Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review - As Above So Below, The Unauthorized Yngwie Biography (Ander Tengner, Bokfabriken Worldwide)

Our reviewer in residence Wayne Simmons has once again pummelled out another great review. This time he turns his critical eye towards the publishing world and let loose the fury.

 I’ve a soft spot for Yngwie Malmsteen. For the uninitiated, he’s one of the pioneers of neo-classical metal – or shredding, as many like to call it – the very stuff Guitar Hero was founded upon. But Yngwie means much more to me than that: 1989’s Live in Leningrad, an album many believe to be his finest moment, was the first metal album that I owned. I bought it on cassette because the front cover featured Yngwie burning his guitar on stage, and to fifteen year old me that was just the most badass thing ever.

So began a brief but intense love affair with all things Malmsteen. I searched out previous albums, Odyssey and Trilogy, plus the VHS of the Leningrad show, and played them all to death. 1990 saw Yngwie’s fourth studio album, Eclipse, released and I grabbed it too, sharing my stash around school, telling anyone who would listen about this awesome guitar shredder I’d discovered. In fact, it was Yngwie that first inspired me to pick up a guitar myself, before putting it quickly down again: I mean, when someone plays this well, I thought, why bother?

Then grunge came along and we were all swept up in a wave of floppy hair and plaid shirts; guitar shredding became uncool and my metal collection was sold onto someone at school who still gave a damn. Yngwie was forgotten by me and many like me but he still kept playing and producing albums. If anything, his infamy grew, burning guitars onstage quite pedestrian to what was reported to be going on behind closed doors…

As Above, So Below: The Unauthorized Yngwie Biography tells a defiantly warts-and-all story of Malmsteen’s life. Its writer, fellow Swede Anders Tengner, is an acquaintance of Yngwie’s but don’t let that fool you: this is the most shocking and revealing rock bio I’ve read since Motley Crue’s The Dirt. Yngwie’s well known for being a little on the difficult side to work with, but Tengner takes it to a new level, drawing upon sources including former bandmates, roadies, managers and label people as well as Yngwie’s girlfriends and ex-wives, to paint the picture of a very troubled, albeit gifted, individual. 
In many ways, Yngwie’s portrayed as the clich├ęd rockstar: sex, drugs and rock n’ roll feature heavily in this book. But an obsessive and defiantly individualistic approach to his craft makes him something much more intriguing than that. Yngwie has always kicked against the mainstream, his style remaining very flamboyant even throughout the 90s when many of his peers were adapting to survive, going with a more stripped back grunge sound. In sharp contrast, Yngwie claims to have no interest in rock or metal trends at all, listening solely to classical. 1998’s  Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra hammered that point home, an orchestral piece Yngwie wrote and then performed along with the Czech Philharmonic. It’s reported as being Yngwie’s own personal highlight throughout a career spanning over three decades to date, and still going.

Tengner’s biography charts the highs and lows of Yngwie’s life and career in a candid and clutter-free writing style. It’s clear from the outset that this is a bio written by a fan as opposed to just some tabloid hack, and that, along with an introduction by one Joe Lynn Turner, makes this a credible read well worth any metalhead’s time. 

Reviewed by Wayne Simmons

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