Out Now – Rising Force Records
Yngwie Malmsteen is back with his much anticipated new album “Perpetual Flame“. Coming off the back of 2 return to form albums in the guise of the Doogie White vocalised “Attack” and “Unleash The Fury” offerings, Yngwie has decided to change vocalists once again replacing White with former Judas Priest/ Iced Earth vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. A vocalist that tends to fall into the love/hate category Owens can be great (Iced Earth’s The Glorious Burden) or mediocre (Priest’s Jugulator). To these massive Malmsteen fan ears I personally find Rippers vocals to sit uneasily with the usual brand of Malmsteen metal.
Much has been said about the new album artwork, and most people agree that its very poor, sadly this also translates to much of the material and to a slightly lesser extent the production of “Perpetual Flame”. The guitar tones are good, lead sounds fantastic, drums sound good and bass are clear enough, but Owens vocals for some reason sound as if they are sung down the phone for much of the album, and for some reason tend to be panned all in different places depending on the track. This really isn’t good enough from a major player such as Malmsteen, and it would seem not a lot has been learnt from the WTEAW debacle. This is generally an uneasy mix and really does spoil the impact of the album.
Sadly much of the song writing also falls into the average category with opener “Death Dealer” hardly setting the album off to a good start. “Live To Fight (Another Day)” starts out with real promise with its melodic intro and “I Am A Viking” style riff, but sadly is obliterated as soon as Owens opens his mouth making this barely listenable. “Red Devil” is strong musically with its Hendrix-y main riff, but sadly some of the cheesiest lyrics about Yngwie’s love of Ferrari’s cheapens the end product once again. “Four Horsemen (of the apocalypse)” sees more production issues, with it sounding like Yngwie forgetting to turn on his noise suppressor for gaps in the opening chord stabs, its a fairy good song in truth but once again let down by Owen’s vocals. “Priests Of The Unholy” starts out promisingly largely thanks to the keyboard work of Derek Sherninian actually being audible for once, but falls at the final hurdle thanks to another poor vocal melody line. True enough Owens is a hired hand to sing Malmsteen’s vocal parts, so the blame for the vocal melodies ultimately falls directly at the maestro’s feet, and this is one of Ripper’s better vocal performances but once again it falls into the mediocre bin. “Be Careful What You Wish For” is a double bass drum led number that has been heard one too many times before from Yngwie. Owens sound particularly painful here! The 8 minutes of “Eleventh Hour” could well have been brilliant, but the vocal performance of Owens once again lessens its impact considerably (believe me I am not enjoying bagging on the guy for the sake of it) largely thanks to vocal production issues but also some pitch issues as well.
That’s not to say the album is a total loss. “Damnation Game” is Malmsteen in full glory, a fantastic riff that fuses the right blend of melody and heaviness. “Magic City” at over 7 minutes long starts out well with a nice melodic guitar solo, before heading into a rewrite blending of “Cherokee Warrior” and “Miracle Of Life” but this acceptable enough. As is becoming a tradition on the last few albums Yngwie sings lead vocals here and he is improving as a vocalist, in fact his performance is much more preferable to that of much of Owens vocals so there is some form of respite here, plus its also has another of the kind of solo you want to hear from Yngwie. “Capricio Di Diablo” is the sort of “Far Beyond The Sun” 3/4 time instrumental Yngwie excels in whilst another instrumental “Lament” with its slow classical melody stirs some positive emotion and reaction, the same can also be said for album closer “Heavy Heart”.
So there you have it. One of most anticipated albums of the year has turned into one of my most disappointing. To these ears Tim Owens is clearly not the man for the job going by this performance. This may well be different had the vocal production been different, but the main problem for me is a lack of variation in his vocals. His predecessors, Doogie White/Mark Boals/Mats Leven/Goran Edman etc all managed to make something viable out of Yngwie’s clichéd vocal melodies ideas yet Owens seems comfortable to do what he’s paid for and nothing more. To my ears it sounds like there is a lack of feeling, a lack of connection with the material from Owens; and ultimately from Yngwie’s perspective, he who has worked with some of the best vocalists in the metal genre, you wonder why the vocals on this final product are the way they are – poor. Another issue is the overly frequent double bass drum rhythms, in the live arena Patrik Johansson is as impressive as drummers get. Unfortunately there are also too many retreads of former compositions, there is a point where you have the Malmsteen “sound”, and then a blatant case of rewriting old tracks but adding new vocal melodies and lyrics. On the positive, Yngwie’s guitar work is mostly A1, and granted most people buy a Malmsteen album for this reason alone. But where Yngwie goes from here is unknown. If he keeps delivering albums of this quality he may well find hardcore fans that have accepted the former issues with not so much forgiveness from here on in. A case of try before you buy but if you are new to Malmsteen’s brand of metal and I recommend you check out “Trilogy”, “Odyssey”, “Fire & Ice”, “Magnum Opus”, “Alchemy” or “Unleash The Fury” first before diving head first into “Perpetual Flame” as it may well put you off exploring the rest (and mostly excellent) of Malmsteen’s back catalogue.
Hot Spots : Damnation Game, Capricio Di Diablo, Lament, Magic City
Rating : 50%