Yngwie Malmsteen – Parabellum – Review21st July 2021
I’m not sure if you know this, but Yngwie Malmsteen is really good at playing guitar. And he can play it really fast. If you didn’t know already, by the end of this album, you’ll most certainly have got the message. If you did already know, what is contained here will be of no surprise to you whatsoever.
Parabellum is his 21st solo studio album since he burst onto the scene in the shredder obsessed period that was the 1980s. Back then, every band’s guitarist had to display his fretboard gymnastics, whenever, and as often as he could. Whether the song needed it or not. Luckily times have changed…but Yngwie certainly hasn’t.
Back then, I loved his trio of solo albums 1986’s Trilogy, Odyssey from two years later up to 1990’s Eclipse album. Yes, they showcased his abilities as a guitarist to the max, but there were some great songs to act as a vehicle for it. I’ve heard the odd album between now and then, but this is the first album of his I’ve properly listened to since then.
What is immediately obvious is that his song writing, or rather the writing of actual songs, has taken a backseat to instrumentals drenched in a million notes. Of the ten tracks tracks on offer here, there are only four songs featuring vocals. These essentially stop this album from becoming a 57 minute guitar solo.
Wolves At The Door is a ferocious opener, a hail of notes giving way to a rampaging riff. It also features one of his signatures nods to historical classical music composers. My knowledge of these isn’t complete enough to tell you which one is ‘sampled’ here, but you’ll know the piece when you hear it. I think it was the theme to ITV’s The South Bank Show..but I digress.
The albums best track for me is Relentless Fury. It’s a weighty melodic song that sounds like something from back when i first encountered him in the late 1980’s. The song writing side of Yngwie triumphs over the rampant instrumental noodler, until the guitar solo obviously. One thing that should be noted is that, while it sounds like there’s keyboards on this album, apparently it’s all been done on guitar. Fair play to him for that, obviously he put lockdown to good use!
The power ballad Eternal Bliss changes the pace considerably. The tone here is set by choral multi layered vocals giving way to acoustic verses. After all the fury and frenetic widdling so far, its a nice, refreshing change. The singalong chorus is instantly memorable, if lyrically a little cheesy. Its strangely reminiscent of Abba. The last track with vocals is also a cracker. (Fight) The Good Fight brings to mind Liar from his Trilogy album. Its riff and vocals are perfectly matched here to deliver a fast paced rocker. It could also be a metaphor for the conflict his song writing self faces in the face of his guitar god sides’ need to bludgeon you to death with notes.
That leaves us six guitar solo’s, i mean instrumentals to complete the album. Of these, (Si Vis Pacem) Parabellum, is the best. It translates as ‘If You want peace prepare for war. Such an an epic title deserves a grandiose arrangement. The classical undercurrent delivers this, and is symphonic and orchestral in places. God Particle is not far behind it. here, he lets the music breath a little. The pace slows to a thumping beat, the dynamic use of acoustic and electric guitars provides a very listenable six minutes of so.
Three others, Toccata, Magic Bullet and Presto Vivace in C# Minor are, to my ears, just an endless hail of notes delivered at break neck speed. Basically three long guitar solo’s. Some long term Yngwie fans will probably be moist at the prospect of these, but to me, they’re just endless noodling. I’m sure there’s a melody there trying to come out, but it’s no chance in the face of the soloing. A final track Sea Of Tranquillity, follows a similar path, but at least hints at going somewhere else. Its use of pace changes at least provide a more structured approach, and a different tangent every now and again.
Having recently reviewed another former 80s guitar god alumni Paul Gilbert’s latest album, the contrast between that and this is startling. PG’s is fully instrumental, but manages to be song driven with it. Here, Yngwie shows he is capable of delivering a decent song, but these are far outnumbered by the guitar hero fretboard pyrotechnics of the instrumentals, which is a shame. To sum up, the songs are good, the instrumentals are really just preaching to the already converted members of the church of Yngwie.
1- Wolves At The Door
2 – Presto Vivace in C# Minor
3 – Relentless Fury
4 – (Si Vis Pacem) Parabellum
5 – Eternal Bliss
6 – Toccata
7 – God Particle
8 – Magic Bullet
9 – (Fight) The Good Fight
10 – Sea Of Tranquility
Release Date: 23rd July 2021