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Yngwie J. Malmsteen

Yngwie J. Malmsteen (born June 30, 1963) is a guitarist from Sweden who achieved some acclaim in the 1980s due to his technical proficiency and fusion of classical elements with heavy rock guitar.

Born into a musical family in Stockholm on June 30, 1963, Malmsteen was exposed to classical music from an early age, and began playing guitar at the age of nine. Malmsteen was in his teens when he first encountered the music of the 19th-century violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini, whom he cites as his biggest classical influence. Through his emulation of these pieces on guitar, Malmsteen developed a prodigious technical fluency, defining a darker, more disciplined approach to the instrument than other virtuoso rock guitarists of the period such as Edward Van Halen.

In 1983 he was brought to the USA by Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records who had heard a demo tape of Malmsteen's playing. After brief engagements with the bands Steeler and Alcatrazz, Malmsteen released two solo albums, "Rising Force" (winner of Guitar Player Magazine's Best Rock Album and nominated for a 1984 Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental) which achieved the impressive position of #60 on the Billboard album chart, and the less successful "Marching Out" (1985).

Malmsteen's style was dubbed "Neoclassical" and it became very popular during the mid 1980s, with notable contemporaries such as Paul Gilbert, Tony Macalpine and Vinnie Moore appearing in Malmsteen's wake.

The imitators Malmsteen's style spawned share a similar story with Yngwie and what he did when he heavily borrowed from the musical ideas of Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Uli Roth in his early years. Malmsteen's signature style did not emerge in a vacuum and would not have been what it is without Blackmore and Roth. One misconception is that Malmsteen was the first one to integrate classical music with rock. This is not the case. Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth of the famous rock group Scorpions, and Richie Blackmore experimented with the idea in the 1970s, Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer toyed with the concept as early as the 1960s. Of notable exception, Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads had fully developed a dark, gothic classical approach and advanced compositional sense by 1980, but his untimely death in 1982 left the door wide open for others such as Malmsteen to exploit the grandeur and darkness of baroque classical music within a rock context. Yngwie's contributions to the evolution of modern rock guitar remain unique - his understanding of Paganini, Bach, et. al. is unparalleled in the rock world. Although initially regarded with respect by the musical fraternity, his arrogance led to a status as a pariah in the musical world. His technical ability is remarkable. However, what set him apart from his imitators was his breathtaking emotive ability and incendiary live performances.

Aside from technical prowess, distinctions of Malmsteen's guitar style include a wide, violin-like vibrato (inspired by classical violinists), exclusive use of Fender Stratocaster guitars, and use of harmonic minor and phrygian scales.

Despite his early success and continued success in Europe and Asia, by the early 1990s, the gratuitous, over-the-top stylings of 1980s heavy metal had become unfashionable in the USA, displaced by the Seattle grunge movement. It is believed that the grunge rock movement arose out of a backlash to the overly technical hard rock inspired by Malmsteen and his contemporaries, in an attempt to return rock to a more raw and harmonically unrestricted form.

One major criticism leveled at Malmsteen's music is that, apart from the earliest albums, it lacked a sense of growth and development—FM rock with some high-speed guitar passages. His style remains tightly confined to the pseudoclassical meanderings of his earliest work, and even his devoted fans hope that he might someday eschew the trappings of mid-1980s heavy metal and experiment with other musical genres.

In the 1990s, he continued to record and release albums under a Japanese record label, and maintained a devoted following in Europe and Japan, and to a lesser extent in the USA. In 2000, he once again acquired a contract with a US record label, Spitfire, and released his 90s catalog into the US market for the first time - including what he regards as his masterpiece, Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra.

See Also:

guitar god

Solo Discography (not counting collection albums):