From the Archive: Yngwie Malmsteen Critiques the Playing of His Peers in 1994 Blindfold Test

by Joe Lalaina
Posted Jun 21, 2012 at 12:41pm

The following feature is from the August 1994 issue of Guitar World magazine. To see all the GW covers from that year, click here.

We asked Yngwie Malmsteen if he would participate in the Guitar World blindfold test -- to listen to a selection of unidentified tracks by unnamed guitarists, and to comment on the playing.

Yngwie agreed, and Joe Lalaina administered the test.

Below are Yngwie's responses.

Time Machine, Relativity (1993)

I like the groovy, Hendrix-style intro. Sounds like a Strat. But the soloing going over the song is very bad. It's bent out of shape and out of tune. It's very basic bulls--- pentatonic runs. The choice of notes in the solo is completely overdone. That stuff has been done for 30 years! I'm sick and tired of that bending bulls---. This is the most run-of-the-mill pentatonic playing I ever heard.

GW: That was Joe Satriani.

MALMSTEEN: You're kidding! Was he high? He's playing out of tune, and the most boring runs! What I've heard from Satriani before was really good, but not this -- this sounds like something someone would play in their garage. After the backwards solo, Joe does some nice stuff with out-of-phase pickups, which I liked. But the actual solo ... I could never dream it was Joe. Out of tune, and terrible.

Live S---: Binge & Purge, Elektra (1993)

That's Metallica -- I love it! This is maybe the second time I've heard this song, and the first time I've heard the live version. My old drummer and keyboardist liked Metallica a lot, and they played me this song around the time I was recording Odyssey [1988]. I liked it then and like it now.

Of all the bands that play this type of music, Metallica's the best. James [Hetfieldj sings better than all the other vocalists and Lars [Ulrich] is a great drummer. I feel some sort of connection with them. I think the band heard some of my early demos, which sounded something like this. [Malmsteen's demos first surfaced on college radio stations in Northern California, where Metallica is based.-GW Ed.] I'm not saying I influenced them, but maybe I did.

Overall, the band has a great sound. But I think the lead guitar player [Kirk Hammett] is not very good. He can play fast, and is pretty good at it. But his choice of notes and sense of pitch are very bad. I don't think that he plays with musicality, or plays in tune. Rather than lifting the song, his solo seems to be an anticlimax.

Pork Soda, Interscope (1993)

I know this band -- it's Primus. The intro is cool. However, when I listen closely, I hear one thing I totally detest: I hate slap bass playing. It's the worst technique ever. But I think Primus is very funny. I get a bit of a Frank Zappa vibe from them. But although I find them very funny, and they do intrigue me, they don't give me a hard-on, in that the band doesn't inspire me to do a similar thing.

On this song, the guitarist plays the weirdest combination of notes; it sounds insane! But it's like he's playing that way just for the sake of doing it differently. I think that Zappa intentionally made his music weird, but did it with intelligence. Primus is not unintelligent, but I think their music is done, not to p--- people off, but to make the listener react, "What the f--- is this?"

Someone like Allan Holdsworth sometimes plays the wackiest things, but does it with panache, such taste. This is done just to do it.

Far Beyond Driven, EastWest (1994)

I don't know who this is, but I like the cool guitar riff. I also like the groove over the second chorus but don't like the buzz-saw guitars. I'd much prefer a distorted guitar that doesn't really sound distorted if you don't play more than two notes.

As far as the singing goes, I couldn't find enough words to describe my disgust. Because it's really not singing. It sounds like somebody is either shoving something up the vocalist's a--, or something is coming out of his a-- and mouth at the same time. It's a stupid excuse for being someone who stands in front of a mic stand.

GW: What did you think of the guitar solo?

MALMSTEEN: A sad reason for being a guitarist in the Nineties. It started off sounding like Chuck Berry. Then there was some terrible, terrible bending going on. Very untasteful. That was one of the worst solos I've heard. But the riffing at the beginning and end of the song is very good.

Images And Words, Atco (1992)

I have this on CD -- it's brilliant. Dream Theater is, by far, one of the best bands to come out recently. Musically, I think they're really clever, and the guitarist and keyboardist are very good. A great band with the right attitude. They're musical, technical, interesting -- and tasteful.

One of my absolute favorite bands at the moment. I have just one reservation about them: their drummer. His choice of beats is terrible! He's obviously listened to too much Neal Peart [Rush] over the years and needs to take a Valium.

As for this song, a great intro. I actually like even the drumming there. Another thing I like about this band, and this song, is that the group likes to use a lot of keyboards -- everything from synthesizers to Hammond organs. Almost like Jan Hammer, which I think is great. The guitar solo is very interesting; it's
like a "Who's Who" of guitar playing. It starts off reminiscent of Steve Vai's humbucky, distorted tone.

