Magnum Opus

Yngwie J. Malmsteen

Spitfire Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It takes balls for someone to name an album Magnum Opus, even Yngwie Malmsteen. After all, with a name like that, you're all but inviting people to take potshots at the album to try and prove that it's not your best work.

And, in all fairness, I do like Malmsteen's work in general (though it took me a long time to appreciate it). So I won't be one of the people trying to find more holes in this 1995 disc (re-released with a sizable portion of Malmsteen's backcatalog on Spitfire) than in Woody Woodpecker's home forest. But while this disc isn't Malmsteen's best, it does feature the Swedish guitar legend doing what he does best in an enjoyable package.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Malmsteen and his band - vocalist Michael Vescera, keyboardist Mats Olausson, bassist Barry Sparks and drummer Shane Gaalas - plow through 12 songs that could easily be called what Malmsteen has done his entire career - namely, write metal-oriented songs with some pop sensibilities and guitar solos that could peel wallpaper. You do have to hand it to Malmsteen, though; he knows how to keep things interesting, even if you're hearing this guitar god routine for the umpteenth time.

And it's not that there aren't noteworthy songs on this disc. Tracks like "Vengeance," "VooDoo," "Fire In The Sky" and "Tomorrow's Gone" all suggest that Malmsteen has lost none of the fire that first brought his solo career to people's attention back in 1984. The songs themselves are well-crafted, and Malmsteen's guitar work still is enough to make people's jaws fall to the floor in amazement.

To say that songs like "No Love Lost," "I'd Die Without You" and "Dawn" are average doesn't quite seem like enough - and I'm not going for the Malmsteen ass-kiss here. The tracks are interesting enough, but they don't have enough of the magic to push them over the edge and become memorable. For a cursory pass of the disc, though, there's plenty for the listener to like.

Interesting to note is "Overture 1622," penned by Malmsteen but sounding like it has deeper roots than the ones he normally calls to people's attention in liner notes. (Just to clarify: I'm not saying he plagiarized this from the classical world!) It's a fascinating piece - especially considering that Malmsteen was not far away from unleashing Concerto For Guitar And Orchestra on the world.

Malmsteen might be one of the only artists where calling an album of his average is actually a compliment. Magnum Opus has some very fine moments, and while some of the tracks on the disc won't set the world on fire like other Malmsteen releases, there's plenty on this disc for his fans to revel in.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitfire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.