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The guitar hero prepares for war

While 'Parabellum' isn't strictly a concept album, there is a thread of musical and thematic continuity that runs throughout. 'Si vis pace, para bellum' - 'If you want peace, prepare for war', the inspiration for the 22nd album by Yngie Malsteen gives you a fair idea about what to expect. Although the album's title was a last-minute decision, it's a fitting one for such a ferocious album.

The opening arpeggios on 'Wolves at the Door' sounds like the spark of impending gunfire before an attack and we are certainly in for a fray. Malmsteen's virtuosity ultimately becomes a guitar duel with himself, with every lightning run and hammer on becoming more intense in a bid to push himself to the limits musically. This time he adds vocals to four of the tracks and embellished his guitar flourishes to sound like other instruments. With heavy metal drum backing added, the songs come across as symphonic in nature.

Malmsteen didn't intend for listeners to dip in and out of the tracks, but to take the work as a whole; but saying that, there are probably some of the vocal-led tracks that could easily be lifted and given airplay.

While there is the odd respite from the onslaught of guitars, the familiar electric battle cries return us to the frenetic world that 'Parabellum' inhabits. 'God Particle' pushes things further with a Baroque tempo and impressive guitar impersonation of a harpsichord. '(Fight) the Good Fight' has the sort of metal aggression of Maiden's 'Aces High' with the tumbling guitar runs and galloping drum fills. Album closer, 'Sea of Tranqulity's' unexpected fade out reminds us that peace should not be taken for granted.

Over his 40 year career, Malmsteen has relished challenging himself. As a neo-classic rock guitarist par excellence, that's something that's always going to be a struggle. With the pandemic preventing him from touring, Malmsteen found that he had the luxury of time to put down a record. Without the pressure of having to write and record an album alongside touring, he has refocussed his energies and made a passionate album that speaks volumes about the fragility of humanity.

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