Neoclassical metal

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Neoclassical Metal is a sub-genre of metal music that draws strong influence from classical music in its playing and composition style. The most notable performer of the genre is Yngwie Malmsteen.

While neoclassical metal bands do exist, with a notable branch of the genre being neoclassical power metal, it is more commonly played by solo performers such as the aforementioned Yngwie Malmsteen. Instrumental artists are very common in the neoclassical metal genre.

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Power Metal & US Power Metal):
  • DippoMagoo (leader)
  • adg211288
  • Sisslith

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CACOPHONY Speed Metal Symphony Album Cover Speed Metal Symphony
CACOPHONY
4.31 | 16 ratings
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YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Rising Force Album Cover Rising Force
YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN
4.17 | 42 ratings
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JASON BECKER Perpetual Burn Album Cover Perpetual Burn
JASON BECKER
4.32 | 7 ratings
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YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Inspiration Album Cover Inspiration
YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN
4.22 | 9 ratings
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MARTY FRIEDMAN Dragon's Kiss Album Cover Dragon's Kiss
MARTY FRIEDMAN
4.15 | 13 ratings
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YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E Flat Minor: Op. 1 Album Cover Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E Flat Minor: Op. 1
YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN
4.10 | 11 ratings
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TONY MACALPINE Maximum Security Album Cover Maximum Security
TONY MACALPINE
4.04 | 9 ratings
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VINNIE MOORE Mind's Eye Album Cover Mind's Eye
VINNIE MOORE
4.00 | 5 ratings
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TONY MACALPINE Edge Of Insanity Album Cover Edge Of Insanity
TONY MACALPINE
3.94 | 7 ratings
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YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Facing the Animal Album Cover Facing the Animal
YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN
3.92 | 8 ratings
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YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Alchemy Album Cover Alchemy
YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN
3.86 | 10 ratings
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YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Marching Out Album Cover Marching Out
YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN
3.79 | 23 ratings
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neoclassical metal Music Reviews

JASON BECKER Perspective

Album · 1996 · Neoclassical metal
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siLLy puPPy
Tragedy is certainly no stranger to musicians across the centuries whether it be the untimely demise of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or the much larger list of modern rock guitarists ranging from Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Randy Rhoads or Kurt Cobain who met an untimely death before their time. Being snuffed out in your prime is one thing and as bad as it is, it has to be even monumentally worse when an artist is perched to be the best thing in his game only to suddenly be stricken with a disease that leaves him alive yet paralyzed and unable to play for the rest of his remaining life.

Such is the case of a young JASON BECKER who had taken the guitar world by storm with his insane technical shredding that found him on virtually every guitar magazine in the 80s. While creeping into the scene with Marty Friedman and their band Cacophony, BECKER cemented his status with his pyrotechnical guitar wizardry on his Shrapnel Records debut “Perpetual Burn” which found his neoclassical compositional prowess coupled with blitzkrieg guitar soloing taking him to the world of Ygnwie Malmsteem and beyond. The late 80s saw this fast riser at the mere tender age of 16, to be chosen as the next coveted guitarist for David Lee Roth following hot in the heels of Steve Vai.

BECKER’s success was all but guaranteed but then fate dealt a strange blow to this modern day Mozart. He quickly began to lose his motor skills and was soon diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This could not come at a worse time and despite his efforts to record on Roth’s “A Little Ain’t Enough,” lost mobility so quickly that he was unable to tour. Struggling to comprehend his impending doom, BECKER was forced to make sobering decisions beyond his years and race the clock before his body would completely shut down and he would be unable to move even a single finger. 
That’s where this album PERSPECTIVE comes into the scene. Faced with his entire career stolen from him, BECKER had to take the little time he had left and dish out his magnum opus in a rather short time. This album displays an artist’s love of music and the process of losing his physical ability to move all the while the music keeps churning inside. At the beginning of recording PERSPECTIVE, BECKER had already lost a significant portion of his physical ability to play guitar and therefore took the show to the computer where he painstakingly composed the album and allowed other guest musicians to lend a helping hand.

What normally should’ve been divvied up into a lifetime of work suddenly had to be condensed into a single album and therefore PERSPECTIVE displays a completely different aspect of BECKER’s musical abilities. While already a proven composer albeit submerged beneath the cacophonous din and speed of his guitar shredding techniques, PERSPECTIVE finds BECKER in a much more relaxed and contemplative mood with not only the neoclassical leanings on display but a plethora of disparate musical genres joining in for good measure. The album includes a veritable who’s who in the music world with guests ranging from Steve Perry of Journey on guest vocals to fellow David Lee Roth drummer Gregg Bissonnette.

