Released: 2008, Rising Force Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
As a longtime fan of Yngwie Malmsteen, I’ve wanted to openly declare the following words for a very long time: “the new Yngwie Malmsteen record is pretty good.” No asterisks or buts attached to that statement, just simply put, PERPETUAL FLAME, the latest studio release from acclaimed guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen is the release that fans have been longing for. Much of Malmsteen’s recent discography has left me disappointed. Though always full of guitar theatrics, the songs were forgettable, the production suffered, there always seemed to be something that detracted each release from being the monumental event that Yngwie would always promise them to be. That cycle is thankfully broken with PERPETUAL FLAME, arguably the man’s best release since ODYSSEY was released 20 years ago.
Though conceptually, not much has changed in the songwriting department - fast cars, battle anthems, good vs. evil, etc., it’s the delivery that makes PERPETUAL FLAME a success. Much of that success is attributed to the addition of Tim “Ripper” Owens in the vocal department. Malmsteen’s always surrounded himself with top-tier vocalists, but Owens’ performance is an excellent compliment to Malmsteen’s arpeggios from hell. Rounded out by keyboard wizard Derek Sherinian and off-again/on-again drummer Patrick Johansson, it feels like Malmsteen realized that at this stage in his career that he can have the band that he really wants and shouldn’t be limited to the one that’s available to him.
Maybe I’m nostalgic, but Malmsteen’s guitar arrangements and song structures combined with Owens’ soaring rasp recalls his pairing with Jeff Scott Soto on the iconic RISING FORCE debut and follow up, MARCHING OUT. “Death Dealer” opens with Owens harmonizing with Malmsteen’s trademark neo-classical melody lines and gradually ascends into a full speed ahead rocker. One of the best opening tracks in his discography, the song’s grandiose delivery is Malmsteen’s way of saying “Yeah, I’m back and I brought “Ripper” Owens with me to kick your ass!” The galloping stride of “Damnation Game” feels like the spiritual successor to “I’ll See the Light Tonight”, which is awesome. “Red Devil” is the token fast-car song on the disc, and as goofy and unimaginative as the lyrics are, Owens sings it with all the conviction and passion of a true professional (“In this red brutal beauty/400 horses running wild/Sayonara, see you later”). Malmsteen even makes a rare appearance on lead vocals for “Magic City,” which is so awful it begs to be heard. The rest of the disc is standard Malmsteen fare, including three stellar instrumental compositions, but again – it’s all in the delivery.
Cheeky album cover aside, PERPETUAL FLAME was the album that Yngwie Malmsteen needed to make. The guitar work sounds fresh and inspired, the production is clean, and the songs are memorable - finally feeling like more than just necessary vehicles for Malmsteen’s next guitar solo. It’s fitting that this is Malmsteen’s first self-released album through his own Rising Force Records, marking the occasion as a fresh chapter in the man’s history. As a fan who’s been drawn back in to Malmsteen’s world one more time, I can only hope that PERPETUAL FLAME serves as the foundation for his next studio release and that this won’t be the last pairing of Malmsteen and “Ripper” Owens. Now please Yngwie - button up your shirt, nobody wants to see that anymore.