YNGWIE MALMSTEEN - "ATTACK!!" (PONY CANYON)
If you look at the pictures in the "Attack!!" booklet, God - I will refer to him from now on as Yngwie - seems not to have aged a year. If anything, his cranial follicles seems to have sprouted forth copious amounts of new hair, all ready to be caught in machineheads and strings at embarassing moments (such as during a show).
If you listen to the music on "Attack!!", well, nothing seems to have aged either. It's like you're right back a few years. The same production (i.e. a bad one, that disables you from ever playing the album loud), a lot of eeriely recognisable riffs and entire parts of solos consisting of the same descending licks we've heard countless times.
First, perhaps, I ought to explain something for those who haven't read the "Live Concerto" reviews: Yngwie has fallen entirely off his pedestal as far as I am concerned. In fact, as I will attempt to reveal in this review, I have reason to believe that Yngwie has actually fallen as far as six feet under.
It is my firm belief - much in the way that I unreservedly, yes, even unashamedly used to believe that Yngwie was God - that the person behind the latest album is in fact none other than April Malmsteen, "Photoshop" and "Protools" expert extraordinaire. It is my firm belief that all the pictures in the booklet are old archive pictures with hair added in "Photoshop". In fact, April Malmsteen's considerable talents in "Photoshop" only don't suffice to change the late Yngwie's features into something a moderate half-wit would call a smile, or even a grin. If you believe the pictures, Yngwie has nothing to be happy about. I have from sources close to the Malmsteen family that the pictures were taken shortly before he bit the bullet. I cannot reveal who told me... Well, OK, it's his son Antonio Yngwie Johann Malmsteen, but you shouldn't tell that to anyone. From his childish babblings, when processed backwards, I could clearly distill "God Is Dead. Help Me. Satan Is In April. Give Me A Peppermint." I swear I could hear the capitals.
When Go...I mean, Yngwie's management discovered his death - believed to be the result of a bizarre gardening accident involving spontaneous combustion - they immediately called a meeting with the grieving widow and his infant son. Antonio Yngwie Johann could not divulge what took place at said meeting, except that peppermints had changed hand. It is believed that Mrs. Malmsteen was instructed to protect the Studio 308 mixing desk settings at all costs. This to ensure that the 'unique Malmsteen sound' (guitar and bass really loud, the bass drum sounding like something is slapping a wet piece of meat, all other instruments and the vocals negligibly back in the mix) would be preserved for posterity.
It is believed that April Malmsteen, looking at what some or other hurricane had done to her house's paint job, suddenly got the luminous idea that resulted in "Attack!!". With bills to pay, three pissed-off ex-wives' alimonies to shell out, and the royalties no longer being those of the early Polydor days, she decided to lock herself in the studio with "Protools" and her late husband's back catalogue. She never discovered Antonio Yngwie Johann's attempt to sabotage the attempt until after the result had been mastered: The toddler had managed to make the album incapable of being played loud by turning up the bass in the mix. Way up.
"Pyramid of Cheops" was transformed into "Valley of Kings". The title track, the utter hommage to "Protools", was created by throwing together a veritable hotchpotch of old riffs and solos. In fact, it is a little known fact that "Attack!!" means "Professional Tools" in a rare Sasquetchewan Indian dialect - no doubt a vicious stab at the most recent ex-Mrs. Malmsteen, half-native-Indian Amberdawn. April also felt this 'new' Yngwie album should also have the obligatory semi-sensitive Yngwie-style ballad, so she created "Majestic Blue". In the light of the late Mr. Malmsteen's slagging off of black metal, she played another cruel joke: "Valhalla" has clear references to Immortal ("coming from the north") and known guitar molesters Slayer ("live by the sword, die by the sword"). But the ruthless cruelty doesn't stop there: "Touch the Sky" was 'inspired' by a track of what was previously Yngwie's, um, least acclaimed album, "Fire and Ice". And "Iron Clad" is a clever mix of "Motherless Child" (from "Eclipse") and some or other track off "War To End All Wars" which yours truly was unwilling to further investigate. Rumour has it that the "Eclipse" and "Fire and Ice" references were a subtlely secret tribute to Goran Edman, Yngwie's least favourite vocalist with whom April has been seen coming out of a cheap motel in Upplands Vasby, Sweden. April must also have been aware of Yngwie's revulsion of old Shrapnel-style guitarists like Joey Tafolla and Vinnie Moore, whom he always claimed took off with his ideas. Including a suitably processed version of Vinnie Moore's rendition of the classical track "Air" (originally from "Time Odyssey", 1988) satisfied her wicked sense of irony.
Thankfully, April had one new track at her disposal, which she found after Antonio Yngwie Johann had accidentally tipped over a trashcan. It was a rough demo with her late husband on vocals. Reckoning the fans should get at least 7% worth of entirely new stuff (the benchmark by which virtually all Malmsteen albums so far had been measured most rigorously!), she included it as one of the 15 tracks present on the regular version of "Attack!!". "Freedom Isn't Free", for such is the track entitled, is Yngwie's heroic attempt - indeed, success - at overplaying a bluesy rock track at once on guitar and bass, and over-singing to boot. The Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is currently thinking of including "Vocal Embellishments" and simply adding a reference to "Freedom Isn't Free".
Which left Yngwie's grieving - and lamentably cash-depleted - widow with a problem so often faced by her late soulmate: Who to hire for the other - puppet - roles in the band? The choice fell to Patrick Johansson on drums (quite a legend west of the river in Jönk¨ping, Sweden, it is said), Derek Sherinian on keyboards (who was not even consulted, but seemed a logical choice after Yngwie's final tour experience) and Dougie White on vocals. In fact it's not Dougie you hear on the vocals at all, most of it is recycled Marc Boals with a bit of Jeff Scott Soto thrown in. However, the use of Dougie's name was licensed to include every Yngwie album's prerequisite Ritchie Blackmore connection.
I'd like to ask for two minutes of silence to commemorate the passing of a talented individual who provided the biggest impact on the guitar scene since Eddie van Halen. Let's hear it for Yngwie Malmsteen. Hey. Well, rather, let's not hear it for two minutes.
You never know who might get weird ideas after the above, so I'd like to mention that in fact nothing of the above is true. However, what is true is that "Attack!!" is not one of Yngwie's finest albums. It made the above scenario seem all too realistic. His solos sound identical to stuff he's done before, Dougie White (though capable of far more, listen to Rainbow's "Stranger in Us All") sounds like Marc Boals, the drummer is mediocre indeed (where are the hallowed times of Mike Terrana?) and Yngwie can't produce worth SHIT. Do yourself a favour and give this album a miss.
Written September 2002
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