The album starts of with the rather odd sounding “Primal” which is about as non neoclassical guitar leaning as one could’ve imagined but instead an rhythmic African music inspired track that adds various strains of ethnic music from around the world. The guitar playing showcases BECKER’s last ability to play simple power chords before he would lose all guitar playing ability completely. The following “Rain” borrowed a guitar riff from the vaults and orchestrated it whereas the three tracks “End Of The Beginning,” Life & Death” and “Serrana” display BECKER’s love of classical music in his own unique compositional flair with multi-suite parts and outstanding musical dynamics, tempo changes and excitement. They are the crown jewels.

The album is rounded out by an outstanding a cappella version of a track BECKER had in the vaults called “Higher” and inspired by Bobby McFerrin, whose back up group Voicestra would find two members joining in for recording. “Blue” is a rather basic blues track which lightens up the thick atmosphere of the album and “Meet Me In The Morning” is a vocal led Bob Dylan cover. “Empire” is a Japanese soundtrack sounding piece. The album took nearly six years to finish and finally saw the light of day in 1996 well after the disease had completely crippled a young BECKER and left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his days but much like Stephen Hawking, his mind remained alert and continued to crank out music through his computer albeit at an infinitely slower pace than before.

PERSPECTIVE is point blank a testament to the human spirit. This album symbolizes the sheer will power to complete a project before the point of no return. It could be argued that this could be a better album than it is and those arguments would be quite valid however the point of PERSPECTIVE is not to display the talents of a normally talented composer but rather one who has been compromised beyond human comprehension. While not perfectly executed, PERSPECTIVE dishes out nine outstandingly brilliant tracks but most of all conveys his most tragic chapter in full emotional regalia.

Most of all, PERSPECTIVE displays what could’ve been. Once BECKER matured past his shredding stage, he was primed to become one of the best musicians on the scene whether it be for film soundtracks, classical performances or a continued interested in metal. This is one of the few albums that can literally bring me to tears as the notes touch deep in the soul. A perfect album perhaps not, but considering all that went into making it, the best possible album under the horrific circumstances at play. I’ve always loved this album for its uniqueness as it single-handedly unleashes nine distinct paths BECKER could’ve continued his musical talents. While only a teaser of what could have been, this is a brilliant life’s work for such a young artist faced with the impossible.

BORISLAV MITIC Borislav Mitic

Album · 1999 · Neoclassical metal
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siLLy puPPy
Serbian born BORISLAV MITIC caught the guitar bug early on at the age of 11 when he began to emulate his influential guitar gods that ranged from Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore to Jimmy Page before discovering the new bars raised that started with the shredding wizard of Yngwie Malmsteen and subsequent army of faster-than-the-speed-of-light shredders that ranged from the neoclassical prowess of Jason Becker and Marty Friedman to the more bizarre guitar freakery from Bumblefoot and Todd Duane. After setting his homeland on fire with his debut album “Fantasy,” he caught the attention of the never-ending searcher of guitar virtuosity in the form of Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records who offered him a chance to join the big boy’s club and enter the world stage. Fearing missed opportunities in a then recently collapsed Yugoslavia, MITIC relocated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada and so he could work on his first self-titled international release.

Whilst the “Fantasy” album showcased MITIC’s uncanny finger dexterity and militant command of classical scale manipulation, this eponymously titled album finds MITIC adopting a wider palette of influences many of which were taken from the fertile crossroads of his homeland in the Balkan area of southeastern Europe. While BORISLAV’s technical chops had been honed perfectly on “Fantasy,” on this album they find their way into a more meaningful mystic journey through various styles ranging from not only the classical leanings of the previous album but incorporate many folk elements that range from Balkan gypsy swing, Celtic Irish jigs, caffeinated waltzes and Middle Eastern rhythms that are sifted from a plethora of regional cultural and religious imprints from his youth. All of which conspire to embark on a fascinating mix of ethnic folk music amplified by the extremities of neoclassical shred metal gone wild.

