Yngwie Malmsteen is mostly known as a shredder by nature who is notorious for putting together pieces that seem like they were composed for the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. Think Apocalyptica but with Malmsteen alone on his humble electric guitar instead of a cello quartet. Ever the virtuoso, it seems Malmsteen has decided to diversify his sound. With “Blue Lightning”, Malmsteen steps out of his comfort zone and gives us his first blues album of his long and illustrious career.
And what a career it has been, as very few have had an influence on modern guitar playing than Yngwie Malmsteen. From helping Sandvik Machining Solutions on their pursuit of making an unbreakable guitar to the creation of the Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Overdrive, the list just goes on and on to show just how revered the man is in the world of electric guitars. And with this new blues record, he just continues to add to his growing mythology.
The 12-track album is composed of both originals and covers, most notably covers of “Foxey Lady“, “Smoke On The Water“, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“. The album opens with the title track, a straightforward thumping no-nonsense track, showing off Malmsteen’s innate penchant for groove and rhythm. And if there’s one thing the tracks on these albums have in common, its that they all remind us that Malmsteen maybe should have considered a blues album a lot sooner in his career as it seems like this experiment has succeeded. The cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, in particular, is quite spectacular. Which is really no surprise considering the original version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” features fellow guitar virtuoso Eric Clapton on it.
If you’re going to be critical, as you should be when reviewing anything, it’s important to point out that some of the tracks are a little overdone. “Foxey Lady“, in particular, would have benefited from a little show of restraint. But to expect restraint from a musician like Malmsteen may be asking for a little too much as it is simply not part of the guitarists’ repertoire. Although it would be important to note that the track “Sun’s Up Top’s Down“, one of the album’s original tracks, shows quite a bit of the restraint some of the other songs on the album are sorely missing. Of course, no Yngwie Malmsteen is complete without a track that showcases his ability to shred — to simply tear a track up. And while there are quite a few tracks that show this off none quite come close to the final track of the album, a cover of Eric Clapton‘s “Forever Man”. Clapton, who places 2nd in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of ‘100 Greatest Guitarists’, while seemingly the antithesis to Malmsteen‘s breakneck speed style of playing provides the perfect playground — a blank canvas on wherein Malmsteen could show off the reason why he’s known as one of the world’s best shredders.
All in all “Blue Lightning“, despite its faults, is an admirable foray into blues. Great things happen when Malmsteen chooses to step out of his comfort zone as it lets him showcase his technical skill and unparalleled sonic creativity.