Out now on Rising Force Records
The king of neo-classical metal returns after the disappointing “Perpetual Flame” for a second album with ex Iced Earth / Judas Priest vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. Once again Yngwie does pretty much everything aside from lead vocals although he does that also on “Look At You Now”. Long time drummer Patrik Johansson is still onboard and on keyboards we see Nick Marino though his role in the album is minimal in comparison the glory days of Jens Johansson being in the band.
Our review of “Perpetual Flame” found me highlighting many flaws, for a long term fan like myself it was a huge disappointment and I hoped “Relentless” would fair better. Sadly for the most part it does not.
Whilst the album sees a live feel to the production, the mix is once again lacking. Each instrument is recorded well – Yngwie’s lead tone in particular is superb – but as with its last few predecessors the band just doesn’t sit well together in the final mix. I have listened to the album on numerous systems and its flaws are really shown up on high end equipment. For lack of a better term it sounds budget. This is crying out for someone like Dennis Ward to take charge, or go back to the glorious sounds Chris Tsangarides managed to coax out of the maestros works. “Relentless” shows Malmsteen to be a mediocre producer at best.
Second disappointment comes in the Ripper Owens’ vocals. But can the blame truly be put on his shoulders when he is simply singing to Malmsteen’s instructions? These are Yngwie’s vocal melodies and it shows. They are bland, uninspired and in some instances downright laughable. There is a lack of tangible vocal melodies, banal repetition of song titles for choruses and a real monotonous feel to the melodies throughout the album. It sounds like Ripper wasn’t given time to sit with the songs, rather going straight in and singing cold.
The lyrics aren’t much better as epitomised by “Divide and conquer, it always seems to work, there is no wonder, we cannot lift the curse” (Enemy Within). Granted it might not be as bad as “There’s a hole in the sky, don’t ask me why ‘cause I don’t know” (Now Your Ships Are Burned) but at least Jeff Scott Soto had a tangible vocal melody to hang that lyric on back in 1984. Ripper for the most the part is given little to work with so it’s no real surprise the outcome is what it is. I just hope people don’t hear these albums alone and assume that is the sum of Owens when the material is not being written to his strengths.
But perhaps most disappointingly of all are the songs.
The last album had a few redeeming qualities and there are some good riffs here such as the aforementioned “Enemy Within” (ruined by the banal lyrics) amongst the blandness. But for the most part it’s nothing we haven’t heard better before. “Axe To Grind” for example could have been entitled “Bad Reputation 2” where the verse vocal melodies and riffs are virtually interchangeable.
Too many of the songs rely on single 16th note patterns with bass drums doing the same for verse parts. Where are the interesting rhythm’s Malmsteen albums used to be full of? Where are the impassioned songs?
As a massive fan for the last 20 years this recent output really pains me. I don’t like to slam a hero of mine. His earlier work is in for the most part superb, but I have had enough of this bland, characterless material where it seems everything is being done on autopilot (“Unleash The Fury” being the last album of merit). To these ears it sounds like Yngwie needs a new challenge and I fear this is never going to happen with his “I do everything” attitude. I certainly hope his next album can revive the quality of yore, but going by the last 2 outings at present I doubt it.
“Relentless” is to these ears a massive failure and one I won’t be revisiting anytime soon.
Rating – 30% (mainly for the solid instrumentals).