The album starts off with the opening tracks “Sky Rider” and “Chasing A Dream” which furiously erupt into shredder’s paradise with blitzkrieg finger breaking antics that not only showcase MITIC’s guitar shredding talents and ability to compose brilliant material to solo over but also the two other members who join in to make this more of a band sound. Jacques Roy joins in on bass and although not as funk rock oriented as the bass player on “Fantasy,” finds a unique role in the rhythmic performances. This album also finds a real human drummer in the form of Marc Bonneau who is equally talented with more tricks and trinkets than simply keeping the beat while the guitarist goes nuts. These three provide a well-balanced rhythmic drive although it’s true that the star of the show is of course MITIC whose shredding skills are on full display although he carefully crafts the compositions so that they are climax producing crescendos for the most part rather than a ceaseless cannonade of blitzkrieg bombast.

In addition to the expected guitar shredding excellence par none are atmospheric and even ambient segments that build emotional portraits before the more aggressive elements kick in. Three sets of tracks provide a slow and brooding swarm of atmospheric build up before a more folk oriented metal track is allowed to unfold. These include “Mystic I & II” with its sizzling Hendrix inspired riffing, the metal jig “Celtic Legends I & II” as well as the more progressive metal oriented “Light Of 7 I & II” which runs the gamut of emotional connection before adding the technical wizardry. It begins with an Indian sitar inducing raga to usher in a bombastic time signature rich sizzling riff and solo frenzy. While heavier metal is the king of the roost here, MITIC also implements the slower number “Ballade Pour Elle” which complements the ambient and more chilled out intros.

BORISLAV MITIC found his happy zone on this international debut where his pyrotechnic shredding skills integrate perfectly into not only the bluesy rock and parades of wah-wah rich riffing but especially in the mystic folk laden journey in which he rides the caravan and adds his own guitar sounds on top of. This is a brilliant album that works on many levels. Highlight tracks are the two openers “Sky Rider” and “Chasing A Dream,” “Celtic Legends,” the feisty facemelter “Bird Dance” and my favorite gypsy swing inspired “Southern Wind.” Every track fits together perfectly with the exception of the rather tediously generic closer “Fairytale’s End” which i find quite weak in comparison but since it’s the last track i just pretend it doesn’t exist. While neoclassical instrumental shredding albums are surely not to everyone’s liking, for those who find this stuff exhilarating, BORISLAV MITIC offered one of the best of the genre with this self-titled gem.

BORISLAV MITIC Fantasy

Album · 1996 · Neoclassical metal
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siLLy puPPy
BORISLAV MITIC was merely one of the legion of guitar shredders who followed in the footsteps of not only the early guitar god pioneers such as Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore and Michael Schenker but quickly joined the new ranks of technically gifted neoclassical shredders that emerged in the wake of Yngwie Malmsteem who continued to ratchet up the technical skills to a ridiculously high bar. Born in Beograd, Serbia, at that time Yugoslavia, a young BORISLAV began his guitar training at the tender age of 11 and quickly joined the ranks of some of the world’s most extraordinary neoclassical guitar shredders by the age of 18 in his homeland.

His debut album FANTASY was recorded in 1992 and premiered his ability to shred in the big boy’s club. While this album was released in 1996 as a Serbian domestic product, it was this very album that got him signed to the Shrapnel Records label that specialized in snatching up all the virtuoso guitar talent of the world. MITIC would relocate to Montreal, Canada and after releasing his self-titled debut for Shrapnel, he would re-release this early recording turned Serbian debut again in 2000 for an international audience.

FANTASY is all about advertising guitar virtuosity. MITIC was a huge fan of classical violinist Niccolo Paganini and this debut finds his virtuoso guitar playing successfully adapting to many of the classical world’s greatest hits so to speak with from not only Paganini but also from Handel and Bach. This all instrumental neoclassical outburst of energy focuses on two completely different aspects. It allows MITIC to shred at the speed of light to the adaptations of the classical past masters and it also showcases MITIC as a songwriter in conjunct with the extraordinary bass work of Stevan Nimcevic and two tracks that are keyboard oriented and played by Bojan Isailovic.

Within the span of 14 tracks, MITIC runs the gamut of ridiculously mind-blowing interpretations of Niccolo Paganini’s “Caprices No. 24 in A Minor and No. 17 in E-flat Major” which is teased into the frenetic opener “Master Of Strings” to the ubiquitously mandatory version of “La Campanella” which has become rather cliche and less enthralling than the opener. The highlight of the entire album is the outstanding Handel inspired title track that not only offers the most technically adept shredding workouts but also excels in the creative dynamic changes that offer as much brilliance as the original piece. The other outstanding Paganini piece is the closer “Moto Perpetno” which features a melodic keyboard riff accompanied by MITIC’s finger breaking antics.

