4 out of 5 Stars!
Not to be confused with the German band of the same name, America’s Steeler released a sole album back in 1983 and introduced the music world to a (then) twenty-year-old “guitar hero” named Yngwie Malmsteen.
I vividly recall the afternoon I heard this album for the first time, and when listening to the opening track “Cold Day in Hell,” I immediately repeated the guitar solo section several times, my jaw hanging to the floor. By the time I got to “Hot On Your Heels” (the last track on Side A) with its three-and-a-half minute “acoustic and electric guitar solo hybrid intro,” I could barely contain my excitement. This man could mutha-freaking play, his technique often reminiscent of both Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple/Rainbow) and Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions/Electric Sun), but not in any way a direct copy of either artist. And when it came to his speed on the fretboard? Well, it was unbelievable and remains, for the most part, unsurpassed.
But aside from Malmsteen’s spectacular riffing, the album contains mostly catchy and thundering tracks, those previously mentioned as well as “On the Rox,” “No Way Out,” “Backseat Driver,” “Down to the Wire,” and the moody, powerful, and lengthy closer “Serenade.”
Sure, the handful of songs I failed to mention are fairly average fare, but with Malmsteen’s guitar blazing throughout, and the band’s overall talent, it’s truly difficult to completely dismiss any of the tunes included on this release. Not to be forgotten, bassist Rik Fox (W.A.S.P./Hellion) and drummer Mark Edwards (Lion) formed a solid and commendable rhythm section, while vocalist Ron Keel had a forceful and recognizable voice perfect for the genre, therefore, this album proved a keeper and had me yearning for more material.
Unfortunately, the band broke up shortly after this album’s release, and Malmsteen went on to hook up with Alcatrazz while the remaining members joined or formed other bands, most notably Keel with his self-named group that released a string of albums through the ’80s.
Meanwhile, this is an album I’ve savored an unfathomable amount of times through the decades, and (for me) it altered the “metal scene” for good, thanks to one particular guitarist with enormous talent.