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Thursday 21 March 2019

Reviews: Yngwie Malmsteen, Any Given Day, Iron Fire, Milk (Paul H, Polly, Rich & Matt)

Yngwie Malmsteen: Blue Lightning (Mascot Records) [Paul H]

I saw Yngwie Malmsteen at St David’s Hall in Cardiff in 1991. It was one of the most boring gigs I’ve ever been to see. The Swede, like many of the maestro virtuoso guitarists of the time, spent the entire gig noodling for his life. Hell, he made Zakk Wylde look brief. I admit that apart from Rising Force and Marching Out I don’t recall having either the inclination to listen to much of his work either before or after that gig. Yet here I am, nearly 30 years later and no-one else fancied having a crack at the latest in a line of album a million albums that Malmsteen has delivered over a career which has seen him do just about everything. Blue Lightning sees Malmsteen tackle some standard covers as well as add four new songs. There can be no disagreement about his ability as a guitarist. He smokes hot and hotter, flying around the frets with a speed most of us cannot even contemplate. This time around he focuses more on the blues influences in his career and with label Mascot asking him to deliver it is a blues style one can hear some of the legends that have allowed him to roll on.

So, it’s somewhat confusing to have two Deep Purple tracks on here, the fantastic Demon’s Eye and unsurprisingly an annihilation of Smoke On The Water. Both are delivered with aplomb but there is something missing. It’s probably a bit of emotion and feeling although Malmsteen claims his interest in the blues has been lifelong, from the days of jamming along to John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers as a child in Sweden. A double from the Hendrix stable sees him lose it, fretboard style, on Purple Haze whilst Foxy Lady is well, Foxy Lady. There’s also an interesting cover of The Beatles While My Guitar Gently Weeps; a track oft covered and never bettered. In fact, when I say interesting let me revise it to a butchering. 

His version of ZZ Top’s Blue Jean Blues does nothing to better the original and as for the cover of Paint It Black, well, I’ll leave it at that. I’m often astonished at the way musicians churn out cover versions and expect their fans to pay hard earned cash for it. Malmsteen may be a fantastic guitarist, and he can sing well enough, but this just reeks of ego. Still, if you are stupid enough to shell out for it then you deserve all you get. 4/10

Any Given Day: Overpower (Arisign Empire) [Polly]

I would like to start my review by making a public apology to the band for butchering their entire album by poorly singing it on a loop for the past week. Overall I’d say this album is a gem, I’m the first one to admit that metalcore as a subgenre is becoming overcrowded in a sense that some bands are just another copy of a concrete band of the genre and very ‘samey’, as I haven’t listened to AGD before I did go into listening to it with a biased view of ‘yet another metalcore band’, how wrong was I? Well, very. Track one sucked me in straight away and brought me straight back to early noughties metalcore which to me is when it peaked. The clean vocals with the heavy riffs are spot on throughout the album and is a great example of why the genre is so popular. First listen to the album did have its ups and downs, some tracks had me gripped others had me thinking “the fuck is this?”.

Loveless has some epic bridges throughout but I will say is a little bit cliché on times, this and the break in Whatever It Takes in which the lyrics are “we know, we know, we are, we are” are the areas that did make me cringe a little bit, it was just unnecessary, the silence as a break would've done a better job. Other than that I enjoyed this album a lot. On a positive note, Taking Over Me is where I reference to the metalcore that I enjoy, it’s brutal, it has the right combination on the vocal tones. I can hear a hint of frantic electronics in the song that could be a positive route way for the band to take on future song-writing. The heavier songs on the album are the ones that draw me in more and after I’ve familiarised myself to the album enough to write it I found myself skipping to it. Lonewolf had a familiar sound to it, possibly old Killswitch Engage with the vocals and general layout of the track. “I am a lonewolf” would be a great gimmick for the band and is one of the tracks on the album that leaped out to me. 

The overlap of clean vocals/screams pre-chorus make this to me. Sure To Fail is my favourite on the album and for once, not for the clean vocals, the faster paced riffs and infectious head bopping is why I love this song. The role reversal on song layout between the unclean vocals and clean vocals is the right change to the album and has the right conclusion to the track into In Deafening Silence. I’ve been recommended to listen to AGD a few times and never got around to it, I immediately regret it after listening to Overpower, it’s about time I listen to their older work too. 8/10

Iron Fire: Beyond The Void (Crime Records) [Rich]

Despite being a huge fan of power metal Iron Fire are a band I’ve never heard previously despite Beyond The Void being the ninth album by the Danish band. Iron Fire play a more straightforward and serious style of power metal than many of their counterparts in Europe with plenty of influences from thrash and contemporary metal. This works in songs such as Wrong Turn, To Hell And Back and The Devil’s Path but on the whole I found Beyond The Void to be a rather dull album with very one dimensional songwriting which seemed to be completely lacking in passion which is something that power metal usually has in bucket loads. 

Vocalist Martin Steene rather than wailing like a banshee has a gruff and raspy lower register voice but unfortunately his delivery is so flat and unengaging that it dragged down most of these songs into mediocrity. I love power metal as it is dramatic, theatrical, over the top and generally just a bit silly so it was a shame to hear a power metal album so lacking in all those elements. I commend Iron Fire for trying to take power metal in a more serious direction but for me it fell rather flat. Despite a handful of really good songs this album was completely uninteresting and unengaging for me. 5/10

The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk: Alpha (Self Released)

Welsh retro mad buggers Milk have released their debut EP which is called Alpha, (which is actually quite clever). They are Grant, Marcëll and Luke and musically they go all over the shop on this four track EP, but most of the tracks are based in the blues, including the brilliantly psychedelic Little Bit Of Love that smacks of 60's San Francisco. From the fuzzed up of the religion baiting Bishop's Dick, to the driving proto-metal Science Is A Language, with the final track, the lumbering Alfred The Great having the secret acoustic sing along at the end of it, Alpha is a brilliantly composed overview of what Milk can do. Obvious really when they've honed their performances on the UK scene for a while now. I did think that Milk are probably raised on a bountiful diet of Captain Beefheart, Cream and Grand Funk Railroad which sounds like a great meal to me. No spilt milk here to cry about just great jams from moment one, excellent work! 8/10 

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