Yngwie J. Malmsteen: Mr. Softy

Originally published in Guitar World, June 2009

Yngwie Malmsteen shows his sensitive side on the mostly acoustic Angels of Love.

Yngwie Malmsteen has built his career on his neoclassical style of shred, but the Swedish guitarist has a softer side, as he makes evident on his new all-instrumental acoustic album, Angels of Love (Rising Force Records). “It turned out far better than I expected,” he says. “For years, people have been saying to me, ‘Are you ever gonna do an acoustic record?’ Well, here it is—signed, sealed and delivered.”

For Angels of Love, Malmsteen revamped several of his signature ballads, including “Forever One,” “Crying,” “Brothers” and “Save Our Love,” using acoustic guitar arrangements that feature very little electric guitar work and no drums or vocals. “I played a couple of the melodies on the electric,” he explains, “but there are no electric guitar solos. Some of the melodies that were originally sung are now played on acoustic guitar. At times I doubletracked the acoustic and the electric, with the electric guitar in the background, almost like a voice. I also played cello and keyboards, but the acoustic guitar is the central instrument throughout the album.”

Mostly, Angels of Love sounds quite delicate and intimate, with shredding kept to a minimum (for him), but it’s a Malmsteen album through and through, thanks in large part to his signature vibrato, which often leaps through the mix. It’s front and center on “Ocean Sonata,” the album’s sole new composition. “I go ape-shit on that one,” he says. “My tone sounds a bit Al Di Meola–ish.”

On past albums Malmsteen showed a preference for nylon-string acoustics, but this time out he favored a steel-string Ovation C779 Custom Legend LX. “On a steel-string acoustic you get more sustain,” he says, “so I stuck mostly to the Ovation. For the nylon-string stuff I used my beat-up acoustic-electric black Viper, which I often play onstage. On ‘Forever One’ I double the steel- and nylon-string guitars, which sound really cool together. I tried to keep the album as laidback as possible. It’s not that laidback, but it’s the most laidback I can get.”

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