March 25, 2019 Yngwie Malmsteen – Blue Lightning (Album Review)
A virtual magician on the guitar, Sweden’s Yngwie Malmsteen has spent a lifetime cultivating a dominant, burning emotion of guitar mechanics which may very well go unmatched. Never at a loss for impassioned creativity, Yngwie Malmsteen announces his new album, Blue Lightning, will be released everywhere on Friday, March 29, 2019 via Mascot Records.
A staple in the world of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, Malmsteen has been regarded as one of the greats since the mid-1980s when he debuted as part of the band Steeler and later with the band Alcatrazz. Shredding like a madman, Malmsteen released his solo debut, 1984’s Rising Force, making way for well over a dozen studio albums chock-full of rampant and mind-blowing speed guitar. In fact, Malmsteen is renowned for further evolving the sub-genre of Heavy Metal known as Neoclassical Metal – a style blending components of Classical Music and Speed Metal. By way of his signature Fender Stratocaster, Malmsteen has become one of the most influential guitar players in the world and dazzles audiences with epic live performances.
Adding to his stacked catalog, Blue Lightning arrives as Malmsteen’s twentieth studio album, following up 2016’s World on Fire. Looking back, the Blues is not a genre this Heavy Metal maestro is known for playing. However, Malmsteen has been influenced by the Blues from the very beginning. Commenting on the direction for Blue Lightning, Malmsteen stated: “Now, I grew up in a classically trained family, and people know me for playing in what is called a neo classical style. But when I got a guitar for my fifth birthday, what I would try to emulate were John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – I would jam along to what they did on record with Eric Clapton (‘Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton’ album). That’s something people don’t realize about me – I do have a strong interest in the Blues.“
At the heart of Blue Lightning, Malmsteen delivers brand new original material and also gifts covers of classic Blues songs by some of the greatest artists to walk the Earth. One aspect of Malmsteen playing the Blues which makes Blue Lightning a different type of Blues record, is that Malmsteen does not just play the Blues. No, the covers especially are not just note for note, identical versions of the original. The album embodies a considerable live sound that finds Malmsteen incorporating the Blues with his Neoclassical formula. Evidence of this can be found in the opening track, “Blue Lightning.” A breathe of fresh air, this original number hits the spot as the right introduction to Malmsteen’s world of the Blues.
Then, Malmsteen must have had the backdrop of a sunset in mind while penning “Sun’s Up Top’s Down.” Additionally, the dramatic “Peace Please” and the lights out instrumental “1911 Strut” round out the new tracks. Turning to the other side of Blue Lightning, we find the highly musical and open rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady” and a version of “Purple Haze” that comes off even grander and raunchier than the original. A dynamic cover, Malmsteen adds crunch to The Rolling Stones’ smash “Paint it Black,” making it sound like a brand new song.
A tenacious tribute, Blue Lightning features a riveting version of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and a smokey take on ZZ Top’s “Blue Jean Blues.” Diving deep, Malmsteen hones in on his own style of definitive Blues soloing for Deep Purple’s “Demon’s Eye” and later tackles “Smoke on the Water.” Lastly, Malmsteen pays homage to the original guitar god, Eric Clapton, injecting a shot of adrenaline into the 1985 hit “Forever Man.”
As Blue Lightning strikes, Malmsteen showcases his incomparable skills to take a perfect song and turn it into something light years better. A master covering the masters, Blue Lightning is Malmsteen’s reflective sonnet to his heroes as well as a showcase of his ability to draft his own Blues creations. By far, Malmsteen’s followers will want to get their hands on Blue Lightning to take in all the wizardry of this profound talent. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Blue Lightning 5 out of 5 stars.