Former Loudness singer Mike Vescera can be forgiven for moving on with Yngwie J. Malmsteen. The Swedish guitar wizard was on his 6th lead singer, and despite lacklustre sales, the gig was one that came with a certain amount of prestige. Fortunately it was a winning combination. Their first album together, The Seventh Sign, boasted a dozen tracks with most of them pretty good.
Opening “Never Die” recalls the fire of “I’ll See the Light Tonight”. If you’re familiar with Yngwie, you know what to expect. Blazingly fast neoclassic guitar licks, speedy riffs and aggressive vocals.
“Like the sky, I’m perpetual, I never die!”
It’s a good opener, in the fast-paced Dio vein of rock. Fortunately Yngwie slows it down for the wah-wah inflected bluesy rock of “I Don’t Know”. The main riff here is catchy enough and Yngwie adorns it with plenty of licks. Vescera has a powerful set of lungs, an absolute requirement when singing with Yngwie. He gets to show off his abilities a bit on the decent power ballad “Meant to Be”. “Forever One” makes it two ballads in a row, though the second is less “power”, and employs some acoustic portions.
For heavy, don’t miss out on “Hairtrigger”. Vescera is in top form here, and the sputtering speed rocker satisfies to the end.
An instrumental slow blues called “Brothers” follows, and you might think “this album sounds overloaded with ballads”. But yet that isn’t the impression you get listening. These are not wimpy songs. They have power and loads of guitar. The actual effect you get is that of a heavy album.
The awesome title track gets it cranked on side two right from the start. There’s some intricate classical guitar but then, wham — the mighty riff. It’s a blur but it smokes. “The Seventh Sign” is one of Yngwie’s best tracks of ’em all, if you like ’em heavy. Vescera rises to the challenge. As for the playing, even when we’re focused on that heavy riff, Yngwie still has time for some whammy bar nuttiness.
“Bad Blood” is a heavy blues, maybe going for a heavy Purple vibe (check that organ), but without a memorable melody behind it. Vescera is the star here; the guy can sing anything. It really gets stinky on “Prisoner of Your Eyes”, the worst of the ballads. Amberdawn Malmsteen is responsible for the fetid lyrics. This is rotting limburger cheese topped with surströmming as a garnish. Would you like a side of industrial vinegar? One word: “cringe”.
Back to quality, the sitar introduces “Pyramid of Cheops”. Insofar as Egyptology in metal goes, this is not a top track. It does crush, but up against classic Maiden, Dio or Blue Murder, it’s no competition for the champs. One has to admire Yngwie’s restraint for the most part, as he just grinds at the riff.
Another album highlight, “Crash and Burn”, really goes for the neoclassic vibe. The faux-harpsichord is a delightfully baroque touch, but then the song takes off for the skies. Great Yngwie riff, a fine example of neoclassical gone right. Vescera keeps it heavy. Then it’s the final instrumental, “Sorrow” which sounds like it should. Sparse classical guitars pick out a mournful melody. It’s a comedown from “Crash and Burn” and works brilliantly in that regard.
The Japanese, of course, got a bonus track. Called “Angel in Heat”, this unremarkable song features Yngwie on vocals. He’s going for a Hendrix vibe again, but the song is pretty atrocious. Without Vescera to save the song, it’s for collectors only.
Like any Yngwie record, you could objectively state that most of the songs on The Seventh Sign would be better with less playing. But then it wouldn’t be Yngwie, would it? He’s often been criticised for not coming up with enough memorable material, but most of the songs on The Seventh Sign are above average. Having a great singer didn’t hurt either. It’s one of the guitar madman’s better records.