Doom, Gloom, and Bloom

Heavy-metal monster Yngwie Malmsteen, prosperous Miami homeowner, likes his music dark and his domestic life bright

Then came grunge. Out went spandex, mousse, stripper girlfriends, and stage pyrotechnics. Even the very notion of the cocksure rocker appeared to be under fire. The new rock stars -- Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder -- wore thrift-store clothes, seemed embarrassed by the spotlight, and above all eschewed technical prowess for punk's Everyman spirit.

The era of skintight leather was over, and Malmsteen found himself dropped by his major label. "All of sudden it's not hip to be a good musician," snorts the Swedish rocker, still visibly pained at the memory. "I managed to survive, but many bands completely folded and" -- his body recoils slightly -- "took day jobs."

Malmsteen's last noteworthy appearance in the mainstream media came in August 1993. As reported in the Miami Herald and on Sweden's front pages, Elaine Potter, mother of Malmsteen's nineteen-year-old girlfriend, Amber, called the Miami Shores police, claiming a drunken Malmsteen had threatened her with a shotgun and was "upstairs" with her daughter. Having already been to Malmsteen's house twice before in response to allegations of domestic abuse, police surrounded Malmsteen's home wearing bulletproof vests, guns at the ready.

This one goes to eleven: Miami Shores may not be a heavy-metal mecca but for Yngwie Malmsteen, it's home
Steve Satterwhite
This one goes to eleven: Miami Shores may not be a heavy-metal mecca but for Yngwie Malmsteen, it's home

After a four-hour standoff, Malmsteen emerged in his bathrobe and was promptly arrested and charged with aggravated assault. For her part Amber refused to press charges and insisted her mother was simply trying to break up the couple, who had met a year earlier as she waited outside his tour bus for an autograph after a Phoenix concert stop. The case was soon dropped, and he and Amber were married several months later. (The two later divorced.)

That might have been an appropriate blaze of glory for metal's cultural fade into the sunset. Except that Malmsteen and the heavy metal faithful didn't disappear; they simply slipped under the media radar. That much is clear from the tour receipts for Malmsteen's most recent national trek. Despite little or no press coverage, his shows regularly drew crowds of 2000 to 3000 and pulled in six-figure ticket grosses; even larger audiences turned out for his overseas concerts. New albums have been released annually like clockwork, and while they may not garner reviews in Rolling Stone, they remain solid international sellers, achieving gold and platinum status in Europe and Japan.

Today Malmsteen certainly doesn't fit Miami's version of a rock star. Unlike Miami Beach homeowner Lenny Kravitz, you won't find Malmsteen on MTV, hobnobbing with aspiring models on South Beach, or being bandied about the Hollywood gossip columns. And should Malmsteen find himself arrested again, it's doubtful he'll receive the sort of personal apology from Mayor Alex Penelas that greeted Kravitz recently when he was handcuffed briefly on suspicion of having robbed an Alton Road bank.

And that's fine with Malmsteen. "In my younger days," he says, "it was “party, party, party' and “look at me.' But you grow out of that. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. So if I can drive around Miami and not get recognized, it's kind of a breath of fresh air."

Later that afternoon the Malmsteen family sits in their gleaming white living room. Little Antonio is sprawled on the floor in front of a large-screen television, transfixed by his Sony PlayStation video game. Malmsteen's wife of the past four years, British-born April, is tucked into a couch across from him, beaming adoringly. It would be difficult to imagine a more peculiar formula for domestic bliss. April is not exactly the image of a heavy-metal maiden. In fact she looks much more like a fashionable Bal Harbour matron than the kind of woman you'd expect to find banging her head at one of Malmsteen's shows.

So what's the secret to maintaining a heavy-metal marriage?

"It's not like that," Malmsteen patiently explains. "I go on the stage, and I'm a showman, but at home I'm totally normal."

"He's not Marilyn Manson," April stresses. "His music is very empowering. It's about releasing your anger, releasing your frustration."

Kulchur holds up the cover of War to End All Wars, which features a apocalyptic painting of a musclebound knight impaling a web-toed goblin on the gory end of a spear. The lyrics printed inside the CD booklet are hardly cheerier: "In Hell your soul will burn forever/Bringing you eternal pain" and "The sun is falling down/I can hear people cry.... The end is drawing near."

If this is such a happy home, then where on earth do these disturbing thoughts come from?

Both April and Yngwie laugh, and she explains that her husband's "imagination is amazing, like Clive Barker -- he can create all these fantasies." She shakes her head good-naturedly. "He's really not into that stuff; it's just fantasy."

So, April, you've never been awakened at 3:00 a.m. by strange chants and discovered Yngwie sacrificing a goat?

"Absolutely not!" she protests, rolling her eyes.

Malmsteen himself seems a bit less ready to dismiss outright the existence of a dark corner in his soul, a trait he ascribes to his Swedish heritage. As he puts it: "It's a very depressing place, very dark, very cold and gloomy."

As the conversation continues, he also seems a bit nonplussed with April's description of him as a regular well-adjusted family man who just happens to pen some awfully disturbing verse. Not that he can explain the dichotomy either.

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