Well, the title says it all...relentless INDEED!
You can always count on Swedish guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen to crank out albums chock full of 'relentless' guitar overload, and his latest, Relentless is no exception. Once again with fabulous metal shrieker Tim 'Ripper' Owens in tow, Relentless is a fine platter of neo-classical heavy metal that should please Malmsteen's hordes of loyal fans.
First things first-there's a lot of material here. Pushing the boundaries of the CD format, Relentless features 15 songs that completely fill up the space limitations of a disc, and you can count on Yngwie to deliver 70+ minutes of blistering shred guitar. There's an abundance of instrumental pieces here, seemingly more so than normal, and they are fine examples of what you would normally expect from the guitarist, but not quite anything that we haven't already heard before, though "Cross to Bear" and "Shot Across the Bow" feature some splendid playing and effective arrangements. The title track is also noteworthy, and perhaps Yngwie's best collection of arpeggios and sweep picking here on the CD.
The aspect of Relentless though that really works is Owens. The songs that he is featured on are without question some of the best Malmsteen numbers in years. We are talking HEAVY, with bone crunching riffs, blinding lead work, and Ripper's high pitched wailing. "Critical Mass", "Enemy Within", "Caged Animal", "Tide of Desire", and "Axe to Grind" are all serious power metal crushers, and after hearing these gems, you'll wish that Malmsteen chose to include less instrumentals and more vocal pieces featuring Owens. The guitarist handles the lead vocals on "Look At You Now", and to be honest, he's never been much of a singer, and this tune would have been better served with Owens at the helm.
Overall, it's hard not to like Relentless. The instrumentals are, as always, quite good, if not totally unique, and the metal numbers featuring Tim 'Ripper' Owens are stellar, easily the shining light here. I'm going to give this a very strong 4 stars, mostly for the ripping vocal pieces with Owens, but also for Malmsteen's continued brilliance on the guitar. I only wish he would realize that strong metal songs, coupled with his guitar skills and Owens' tremendous voice, are what makes his material stand out these days, and this CD should have had a little more of that, and slightly less instrumental indulgence.
02. Critical Mass
03. Shot Across The Bow
04. Look At You Now
06. Enemy Within
07. Knight Of The Vasa Order
08. Caged Animal
09. Into Valhalla
10. Tide Of Desire
11. Adagio B Flat Minor Variation
12. Axe To Grind
14. Cross To Bear
15. Arpeggios From Hell *