I'll be honest -- I had more or less forgotten about Yngwie Malmsteen's existence until recently, while riding in a car with a Swedish metal type. "So where does Yngwie live?" he asked out of nowhere. And that's when I remembered -- Oh yeah, that swifty-fingered guitar legend with the gravity-defying hair actually lives a quiet existence right here in Miami! (And I remembered I knew exactly where, ha ha…. Something like 12 years ago, my best friend actually found his wallet while walking in their neighborhood, and returned it intact; he didn't offer a reward.)
Not up on your legends of symphonic metal? Well, Yngwie (pronounced something like Ing-vay) was born about 45 years ago in Sweden, and by the mid-Eighties had earned a reputation as one of the most technically proficient guitarists in the world, creating long, dramatic, classical-influenced compositions full of major riffage. His first solo album, Rising Force in 1984, was chosen Best Rock Album by Guitar Player magazine that year, and actually hit number 60 on the Billboard charts (a much more impressive feat back then). The mid-Eighties, what with their excess and tolerance for straight men in ruffly pirate shirts, were really Malmsteen's near-mainstream heyday.
Allmusic.com, however, best sums up how public opinion later shifted: "…..critics charged him with showing little artistic progression. He was also reviled as an egotist whose emphasis on blazing technique ultimately made for boring, mechanical, masturbatory music with no room for subtlety or emotion. Malmsteen responded by insisting that since he was already playing music he loved, he had no desire to develop any further, and that his love did come through in his playing. He also vehemently insisted that it was his imitators, not him, who reduced songwriting and composition to merely generic vehicles to show off the guitar player's amazing technique. Toward the end of the decade, Malmsteen fell out of favor with metal audiences, and even some of his musician fan base seemed to tire of him and the incredible amount of practice it would take for them to emulate him."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Still, Malmsteen soldiered on, despite, according to Allmusic, "a series of personal setbacks, tragedies, and even injuries." He continued to release albums on indie labels, gaining back fans in Europe and Japan (of course), and rebuilding a somewhat underground, but still very sizeable following. Seriously, search anything about him online that allows commenting, or open any guitar magazine for proof.
Most recently, he's been involved in a long legal battle with a former manager over, of course, money, and today TMZ.com actually reported on his appearance at a New York court….
Yes, he actually showed up like that. And despite the very lulz-worthy outfit (exposed chest hair! Complete with gold chain! Why!), looks like Yngwie might get the last laugh: he won a $400,000 judgment.
Anyways, enjoy this video of a live performance of "Rising Force," from his 1988 album Odyssey. It's got epic riffs! Bared chests! Smoke! Fireworks! If this can't cheer you up, nothing will. -- Arielle Castillo