VERSUS: Rising Force vs. Perpetual Burn

VERSUS: Rising Force vs. Perpetual Burn

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal, comparing them to each other, and see which was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are tackling some of the heavyweights and originators of the neoclassical and shred genre. Guitarists who would inspire countless popular guitarists like Nita Strauss, Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big, Herman Li of Dragonforce and Chris Broderick of Megadeth. Lighting their fretboards on fire with the speed and intricacy of their guitar playing and showing how talented these guitarists are for their time and the legacy both men would leave behind in the metal world. Who will win this titanic matchup of classic shredders? Let's find out in this battle I'm calling "The Duel of The Virtuosos"

In this corner, we have Yngwie Malmsteen with his 1984 debut album Rising Force. Originally started as an instrumental side-project from his main band Alcatrazz, the album features vocals from Jeff Scott Soto on the album. Many critics have cited the record as a landmark release in the shred and neoclassical metal genre, starting off Malmsteen's almost forty year solo career. Is this album really as high-praised as the critics say? Is this the defining record of the genres mentioned?

Opening the album is "Black Star". Starting with a beautiful acoustic passage, a driving bass and simple drum pattern picks the pace up. Malmsteen starts off with light, emotional electric guitar playing before the minute mark hits and the distortion and soloing goes next level. The passion and delivery in the song is top notch. His fretboard hopping and hammer on/pull offs are smooth and his sweeping is clean and top notch in the song. The song feels like one long five minute guitar solo, giving off parts where you think its gonna end before Malmsteen starts a new run, starting the record off with just a taste at how talented he is at guitar. "Far Beyond The Sun" picks up the tempo with the opening drums & guitar, with an addition of pipe organ to the build section. While Malmsteen leads the song with his guitar, the rhythm section almost has a classic 80's heavy metal gallop-like sound to the rhythm while the guitars wail and flail throughout the song. Malmsteen begins to step up his game with the song, jumping all over the fretboard with speed and precision before the synthesizer follows that up with its own unique patterns. Then, Malmsteen almost has a duel with the synthesizer, with some nice double bass kick drums behind it. The closing minutes show Malmsteen go full speed in his playing, shredding like there is no tomorrow until the end of the song.

"Now Your Ships are Burned" marks the debut of Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. Opening with a gritty guitar riff, Soto delivers a classic 80's sounding punch in the mix with his vocals, before Malmsteen takes the reigns from him and just goes full fretboard destruction on the guitar. Love the slowed down tempo change at the halfway mark, even featuring a nice little bass solo section before returning to the guitar dominance of the song. Soto returns again near the three quarters mark of the song, adding the grit and attitude to the song. But again, Malmsteen takes over the song, showing he is the true lead of the track with his guitar playing. "Evil Eye" starts with a harmonious opening acoustic guitar passage before returning to a nice and driving heavy metal riff.  With light flurries of acoustic and clean guitars, behind the electric distorted guitars leading the pace of the song, the song is a beautiful marriage of classical music and heavy metal. The guitar wails into the acoustic passages sound so nice and unique for the time, showing dynamics and Malmsteen's talent for music theory and creating an almost symphonic sound to heavy metal.

Then we have the longest song on the album with "Icarus' Dream Suite Op. 4". At over eight minutes, this is literally an orchestral piece of music. With its opening distorted guitar build, into ambient atmospheric synths, the song tries to build and set the stage for the grandeur Malmsteen is about to deliver. Sorrowful opening electric guitars act like a string section with synths adding an almost choir like feel to the playing. The acoustic guitars at the almost three minute mark, give off a progressive rock sound to the song, with the addition of strings and orchestra movements behind it. Almost something off of a Yes album. Metal kicks in at the three and a half minute mark, bringing a nice, simple but driving rhythm section with the rhythm guitar, bass and drums. Malmsteen is more restrained on the song, with more emotional and restrained playing, which is a nice change of pace compared to his chaotic and mesmerizing playing so far. A beautiful musical arrangement and a true standout track off the album. I like this version and the version he would do with a full orchestra on a later release.

"As Above, So Below" opens with a thunderous pipe organ like intro. Giving off the feel of being in the Beethoven-era of music and hearing this at full volume in a massive church. Then the band kicks in, with Soto returning on the album. His vocals are very high in the performance, similar to Rob Halford and Tim "Ripper" Owens (the latter would perform with Malmsteen on two of his albums). The song has a great mix of guitar soloing and synthesizer juggling. Which I can see where bands like Children of Bodom got the inspiration to mix those two things into their sound. "Little Savage" has a great drum opening, adding an upbeat driving tempo, until Malmsteen's random peaks and valleys with his soloing, in-between a nice rhythm section that was prominent in the heavy metal of the 80's. The frenetic and fast-paced playing, into the emotional guitar playing near the halfway mark transitions so well, especially with the accompanying synths behind him, adding depth to the track. The album closes with the short, but sweet acoustic guitar piece "Farewell", closing the album on a sincere and peaceful ending.

His opponent, fellow guitar virtuoso Jason Becker with his 1988 debut album Perpetual Burn. Released at the same time as his main speed metal project Cacophony's debut album Dragon's Kiss, featuring legendary shredder Marty Friedman in the band. Friedman would also contribute a couple guest guitar solos on Perpetual Burn. The album showcases Becker's impressive and mesmerizing guitar playing. It would be his only album before he was tragically diagnosed with ALS, affecting his life and musical career. With this debut, does it stack up against his virtuoso opponent?

