April 30, 2018 Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Odyssey 30 Years Later
In the Metal world, Malmsteen is one of the most enigmatic and polarizing guitar shredders of all times – always accused of being too flashy and over-the-top by his detractors, but lauded and adored by his punters. After all, what does one expect from the virtuoso who said, in his interview for Sam Dunn’s 2011 Music Documentary Metal Evolution, “How can ‘less be more’? That’s impossible. More is more!” And this is how one may describe Malmsteen’s musical manifesto.
Born on June 30, 1963, in Stockholm, Sweden, Yngwie J. Malmsteen started out in 1983 as the guitarist of Steeler (“No Way Out”) and then of Alcatrazz (“Too Young to Die, Too Drunk to Live”). Early on, Malmsteen’s lightning-quick fingers and penchant for bubbling arpeggios and cascading scales were already apparent. Coming from a musical family, Malmsteen developed his style as early as his preteens, when he took interest for both the music of Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Blackmore’s Night) and the works of the Classical composers Niccolò Paganini (24 Caprices for Solo Violin) and Johann Sebastian Bach (“Air on the G String”) in equal measures. In 1984, Malmsteen began his eventually successful and prolific solo career, releasing 20 studio albums under his name – from 1984’s Rising Force to 2016’s World on Fire. Of this illustrious discography, Odyssey remains one (if not the most) popular and successful masterpieces of the six-string Neoclassical Metal speedster. Give it a spin and set your mood on nostalgic high, especially that the album is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Released on Friday, April 8, 1988, via Polydor Records, Malmsteen’s fourth solo oeuvre opened dramatically with the marching, galloping buildup of the stellar “Rising Force”—such an adrenaline-pumping starter, featuring a seamless guitar-keyboard interplay by Malmsteen and Keyboardist Jens Johansson; as well as the in-the-pocket rhythm section courtesy of Bassist Bob Daisley and Drummer Anders Johansson. After this Speed Metal epic, Malmsteen immediately turned sentimental with the ensuing “Hold On,” which remains in league with fellow classic, mid-tempo Power/Glam ballads such as Whitesnake’s “Is This Love?,” Damn Yankees’ “High Enough,” and Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love?” Followed in the same heartbeat albeit in a rather upbeat and poppier predisposition was “Heaven Tonight,” which would still be great to include onto a playlist that includes “Just like Paradise” by David Lee Roth and Keel’s “Just Another Girl.”
Vocalist Joe Lynn Turner shone his brightest in “Dreaming (Tell Me),” displaying also Malmsteen’s trademark mix of acoustic plucks and electric arpeggios, which Jens’ atmospheric piano works complemented very well. The album’s first instrumental piece, “Bite the Bullet” then served as a perfect prelude to the equally relentless, blast-beat-powered “Riot in the Dungeons” and the following groove-based, angular, and symphonic “Déjà Vu.”
“Crystal Ball” began unassumingly with an ambient and breezy intro, only to return to the album’s overall Glam Metal tendencies, making the similarly styled “Now Is the Time” a good follow-up. After relaxing with a few laidback ballads, Malmsteen and his entourage stepped on their respective pedals and went maximum overdrive once again with “Faster than the Speed of Light.” Obviously not content with this neck breaker, they practically extended the outro by then dishing out a separate instrumental track, the six-minute beauty “Krakatau.”
Finally, Malmsteen concluded his Neoclassical pilgrimage with “Memories” – a slow, rustic, and dreamy solo-guitar lullaby that may be regarded as an epilogue to track number four. Brilliant!
Thirty years and sixteen albums have passed since Odyssey; but to this day, the great opus remains not only Malmsteen’s finest moment and highest-charting release, but also an unmissable gem in the deep, fiery mines of the Metal world.