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Malmsteen, Yngwie J.
Relentless: A Memoir (Book Review)
August 2013
Released: 2013, Wiley
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Yngwie J. Malmsteen is my favourite guitarist of all time so I was pretty excited to learn that his autobiography was coming out. In 2012, the Malmsteen biography AS ABOVE, SO BELOW by Anders Tengners was only published in Swedish so as an English speaker naturally I was disappointed. However, when I learned of the impending release of his own autobiography, I pre-ordered this months ahead and got it on the release date and it was worth the wait.

RELENTLESS is a standard hardcover with lots of rare colour photos printed on glossy paper and even some old shots from his days in Sweden. The number of quotes and accolades from guitarists in the Metal community are impressive but we fans already know he is the best of the best. If people like Joe Satriani, Slash, Zak Wylde and Steve Vai say he is the best it certainly adds some credibility.

I would have liked more detail about the albums and people in the band but as Yngwie points out those people were all strictly hired guns and it his story, not theirs. I hope someone translates the biography; it might have more detail. I suppose it would be long and perhaps dull to fully document the dozens and dozens of people who have performed on his dozens of releases.

One feature of his memoirs I enjoyed is that he deftly avoided the classic problem that, in my mind, plague so many 'Rock Star' autobiographies. First he does not write down to the audience by presuming to know what they want to read in terms of sordid tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Yngwie did have his share of this but as I would suggest that the average Yngwie fan is more well read or intelligent than the average Ratt or Mötley Crüe fan and doesn't need to read explicit stories. Yngwie admits to his behaviour in the past but doesn't dwell on it and comes across as almost apologetic for his wild man days.

The second common mistake he avoids is neglecting the recent past, meaning he writes about his entire career. This phenomena is again tied to likely a somewhat arrogant editorial stance to presume that fans only want to read about 'the good old days' I've read so many autobiographies that skips years, even entire decades of the authors career, Snider, Mustaine, Lipps and Iommi being particularly bad offenders. Unlike those other books, RELENTLESS has a contemporary feel as Yngwie discusses the recording of his most recent album SPELLBOUND which wasn't even released when he wrote the book. It is as up to date as you could get.

I really enjoyed reading about his hobbies and other non-musical passions like playing tennis, collecting Ferraris, rare guitars and expensive time-pieces. Yngwie clears up many misconceptions about him while admitting he understands where those stories originated from. My respect and admiration for the man only grew as he articulated his philosophy and view about being an artist. Some of the technical stuff went over my head but the section about him writing and performing his album CONCERTO SUITE FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR AND ORCHESTRA IN E FLAT MINOR OPUS 1 was fascinating. It was also equally enjoyable and eye-opening to learn how often he was ripped off by unscrupulous managers...three times in fact until he finally figured out how to control his art by creating his own company Rising Force Records. He pretty much covered it all tours, albums, industry, his marriages and of course music.

If you, dear readers, will indulge me for a moment I'll finish my review of RELENTLESS by stating that to me, Yngwie J. Malmsteen is the epitome of everything good about Metal; obsessive performances, speed, energy, vitality and innovation and virtuosity. He is a maker of countless careers as he shepherds dozens of young talented Metal artists to greater fame. He is the last of the true 'Rock Gods' with a mansion in paradise, a collection of sports cars, trophy-wives, leather pants, open-neck shirts, flashy jewelry, a giant lions mane of hair flowing in the mind, all combined with swagger of a musical genius who has the raw skill to back it up as evidenced by the multiple gold and platinum albums he has created over the past 30 years. Now he can add author to his list of artistic accomplishments and his story is truly unique and inspirational and he captures it all in his memoir, RELENTLESS. I hope he writes another book because as he was famously quoted, 'Less is not more. More is more'! and I want to read more about Yngwie J. Malmsteen.
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