Yngwie J. Malmsteen
Facing The Animal
Released: 1997, Mercury
Editors Note: Metal-Rules.com was founded in 1995 as a forward thinking site. Our goal is, and always has been, to support Real Metal. The decision was made that very rarely do we ever go back and review an album from before 1995. Does the world really need another CD review of Master Of Puppets, Powerslave or Screaming For Vengeance? We don’t think so. We have always supported what is happening now.
Starting in January, 2014, as we head towards the 20th Anniversary of Metal-Rules.com, we are looking back and filling in a few gaps in the review database. We want to complete the post-1995 review catalogue of some of the bands that we have supported since 1995, when very few, if any websites were supporting real Metal. It’s fun to go back and revisit some of these albums that we did not review when they were first released. Enjoy!
After a brief stint on indie labels in 1997 Yngwie returns with his tenth studio album seeing him signed to major label Mercury. This is significant if only for the reason that in 1997 you could count on two hands the number of Metal bands on the entire planet still signed to a major label. Not Iron Maiden, Not Judas Priest, Not Anthrax, perhaps only Metallica, Megadeth and Dream Theater. This demonstrates that Yngwie still had enough drawing power to be among the global elite.
FACING THE ANIMAL was a big, successful, corporate album. It sold a lot of records, charted well in his strongholds of Finland, Sweden and of course Japan and was the source for a big World Tour of which resulted in the Double Live album recorded in Brazil. Yngwie recorded it in his home studio again with Chris Tsangerides and as usual a few people have come and gone from camp Yngwie. Oddly, enough the CD booklet does not mention who is in the band. At all. Oversight? Perhaps. There is a blurry photo of the musicians who are for the record, drum titan Cozy Powell, Barry Dunaway on bass and longtime keyboardist, Matts Olausson. On vocals, we enjoy the smooth and refined sound of Swede, Mats Leven. Leven had a minor career going before his first real international exposure with Yngwie and it worked, it catapulted him into a long and prolific career. The booklet is substandard and the cover yet another close-up of Yngwie. In terms of packaging, design and presentation, he has done better.
FACING THE ANIMAL sees Yngwie returning to the sound of a couple of his other larger successes on major labels, namely, ODYSSEY, ECLIPSE, and FIRE & ICE. There was a softening of the sound, with perhaps a little less emphasis on virtuosity and technical skill and more on song-craft. Lyrically the album treads familiar ground with several songs about strength, perseverance survival, defeating his enemies and other positive, life-affirming topics. He even revisits an old favourite topic, namely vikings, with the cut ‘Heathens in The North’ and the opening cut ‘Braveheart’, despite the title, is not really about the Scottish Warrior, William Wallace.
The 13-song standard album runs for an hour and of course there are various reissues, Japanese bonus tracks and alternate covers, but for some reason, when I listen to it, this is the only Yngwie album that feels long to me. An average Yngwie album is still better than most albums but I don’t revisit this one nearly as often as others. Yngwie plays his heart as always, but despite being a critical and commercial success, I feel the songs are not as strong. The ballad for his new wife, ‘Like An Angel-for April’ is a standout love song, but overall I think that he eased off the gas a little too much. I think he might have felt it as well because after the diversion of his very musical neo-classical album with the Czech Philharmonic, he roared back with a shredding blitzkrieg of an album in the form of ALCHEMY.
Now, years later in hindsight, FACING THE ANIMAL was the end of an era and a sound and style for Yngwie. It is creeping towards 20 years and over 10 albums since he has dabbled in the more melodic, commercialized, keyboard laden sound of the middle era of his career. The album was about as good as anyone was going to get at that time and he left that era behind on a high note.