Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.
How Did Yngwie Malmsteen Get This Far?
Swedish neoclassical guitar sensation Yngwie J. Malmsteen entered the late 1990s on a very high note. He had released two quality albums that adopted more of a hard rock style. These were Fire and Ice and The Seventh Sign. He had enlisted the vocal help of Michael Vescera (ex-Loudness), and Michael helped add power to Yngwie’s music with his towering voice.
In 1997 and 1998, Yngwie released his heaviest work yet, called Facing the Animal. Joining Yngwie for this album was Mats Leven (vocals), Barry Dunaway (bass), and Cozy Powell (drums). The album was produced by Yngwie and Chris Tsangarides, the same person that produced Judas Priest’s Painkiller album back in 1990.
Facing the Animal Song List
- "Facing the Animal"
- "Like An Angel—for April"
- "My Resurrection"
- "Another Time"
- "Heathens From the North"
- "Alone in Paradise"
- "End of My Rope"
- "Only the Strong"
- "Poison in Your Veins"
- "Air on a Theme" (instrumental)
Track Notes: "Braveheart," "Facing the Animal," and "Enemy"
The first song, "Braveheart," starts with some lead guitar before developing into a heavy rock tune. The song is about sticking to your guns, sticking to your beliefs, and not allowing anyone to shatter your self-esteem. As long as you stay confident, your soul will be saved, and you will not be afraid of those that don’t like you. Confidence is a skill that has to be learned. Mats Olausson shows some impressive keyboard tapping at the end of the song.
Next, we have the very catchy title track, "Facing the Animal," which is about someone who is so madly in love that they will do anything to show their love to their beloved. Even if it means that they will kiss their loved one twice after their eyes are closed, they will do it to show their love.
"Enemy" is the next song on the album, and this has always been one of my favorite Yngwie songs of all time. The song is about a relationship that became so dysfunctional that the two people involved could never agree on anything. The man tried to be anyone but himself. He was starving for love and affection. But now he has opened up his eyes to realize that the future is now. He is no longer waiting for a miracle; instead, he has both feet on the ground and is looking forward to a brighter future. This song may be Mats Leven’s best vocal performance!
Track Notes: "Like an Angel" and "My Resurrection"
Sacrifice is about a person that is ready to defend themselves if they are threatened. He gets the feeling that he is walking on a sort of wasteland where he sees neither beauty nor truth. The world keeps on turning, but he seems to be involved in this same bad cycle.
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"Like an Angel" is a ballad song that was written for April, the love of Yngwie’s life at the time. The song is about someone that has finally found his true love and the person that he can now spend the rest of his life with. There have been so many songs written about love in the heavy metal genre that the list would be VERY long!
"My Resurrection" is an awesome heavy song about a person that has been brought back to life and the evil that was in his soul is now gone and he is now a man free from pain. You could say this is a kind of rebirth for this man. Getting a fresh start in life is always a great thing!
Track Notes: "Heathens from the North," "Alone in Paradise," "Only the Strong," and "Air on a Theme"
"Heathens From the North" is the weakest song in the album. It is about warriors dressing up in their suits of armor and sailing the seas. They will go into battle showing their pride. They may never live to tell the story of their bravery even after much blood was shed.
"Alone in Paradise" is about someone who feels like he is in a dream where he is literally alone in paradise. He wonders what he is waiting for as the years pass by and he feels like he is running out of chances.
"Only the Strong" is about exactly what the title suggests: In this world, only those that have a strong character will survive in a world that is seen by many as being ruthless and cut throat.
The album ends with a short classically influenced theme song called "Air on a Theme."
How Yngwie J. Malmsteen Has Evolved As a Musician
In a span of 14 years from 1984 to 1998, Yngwie has evolved much musically. The first Rising Force album was a mainly instrumental effort showcasing Yngwie’s creativity, melody, and speed especially in songs such as Far Beyond the Sun. He has had keyboardist Mats Olausson since 1990 and Mats has shown himself to be more than competent and qualified to be playing in Yngwie’s band.
What Happened After the Album's Release?
Cozy Powell would unfortunately die in a motorcycle accident. This would be the only studio album to feature Mats Leven on vocals. Yngwie J. Malmsteen would collaborate once again with Mark Boals as he would sing on the Rising Force Alchemy album in 1999 and War to End All Wars in 2000.
Enjoy This Album by One of Sweden's Best Guitar Players!
The strongest songs on Facing the Animal are the mentioned title track, "Braveheart," "Enemy," "Like an Angel," "My Resurrection," and "Only the Strong." So there are plenty of songs to really enjoy on this album written by one of Sweden’s best guitar players!
© 2017 Ara Vahanian