Opening up the album is "Altitudes". With a building synthesizer section, and wailing guitars behind it, the song builds with flurries of Becker's guitar playing in-between wailing guitar movements. The drums kick in, with such reverb and punch. The clean guitar tone when the song officially gets going, along with acoustic guitar accents behind him, sounds so good in a good pair of headphones. Then, Becker starts going crazy on the guitar. Impressive sweeping throughout the building section of the song, along with the drums. Then as the drums pick up, the guitars match it and even go faster as the band builds behind him in his full throttle playing and soloing. An impressive opening track, in not only the performance of Becker, but in the production, the musicianship in building the song, and in the drumming of Atma Anur.

Then comes the album's title track. Starting off with Becker leading the song in the technical prowess he has with the guitar.  He shows off his guitar skill in the track, but is also restrained, leading more into the riff at certain points then just soloing for three minutes straight. The song is progressive metal in its efficiency in the guitar playing and drumming. Tempo changes all over the place and speed up/slow down moments. Becker truly shines after the halfway mark, with his impressive guitar sweeps and technical playing. The pulsing rhythm section, keeping the song on track in-between Becker going insane on the fretboard.

"Mabel's Fatal Fable" starts off again with Becker leading the charge with his intricate guitar soloing and drumming of Anur keeping the song going, with his simple but effective drumming. Both Anur and Becker even share a guitar/drum solo section throughout which is an impressive and unique element which I hadn't heard before. There is also an almost classical element to the guitar solos at certain points, with a mesmerizing, almost hypnotic guitar solo section before the halfway mark. You almost get entranced at the sound and the proficiency in Becker's playing. "Air" opens with building synthesizers with speaker hopping effects with choir-like vocals and synthesizer thumping. A slowed down, emotional intro shows the simple but effective guitar playing, adding to the atmosphere of the song. With a Baroque-sounding guitar passage when the synth section fades out, the dual harmonies on the guitar sounds so good and heavenly. Then Becker shows, even in acoustic and clean guitar, his playing is unmatched. Especially with the soloing even having dual harmonies to it which as a guitar player you just enjoy the ability and skill he has with the guitar.

"Temple of The Absurd" starts with a strong, thrash/speed metal sound on the opening guitar, matched with Anur's thunderous drums. The double bass and heavy guitars on the opening, making it the heaviest track on the album. Definitely a headbanger of a track. The song has a classic 80's thrash sound to it, reminding me of something off of Rust in Peace by Megadeth, due to its production and musicianship. Though Becker does solo, he seems more toned down on his playing, leading more to the feel of the song and not "soloing just to solo", which I think is good and fits the song's overall feel. "Eleven Blue Egyptians" has impressive shredding throughout the opening, before almost having elements of being an Iron Maiden song with Becker shredding throughout it. I LOVE the riff throughout the song and even with the dual harmonies in some solo sections, it still fits the main riff and doesn't dominate, but more accents the song.

On "Dweller in The Cellar", we get a nice opening guitar passage with accented drums, that almost gives off a feeling of the song "Air" but more up-tempo and distorted guitars popping through amongst the cleans. I love the slowed down beat at the minute thirty mark, almost a variation of a breakdown in a way, with Becker's wailing guitars shining through into a slowed down but somehow intricate riff. The song almost has a traditional heavy metal feel to the song, with Becker not really shredding like crazy and more focusing on the song and accenting the song in certain parts. Granted, he does have moments of his impressive soloing, but it's not over the top or dominant. He plays just the right amount and then backs off so the drumming and rhythm guitar can keep the pace or lead the song at times. The album's closer, "Opus Pocus", has Becker almost playing the guitar, sort of mimicking a violin in its playing with vibrato and high notes, accompanied by a synthesizer string section. With the electric guitar and drums kicking in, the song begins to build with thunderous drum hits. With Becker bringing everything he's got on the song, along with Anur's drumming, the album comes to a grandiose close.

So, after processing the technical proficiency of these releases, who stands tall in this matchup of these two legendary guitarists? In my opinion, the winner is Jason Becker with Perpetual Burn. Although I feel the metal community will disagree with me on this decision (which they are vocal on when I'm wrong on social media, trust me on that), Perpetual Burn I think is just a better album overall. Becker knows how to solo and when to reign it in, he gels so well with his drummer, even sharing the spotlight in a guitar/drum solo section, and musically I like the record more. Malmsteen's Rising Force, which you could argue stating you couldn't have Perpetual Burn without Rising Force, sounds like Malmsteen just shredding over everything, sometimes unnecessarily or shredding "just to shred". Also, I think Soto's appearance on the record is wasted. Soto is a good singer and I think Malmsteen didn't give him enough to lead or add to the songs he appeared on. Almost sounding like he would solo to cut him off, so he can shine in the spotlight. Malmsteen is a great guitarist and is influential to the neoclassical metal sound, along with guitar in general, but to me, Becker has the better debut.

Yngwie Malmsteen would have an illustrious solo career. Recording twenty studio albums over an almost forty year career, with memorable vocalists like Joe Lynn Turner & Tim "Ripper" Owens. His most recent record was 2021's Parabellum. He performed with the Prague Symphonic Orchestra in 1998, releasing the album as Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E flat minor Op.1. In 2023, Malmsteen also launched a video guitar masterclass on the guitar tutorial site TrueFire.

Jason Becker would unfortunately be strongly affected by his ALS diagnosis in 1989. During the making of his second album Perspective, he began to use a keyboard to help write music due to his struggles with playing guitar, until he was unable to use his hands. After losing the ability to speak in 1996, Becker would still compose music with the help of a computer, releasing compilations and new albums. With 2018's Triumphant Hearts, a crowdfunded album, the album would feature legendary guitarists Gus. G, Joe Satriani, Jeff Loomis and Steve Vai on the album. Becker's story and battle with ALS was the focus of the 2012 documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet. I highly recommend checking it out as it is a fascinating story and really showcases the uphill battles Becker faced during his musical career.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Rising Force vs. Perpetual Burn - Online Poll -
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Rising Force, Perpetual Burn…

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