Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yngwie Malmsteen, "Marching Out"

The other day I woke up with Yngwie Malmsteen's "I Am a Viking" in my head. I don't know what put it there, but I couldn't dislodge it all day long. The song is the perfect combination of a powerful riff and badass lyrics. The riff is slow and simple, but it sounds massive in the way that the early Black Sabbath riffs seared themselves into your consciousness. And the lyrics:

I am a warrior
My mind is set to kill
Life or death is on the line
I am a slayer
And you will taste my steel
I've got your life right in my hand

Jeff Scott Soto has a voice both pure and aggressive enough to make you believe those words. The melodies are memorable, but sung with an intensity that separates the music from garden-variety melodic hard rock. The song ends with several layers of ethereal guitar parts doing a sort of call-and-response, almost like it is a hymn sung after battle. This is a fitting end to a well-crafted song.

The other songs are great across the board; there's no filler. As a matter of fact, the "second side" of the album is perhaps better than the more well-known collection of songs at the beginning. My favorite song is "Soldier Without Faith," which has a crawling, arpeggio-laced verse riff, then a very good chorus with tasteful keyboards in the background. The eerie, plaintive quality of the song fits its lyrical content perfectly.

And here's the crazy part: I haven't mentioned the guitar solos yet! Did I mention that Yngwie Malmsteen is one of the best there is? His solos here are typically classical and fast as hell, but they're a bit more memorable than a lot of his more recent albums. In "Soldier Without Faith," for example, he puts some echo effects that pan from speaker to speaker to achieve a wonderfully eerie sound. The acoustic intro to "Disciples of Hell" still blows my mind. Can he really play that fast?

The album is really well-constructed, managing the emotional content and variety from beginning to end very well. I especially appreciate the outro instrumental "Marching Out," which again serves to contextualize the aggression and power that preceded it. A truly touching song.

I don't know how "power metal" got its start or what its commonly understood lineage is, but Malmsteen's "Marching Out" is what prepared me for it. I wouldn't have been led to bands like Blind Guardian, Helloween, or Stratovarius without first going through Malmsteen.

No comments:

Post a Comment