As eccentric as the day is long, Yngwie Johan Malmsteen has carved out his own unique niche in the world of electric guitar music. Taking the neo-classical stylings of 1970s guitarists Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth, and cranking everything to 11, Malmsteen has created his own, instantly recognisable sound on the six-string. His tone, phrasing, note choices and insane vibrato are all undeniably him.
With no less than 22 (!) studio full lengths to pick from, there is plenty of forgotten and overlooked Yngwie Malmsteen tracks from his 40+ year career. Sure, everyone who has a clue about shredding guitars knows “Black Star” and “Rising Force” – but what about the lesser-known deep cuts? Read on and find out…
A storming six-minute epic from 1990’s Eclipse, “Devil In Disguise” is Yngwie at both his most melodic and bombastic. It’s a highly layered track; awash acoustics, electrics, keyboards and orchestral passages. While our man fires off some great solos and riffs – check out the chunky ending passage – it’s short-lived frontman Göran Edman who is the star of the song, with some top notch vocal harmonies. Barely played live and one of the lowest streamed numbers from Eclipse, “Devil In Disguise” is a great example of the type of music Malmsteen can conjure up when his playing takes the backseat.
A true latter-career high point, “Four Horseman (Of The Apocalypse) is built upon the histrionic, fleet-fingered stylings that Malmsteen has forged his career from. Lifted from his 16th studio release Perpetual Flame, the uptempo song is absolutely classic Yngwie, especially the burning solos. Vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens can be a bit hit or miss, but he gets his high notes in and then gets out of the way of Yngwie’s scalloped Strat. Whether it had anything from his time touring with G3, Malmsteen’s mid-00s output finds him sounding reinvigorated, energised and inspired.
Another monster early 90s piece, this time from ’92’s Fire & Ice, the huge “How Many Miles To Babylon” might be Yngwie’s most underrated track – period. After a highly melodic classical intro, tension-building organs give way to a superb harmonised guitar riff. Like the aforementioned “Devil In Disguise”, Malmsteen is happy to play second-fiddle for the sake of the song, with the pre-chorus/chorus section amongst the best-written material of his career. Once again Göran Edman – performing on his final Malmsteen LP – comes up clutch with a fantastic performance, and we of course cannot overlook the maestro’s explosive lead break. A truly excellent deep cut.
A red-hot instrumental from Malmsteen’s fourth effort Odyssey, the aptly titled “Krakatau” is a vastly under appreciated cut from Yngwie’s most successful period. Whilst still replete with neo-classical guitar-runs and backings, there are some other relatively different colours added to the mix. From the grinding riffs during the bridge, to the acoustic guitar stabs behind the extended bass solo, there are some great new elements added into this forgotten gem. Plus the excellent back and forth dual with keyboard legend Jens Johansson is the icing on the shred-cake.
Though Yngwie’s huge 1984 debut Rising Force contains his biggest and highest regarded material, the fantastic “Little Savage” never gets talked about. Tucked away at the back end of the record, the song has everything you’d want from a Malmsteen tune – instantly catchy riffing, blistering lead runs and some god-tier soloing; both of the melodic and furious type. It’s a shame Rising Force – and it’s follow up Marching Out – are unavailable on streaming services, as they capture a young Yngwie at his most passionate and hungry.
To put it bluntly, the late 90s were not the best time for heavy metal and shred guitar. Despite his popularity being at an all-time low in most of the world, Malmsteen to his credit continued releasing albums without giving into then-modern trends. 1999’s Alchemy is not his finest hour, but it does include some great stuff – in particular the barn-storming “Playing With Fire”. While the bulk of the song is built around some heavy, harmonic-minor riffs, Yngwie fires off a cornucopia of dazzling, relentless solos. Whether it was an act of defiance, or sheer indifference to current trends, kudos to Malmsteen for sticking to his guns during this lean period.
Quite possibly the heaviest number recorded by Yngwie Malmsteen, the lumbering, middle eastern stomp of “Pyramid of Cheops” has been overlooked for far too long. Off his seventh full length The Seventh Sign, the more-simplistic, downtuned riffs and thunderous drums make for a nice change from Malmsteen’s usual flashier fare – yet still keeping his signature style intact. The debuting Mike Vescera also works perfectly on this track, with his powerful vocals serving as the ideal foil for Yngwie’s playing. A great underrated tune, from an equally impressive, under appreciated release.
Tucked away as the 16th tune on Yngwie Malmsteen’s 15th studio album Unleash The Fury, “Russian Roulette” is a completely overlooked top-drawer jam from the Swede. Anchored with a galavanting, neo-classical guitar riff, it’s one of the best things that Malmsteen has written in ages. The verses and choruses are catchy and instantly memorable – far from a blitzkrieg of excessive shredding and showboating. “Russian Roulette” is classic Yngwie to a T, and would have fit right at home on one of his first solo forays.
Malmsteen’s Inspiration tribute-effort was a bit of a mixed bag. With no less than five (!) Ritchie Blackmore compositions present, we’ve decided to focus on his other main influence – Scorpions, or in particular, their former guitarist Uli Jon Roth. Tackling the proto-shred brilliance of “The Sails of Charon”, it’s a bit of a no-brainer that the riff and solo-friendly tune was going to fit perfectly into YJM’s wheelhouse, and his fiery take is brilliant and almost on par with the original. Side note – Mark Boals, who handles vocals for a few tracks on the album, sounds scarily like Scorps legendary frontman Klaus Meine.
A mid-paced powerhouse from 1995’s Magnum Opus, “Tomorrow’s Gone” is a completely forgotten gem in Yngwie Malmsteen‘s back catalog. Overused as the word is, it is an epic piece of music – deeply rooted in a minor key, neoclassical belter of a riff. A highly melodic tune, vocalist Mike Vescera wails all over the top the track, while Yngwie delivers a signature raging lead break. It’s a perfect example of where Malmsteen was at as an artist in the mid-90s – and proves that at this period of his career, where things were beginning to downturn commercially, even the deep cuts are worthy of revisiting.
So how did we go? With an insanely deep back catalog, we know that the Yngwie fans will have a ton of favorite songs that we missed – so what are they? Let us know in the comments below!
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