Swedish guitar shredder Yngwie Malmsteen is back with a vengeance, with nearly an hour’s worth of metal madness titled Parabellum. His previous offering, 2019’s Blue Lightning, was a mainly covers album, in which he revealed his take on a raft of hard rock classics from Purple Haze to Paint It Black to Smoke On The Water. This new one is back to original material though, with as many notes crammed into 57 minutes as it’s possible to cram.
That’s not to say there is no light and shade in this set though. The opening number Wolves At The Door, which is also the lead single, is a powerful slice of metal, but throws in a bit of the famous Theme from Paganini halfway through, which will be more familiar to listeners of a certain age as the theme from TV program The South Bank Show, or as the basis of the album Variations by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The baroque influence continues with his instrumental Presto Vivace in C# Minor. There’s no excuse for writing a virtuoso neo-classical guitar piece in C# minor by the way; it’s a pain of a key to play in, but if the main motivation is simply ‘because I can’, then the dude earns my respect.
Relentless Fury, the second featured song from the album, is a mid-tempo vocal piece with a thumping backbeat from the drums, then the title track (Si Vis Pacem) Parabellum adds some prog-metal variation. It starts as a machine-gun rapid instrumental driven by a double kick drum rhythm, before dropping to half-tempo with a kind of Air On A G String descending chord progression. There are some neat key modulations at the end too. For those who don’t know (or haven’t yet Googled it), the title is a Latin phrase meaning ‘If you want peace, prepare for war.’ This is the third featured song; check out the video link at the foot of this page.
The first major highlight of the set for this reviewer comes next though, with the 6½ minute vocal power ballad Eternal Bliss. A kind of heavenly chorus synth pads out the background, with a further classical influence being heard in the Canon In D chord progression, and some clear-toned arpeggios. You’d think the backing was supplied by a keyboard, but Malmsteen swears there’s no such thing on the entire album, with all the synth washes, and even the apparent piano work, being supplied by himself in various guitar parts.
Toccata is not the familiar Bach Toccata And Fugue (covered by Sky in the eighties), although the intro is similar in structure and form, but it’s not long before Malmsteen lets rip on more speed guitar later in the track. Another instrumental named God Particle follows, which features beautiful, tightly overdubbed acoustic guitars with plenty of stereo-panned reverb for the first minute or so, before the full band bursts in over a martial snare beat.
This far into the album, it’s clear the whole thing is going to be a full-on shredding fest, and truly we would expect nothing less from the Nordic maestro. Nevertheless, Malmsteen somehow manages to pull out three highlight tracks to end the set with. Magic Bullet is another instrumental speed thrash, but with some sliding notes that add a new dimension to what has gone before, and an actual tuneful melody line too. Then (Fight) The Good Fight is a huge, epic, symphonic metal number, with flamenco-influenced acoustic guitar over that heavenly choir again, before launching into a superb vocal anthem not unlike Deep Purple’s Pictures Of Home. With it’s “How many miles to the city of gold” lyrical refrain, this would probably the best track on the album for me, were it not for the astounding closing shot.
Sea Of Tranquillity is an epic 8 minute instrumental, with flamenco guitar played over a symphonic metal backing to start. The number twists and turns through a number of phases, with some absolute virtuoso guitar work, concluding with a slow fade-out into the sunset – or moonset perhaps, the title referring to the region of the lunar surface that saw the first manned landing in 1969.
Malmsteen has stated that the Covid lockdown actually worked in this album’s favour, forcing him to take a bit of a break from his hectic touring life and concentrate on studio work to a degree that hasn’t been possible for years. Whatever the case though, he has lost none of his manual dexterity over the decades, and fans of bombastic, shredding metal with a classical twist can’t go wrong with this set.
Yngwie Malmsteen’s new album Parabellum is available through Music Theories Recordings from 23rd July 2021