Not much more than a year can have passed since the previous album, "Alchemy", was released, and already fresh arpeggios and neoclassical outbursts rain from the heavens like manna to the Israelites. Indeed, yes, listen and weep, Yngwie Malmsteen has released "War to End all Wars"!

Needless to say, the release filled me up with anticipation, zeal, fervour and a whole host of other near-religious experiences. Already I envisioned my spasms of joy at listening to Yngwie's immaculately executed scales, my droolings from various orifices at holding in my hands yet another small gem of neoclassical shred. I imaged locking myself up somewhere, abstaining wholly and totally from earthly joys and temptations, to listen to the album on repeat, my fingers bloodied from playing air guitar, my mind melted by Malmsteen's sheer virtuosity and ingeniosity.

None of it happened. Obviously, "War to End all Wars" is a brilliant album that will not see its guitar-related equal anywhere this year. However, a lot of small things nag me about God's latest offering. For starters I can't stand Mark Boals, who is one of Yngwie's worst singers. Second, there is virtually no space for keyboard wizard Mats Olausson to excel, nor is there much space for drummer John Macaluso to do anything other than chop wood. Third, there are rather too many large-ish bits that instantly cause to pop into your mind earlier Malmsteen songs: "Rising Force" in "The Wizard", "Dreaming (Tell Me)" in "Miracle of Life", "See You in Hell" in "Catch 22". Fourth, Yngwie seems to have cranked up the distortion parameters quite a bit, meaning the guitar is louder and more up front in the mix (good) but also that it sound a lot less clean and flawless (bad). Fifth, the album is dripping with vocal harmonies, ranging in cheese factor from "rather" to "hey I'm drowning!" These (usually descending) vocal harmonies have probably always been there, but now they started bugging me. Sixth, the bass drums sound like they have been produced by simply flicking some DSP chip into "stadium" mode. Way too loud. Seventh, the final track is too much for me - a reggae (!) song entitled "Black Sheep of the Family". Nice experiment...NOT!

Of course, my feelings about The New Yngwie aren't all bad, such as mere mortals' opinions about any God cannot ever help to be. Yngwie plays bass on the entire album, for example, meaning there's crisp sounding bass all over the place, clearly distinguishable and technically baffling. "Instrumental Institution" has some of the best bass playing this side of "Trilogy" (incidentally, this is also the only track where Mats steps into the limelight). "Wild One" is another good track (though besplattered with rather a few descending vocal harmonies), each time becoming really interesting with tempo changes and that sort of thing just as the choruses begin, then crescendoing into something Good when it repeats the cool themes from "Preludium" (a nice classically influences instrumental track) near the end.

(I should really learn to get my long sentences under control, perhaps a few periods. Here. Or there.)

There's lots of good stuff on the album, such as the bombastic and long-spun "Crucify" (singing not too good though), the heavy "Catch 22" and the bombastic title track. Also, Yngwie is getting ever better at playing (and tastefully making use of) the sitar.

All in all, not quite Divine, this one. But not exactly an aural slap with a wet piece of meat either.

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Written November 2000


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