Classical reinterpretations aside, the rest of the album is more bass driven with a rather funky groove and hard rock feel which allows Nimcevic to shred on the bass which comes off as bad ass as the guitar. Extreme caution is implemented in the mixes here as MITIC, while able to shred a million miles per second is reserved as to when he unleashes his frenetic discharge. The melodic development and compositional flow supersedes any extreme episodes of wankery, however once the fingers are let loose they conjure up some of the most sophisticated shredding that can be heard.

While MITIC’s eponymous debut album on Shrapnel is far superior for its incorporation of various folk elements to his neoclassical shredding workouts, FANTASY is a decent slice of all instrumental guitar god magic that is a pleasure to listen to on occasion despite the album feeling a little lopsided between two disparate styles and a little heavy with sappy ballad type material that shows a more sensitive side than most shredders engage in. MITIC proves he was up to the task of competing with the likes of Paul Gilbert, Ron Thal, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai on this debut FANTASY but lacks enough creative prowess to push himself above the ranks of the already established shredders of the 90s.

YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Rising Force

Album · 1984 · Neoclassical metal
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martindavey87
Yngwie Malmsteen’s 1984 debut, ‘Rising Force’, is the album that inspired a whole generation to grab a guitar and learn how to play it really, really fast, as well as giving birth to what’s known as the neoclassical subgenre, a hybrid of metal guitar playing with classical music themes. It’s a highly influential album. But does it hold up well today?

Not really.

I went into this album with some intrigue. The outspoken Malmsteen has never been too modest to tell us underlings of his superior musical abilities, so I was interested to see what the fuss was about. And to be honest, I find it pretty boring. Don’t get me wrong, he plays with absolute precision and intensity, and no doubt in 1984 this was groundbreaking stuff. But by today’s standards, it just sounds like the same recycled classical lick played over and over.

There are a few songs with vocals which aren’t too bad, ‘Now Your Ships Are Burned’ and ‘As Above, So Below’, and in this aspect Malmsteen’s playing suits the music well. But for the most part, I just find this album dull, with all the songs serving as a self-indulgent excuse to play the same guitar scales as fast as possible.

Except for one song; ‘Icarus’ Dream Suite Op. 4’.

Wow! Where did this come from?! I can tolerate mindless shredding here, because the melodies when the song slows down are incredible. The clean guitar playing, the keyboards, everything here just comes together perfectly! This song itself is pretty damn amazing, and while ‘Rising Force’ generally bores the hell out of me, this song alone is enough for me to at least come back for more and see what else the master of men can conjure up.

No doubt this is highly regarded by fans, and in particular, by other guitarists, as a classic. But it just doesn’t work for me.

YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Rising Force

Album · 1984 · Neoclassical metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
It's rare that you can point to a specific artist and album and say that here, right at that moment, is where a particular musical subgenre got its start, but you absolutely can with neoclassical metal - Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force album is patient zero for this high-technicality, classical-influenced, guitar-worshipping brand of metal.

This style has been derided from time to time as being nothing more than empty technical showboating, exacerbated by the fact that whereas progressive metal (which also gets accused of such showboating from time to time) at least tends to put a spotlight on a range of different instrumentalists, your typical neoclassical metal act is essentially a virtuoso guitarist and a group of backing musicians who are there to help the guitarist look good. Whether or not you consider that stereotype to be an outrageous slur on the scene or a perceptive assessment of some of its trends, you can't say that Malmsteen hasn't contributed to that image just a little, repeating his formula over sufficient albums that it's become an overworked, tired-out cliche.

It would be unfair, however, to tarnish this excellent debut album with that brush. The difference between this and so much of Malmsteen's subsequent discography is that, as a result of coming out first, it wasn't laden down with the expectations people had placed on Malmsteen's work. The general compositional approach hadn't yet ossified into a formula from which albums could be churned out by rote, and Malmsteen hadn't yet fallen into the trap of pandering more and more to fan expectations and believing more and more in his own hype, until his music became an overwrought caricature of itself.

Instead, what you get here is some dynamite classically-influenced heavy metal, building on a foundation reminiscent of early Queen (especially when Jeff Scott Soto's vocals come in) and adding intricate classically-inspired guitar work from Malmsteen himself. The end result is an electrifying performance which not only provides an exceptional showcase for Malmsteen's guitar skills, but is also a downright entertaining album in its own right. Don't hold Malmsteen's late-career turkeys against him and listen with an open mind.

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