Personalities | Yngwie Malmsteen | A Guitar Force | Guitar Heroes

A leading figure of 1980s ‘neo-classical’ rock guitarists, Yngwie Malmsteen (b. 1963) learned his breakneck arpeggios and baroque composing style from classical composers and performers as well as rock artists.

His own sweep-picking technique, his use of harmonic scales and pedal tones and his aggressive playing have helped create his distinctive style.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Malmsteen’s interest in the guitar started, like many of his contemporaries, with the death of Jimi Hendrix in 1970. Also influenced by Ritchie Blackmore’s style, which was influenced by the classics, Malmsteen studied classical composers like Bach and flamboyant nineteenth-century violinist Nicolò Paganini. Malmsteen practised intently and by the age of 18, was playing in various bands around Sweden.

A demo tape that Malmsteen unsuccessfully sent around to Swedish record companies was picked up by US label Shrapnel, and he was invited over to join metal band Steeler. He played on their self-titled debut album (1983) before moving on to Alcatrazz, where he had more input, recording No Parole For Rock & Roll (1984) and Live Sentence (1984). However, he still felt stifled, so he formed his own band, Rising Force, with keyboard player Jens Johansson. Rising Force (1984) showcased Malmsteen’s writing and playing abilities and charted in the US. The band released Marching Out (1985), Trilogy (1986) and Odyssey (1988), which featured ‘Heaven Tonight’. Malmsteen disbanded the group and recruited Swedish musicians for his next band. Eclipse (1990), Fire & Ice (1992), The Seventh Sign (1994) and Magnum Opus (1995) were major successes in Japan. Inspiration (1996) featured covers of songs by Deep Purple, Hendrix and Rush. In 1998, he recorded the ‘Concerto Suite For Electric Guitar And Orchestra’ with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He also revived Rising Force for Unleash The Fury (2005). Malmsteen added singer Tim Owens for Perpetual Flame (2008). In 2009, Malmsteen released Angels Of Love, featuring acoustic arrangements of some of his best-known ballads. This was followed by Relentless (2010) and Spellbound (2012).

Malmsteen’s best-known guitar is his 1972 blond Fender Stratocaster. Bought when he was a teenager, he has used it throughout his career. In 2009, Time magazine named him ninth on their list of the 10 best electric guitar players of all time.

Essential Recordings

Alcatrazz: Live Sentence

Rising Force: Marching Out

Rising Force: Odyssey

Rising Force: Unleash The Fury

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