwise driving metallic feel that plays so well to his fancy soloing style. His vocal work is competent, with the occasional harmonized passages coming off as particularly well-realized, but his limited range and baritone timbre comes off as a bit static, especially when compared to the flamboyant vocal personalities in this project’s past. Nevertheless, it’s a small flaw that is barely noticeable, as the songs have far more of a focus on guitar work than vocal prowess.

“Parabellum” Album Artwork

The individual chapters in this latest book of shred with a side of Bach prove to be highly engaging, to the point of outshining much of what has come out under Yngwie’s moniker in the past decade. The high octane crusher and opener “Wolves At The Door” is grade A speed metal thunder with plenty of blurring leads and a strong vocal showing, rivaling noted faster works in Rising Force’s past such as “Never Die” and “Vengence”. The more grooving stomp of “Relentless Fury” provides some solid vocal hooks and reminisces a bit upon the restrained heaviness of 1999’s “Alchemy,” while the tuneful and melancholy acoustic balladry of “Eternal Bliss” sees Malmsteen’s vocal work shine quite well in a more exposed format, showing a fair degree of dynamic range while still leaning heavily on his amazing guitar abilities to bring the whole thing home. But of four proper songs found on this album, “(Fight) The Good Fight” shines the brightest with a solid array of riff and lead magic played at a lightning fast tempo, reminding heavily of brilliance that was “Liar” off the “Trilogy” album.

When all is said and done, where this album truly sets itself apart from the competent yet par for the course work that has come out of Yngwie’s creative well since 2012 is a far more interesting and memorable set of instrumental shred numbers. Often the few tracks per album that have filled this role since 1992’s “Fire And Ice” tend to run together and take a backseat to the radio friendly bangers, but the High Baroque-inspired festival of shred that is “Presto Vivace In C# Minor”, the technical wizardry set to a power metal template “Toccata”, and the truly spellbinding speed machine “Magic Bullet” all steal the show and stand as the most potent returns to the Rising Force debut template since the title offering off 1990’s “Eclipse”. Some of us may continue to hope that Yngwie will recruit another grand vocal impresario to recapture the sound of his often celebrated era spanning the 80s up until the mid-1990s, but failing this, if the 2020s have more of this in store for everyone, it’ll be really tough to complain.

Released By: Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group
Released On: July 23rd, 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal

“Parabellum” Album Tracklist:

  1. Wolves At The Door
  2. Presto Vivace in C# minor
  3. Relentless Fury
  4. (Si Vis Pacem) Parabellum
  5. Eternal Bliss
  6. Toccata
  7. God Particle
  8. Magic Bullet
  9. (Fight) The Good Fight
  10. Sea Of Tranquility

8.0 Great

The ubiquitous prognosticator of Neo-classical revivalism with a power metal edge has opted to go it alone once more, amassing a respectable collection of tuneful bangers and instrumental displays of technical intrigue that culminates in something highly current, yet closer to his primordial exploits

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 7

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