In 2002 a Swedish guitarist with poodle hair threatens a fellow passenger on a flight to Japan, partly quoting one of his own songs as he exclaims ’You unleashed the fucking fury’ when she spills a glass of water on him.
The guitarist has put on weight and has tons of bad habits.
He hasn’t put out a decent record since 1992 and for an outside observer it would seem that things are not working out too well for this man.
Cut to the present day.
Six years down the line, Yngwie Malmsteen, for he is that Swedish guitarist, looks a great deal healthier. And not only that; his music also sounds more alive than it has done since circa 1986.
Malmsteen is and always has been prone to endless note doodling, and this is not the greatest strength of his music. The combination of his virtuous skills and his ability to make songs that worked as a band effort was what made ‘Rising Force’ (1984), ‘Marching Out’ (1985), 'Trilogy’ (1986) and 'Odyssey' (1988) monumental within a genre of metal the Swede almost solely defined.
Times were a-changing around the break of the nineties, and Malmsteen in my view just couldn’t cut it after the ‘Ice & Fire’ album (1992). His talent no one could take away from him, but talent doesn’t necessarily make an artist relevant. It takes not only universally powerful songs, it also takes a hint of Zeitgeist and neither seemed present.
Until now. ‘Perpetual Flame’ contains a number of waterproof tunes, not so much due to Malmsteen’s equilibrist playing, but rather due to the fact that he in Tim Owens has found an excellent man behind the microphone and because Roy Z has ensured that the sound of the album is not too old-fashioned.
Why not a top grade for this album? Well, for two reasons:
1. Yngwie has decided to sing the track Magic City himself which is a complete misjudgement on his behalf of his own capabilities as a singer. The song sounds like something that could be heard in the next-door pub. Plainly horrendous blues rock.
2. The genius of Malmsteen tends to project itself into solo doodling that comes across, in my layman ears, as more introvert and far from gripping and inciting than he’s actually capable of. The more doodling, the more it all sounds the same, and there is too much doodling on ‘Perpetual Flame’.
But that could just be me.
Try it. Most of this album is cool.