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Yngwie Malmsteen - The Only Way in Yngwie

Issue #52

Nearly two decades on and Yngwie Malmsteen's legacy seems stronger than ever, and he certainly doesn't seem to be considering slowing down anytime soon with the old mantras of "Play Loud!" and "More is more" still very much his modus operandi.
Jonathan Graham

Last year, Yngwie Malmsteen released his twentieth studio album, 'World on Fire' after a four-year break from putting out new material (the longest of his career). The record has been extremely well received amongst fans, and with a major fall U.S. tour about to kick off next month, Guitar Interactive Magazine editor Jonathan Graham caught up with Yngwie at his first solo show in London for nearly a decade.

Yngwie Malmsteen is a rarity in today's music world. Not only for his incredible gift on his chosen instrument but also his vision and unyielding commitment with regards to the direction of his music. Love him or hate him, there can be no doubt that every note on any of his records is meant to be there and sound precisely as he would want. An incredible and rare achievement for an artist who has had multiple major record contracts during the course of his career to date.

Although he's been doing just fine solo for quite some time, it's worth noting that some of YJM's finest early work came in more of a collaborative form, as following one album with LA-based generic metal/hard rock act Steeler, Malmsteen would join the mighty, Alcatrazz.

Initially, Alcatrazz was formed by Graham Bonnet as a showcase of his own talents. Bonnet, who was, albeit briefly, part of Richie Blackmore's Rainbow (Replacing Ronnie James Dio in 1979) recruited Malmsteen, who instantly pushed the band toward a more elaborate, neoclassical approach. Their first album, 'No Parole from Rock and Roll,' was the result of this impressive collaboration, but it wasn't long before tensions within the group led to a clash over control between Yngwie and Bonnet which would see Malmsteen subsequently leave the band to go it alone.

When Malmsteen released his first album of predominantly instrumental work called 'Rising Force,' in 1984, it was a phenomenon reaching #60 on Billboard’s album chart and receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. There had been technically fast players on the scene before Malmsteen; however, his unique style, born from a foundation of classical music and progressive rock, provided him with a level of sophistication and elegance that had never been seen before on the electric guitar. Deriving much of his technique from violin players performing the works of classical composers such as Bach and Paganini mixed with more contemporaries such as Richie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth. Yngwie filtered all of this through a Fender Strat and a Marshall stack on 10 to leave a thumbprint on modern electric guitar the likes of which had never been seen and create a blueprint for all 1980s metal guitar players to (attempt to) follow.

When interviewed by Guitar World at the time, regarding his technical abilities, Yngwie stated; "I don’t consider myself to be a very fast player. I’m sure there are other guitarists who can play faster. I play classical runs, arpeggios and broken chords that if played at a slower speed would sound very nice as well. But if you do it very fast and very clean, but not necessarily as fast as someone else, you appear much faster because what you’re playing actually makes more sense."

Yngwie seems to have developed fast technique simply because he didn’t want to be limited and at the same time was obsessed with improvement. He was determined to take what he played one day and improve it in a particular way the next. Whether it was reeling off alternate-picking harmonic minor phrases easier than most guitar players find their way through a minor pentatonic scale. Or diminished arpeggios at lighting speed. Not since Eddie Van Halen had a guitar player been as influential to the prevailing sound of rock music.

Malmsteen's subsequent albums, 'Marching Out' and 'Trilogy' did well to cement his reputation as a soloist. However, his fourth record 'Odyssey', with the help of radio-friendly tracks such as; "Heaven Tonight" and "Dreaming" widened his audience beyond a devoted core of guitar fans and helped push the album into Billboard's Top 40 as well as success in Europe and Japan, and the then Soviet Union.

Nearly two decades on and Yngwie Malmsteen's legacy seems stronger than ever, and he certainly doesn't seem to be considering slowing down anytime soon with the old mantras of "Play Loud!" and "More is more" still very much his modus operandi.

In support of his new album, Yngwie Malmsteen's recent sold-out U.S. trek this year, (his first, following the hugely popular "Generation Axe" tour in 2016 with Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi) has added a second run of shows in the U.S. and tickets are now on sale.


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Jim Root

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