Sound Advice: Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force with The Raskins, Crooked Rook and 80 Proof (May 20)

Neo-Classical Metal guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen shreds Covington's Madison Theater

click to enlarge Yngwie Malmsteen - PHOTO: BUBAMARA (CC BY 2.0)
Photo: Bubamara (CC BY 2.0)
Yngwie Malmsteen

“Unconventional” doesn’t begin to describe Yngwie Malmsteen, the Swedish prodigy who has been cited by uncountable publications as one of the world’s greatest guitarists. At age 10, the Stockholm native — born Lars Lannerbäck — started his first band, a guitar/drums duo, with a friend. Two years later, he changed his name to Yngwie Malmsteen, a slight tweak on one of his middle names (Yngve) and his mother’s maiden name. Soon after, he combined his love of Classical music, particularly the work of violinist/composer Niccolò Paganini, with his love of guitarists Brian May, Uli Jon Roth and Ritchie Blackmore (his beacon influence), and converted it into the Neo-Classical-shredding style he helped popularize in the early ’80s.

Malmsteen was introduced to America by Mike Varney, founder/operator of Shrapnel Records, a guitarist-oriented Metal label. After a stint with the band Steeler, Malmsteen shifted to Alcatrazz for two albums, but his 1984 solo debut, Rising Force — intended to be an Alcatrazz side project — vaulted him into the limelight. The album nearly cracked the Top 50 of Billboard’s albums chart, Guitar Player cited it as the best Rock album of the year and Malmsteen was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Throughout the ’80s, Malmsteen was one of Metal’s most influential guitarists — he and Eric Clapton were the first to be honored by Fender with a signature Stratocaster model — but his star descended slightly in the subsequent decade as Neo Classical Metal faded. Still, Malmsteen continued to steadily release albums and guest with other artists, including former members of his band, and after the turn of the century, he joined the G3 collective with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

Over the past three-and-a-half decades, Malmsteen has released more than 20 studio albums, various live sets and compilations and close to 20 videos, several of an instructional nature. In 2008 he founded his own label, the appropriately named Rising Force, and began self-releasing his work, including last year’s acclaimed World on Fire. Last year also saw him appear alongside Vai, Nuno Bettencourt, Tosin Abasi and Zakk Wylde on the wildly and deafeningly popular Generation Axe tour.

Since the very beginning of his career, Malmsteen has been widely celebrated for his almost supernatural guitar talent and he reinforces every citation with each new album and stage appearance. “Play Loud” isn’t just the nickname of one of Yngwie Malmsteen’s Stratocasters, it’s the only way he knows how to unwrap his musical gifts.

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