Then the guitarist plays something similar to an harmonic minor run that I would do. Then he goes into a Stevie Ray Vaughan/Hendrix thing, which is splendid. I also hear some Brad Gillis and Michael Schenker. I'm not too crazy about his tone, however. Sounds like he's using a Floyd Rose tremolo, humbucking pickups, and the string action is below the frets. I prefer lower-output pickups, no Floyd Rose, and very high strings. Therefore, I get a more acoustic-type sound.

But I really can't say anything bad about the guitarist in Dream Theater, because he's good and very ambitious. I think in a couple more years he'll have his own identity.

Vs., Atlantic (1993)

I'm going to dig my own grave right now. I think the singer in Pearl Jam should eat some Pearl Jam! He cannot sing to save his life! And the guitar player needs to seek help. The guitar solo is terrible -- it's just wank-off, wah-wah pedal bulls---!

That's the most disgusting thing, so tasteless, so common, so blatant -- the worst! There are people like Clapton, Hendrix, Angus Young, Ritchie Blackmore, even Jimmy Page, they played pentatonic -- the regular stuff -- but they did it with taste. But the guitarist in Pearl Jam, and the lead player in Metallica, they've got no taste whatsoever.

I don't want to comment on that song anymore.

Greatest Hits, MCA (1993)

That's Tom Petty. Great songwriter. Not a technical singer, but good at what he does. Obviously, it's something that's not up my alley, but I do like it. I also like Dire Straits -- opposites attract.

The lead guitar playing on this song is nonexistent. I think the guitarist bought a Chuck Berry record that had a scratch on it. He repeats the same thing, even though he changes the key.

Had I played on this type of song, I would have played more melodically and chosen different notes, instead of that overdone "Johnny B. Goode" lick.

Brothers And Sisters, Polydor (1973)

I like it. Very inventive twin-lead guitar in the beginning. It's very musical, and on pitch. What they're doing, they're doing right. Although it doesn't sound technical or wild, the guitarists are playing perfectly in tune. A lot of people don't realize that guitar playing is very much like singing or playing any of the glissando-type instruments -- you have to do it in tune.

GW: That was the Allman Brothers.

MALMSTEEN: I thought I'd heard it before! Back in the Seventies, I saw Dickey Betts playing a live show on TV, via satellite from the Rock Palace in Hamburg, and I remember being impressed by the fact that he was playing clean and very much on pitch.

Individual Thought Patterns, Relativity (1993)

The singer sounds like he's sitting on a toilet seat, pushing a big one. I can't stand it! It sounds like the band can't decide which song to play. This beat-change bulls--- -- I don't like it. The guitarist isn't awful; he actually has a decent vibrato. But I can't get off on it.

GW: But isn't this a bit similar to what Metallica plays, which you do like?

MALMSTEEN: It is, but it isn't as good. But I like that the bassist is playing fretless. However, the fact that he's playing out of tune isn't so tasty. Also, the production is awful; it sounds like the song was recorded on a Fostex 4-track.

Blow By Blow, Epic (1975)

Great intro and arrangement. Great choice of notes, and the intention is good. However, the performance and accuracy of the guitar player, whoever it is, is not on pitch and is very much below standard.

GW: That was Jeff Beck.

MALMSTEEN: Oh my God! That's unf---in' believable! I've never heard this before -- that's Jeff Beck? He's playing out of tune. He's bending the strings out of pitch. It's not the correct pitch! Every time he bends a string, he bends it sharp or flat. I can't believe that the people ... whoever produced and engineered this, or Beck himself, or the listeners, are tonedeaf. I can't believe it!

Where You Been, Sire (1993)

My first impression is that the song wasn't bad -- it's got a decent groove. But the vocalist -- I don't know what he's doing! It hurts to listen to that. Please don't torture me any longer.

GW: What did you think of the guitar work?

MALMSTEEN: It's horrible. The guitar playing on the Jeff Beck song was brilliant compared to this.

Sex & Religion, Relativity (1993)

The guitar playing is really nice. Sounds like a humbucking pickup. I've never heard this track before, but I know it's Steve Vai. Steve's got his own sound and style. I spotted it right away -- and that's what I admire about him. This is some of the best stuff I've ever heard from him. I like what he's doing in the middle of the song -- sounds like he's using an octave-divider. Very interesting.

Musically and arrangement-wise, it's excellent. I have an objection to Steve's actual guitar sound, and I've told him so myself, but that doesn't really matter at this moment. I don't think that anyone who clones anybody, or plays something technically perfect, is worth as much as somebody with their own identity. Steve's definitely got it. There's no way I'm going to knock that, even though much of what he does may not be my cup of tea. But this track I really liked. Steve, good on you, man.

Blues Alive, Virgin (1993)

Now here's a guy who doesn't play out of tune. Gary Moore doesn't have much technique, but he's brilliant when playing slow bits, and he's got style. When he does play fast, he's sloppy. But when he plays a melody, he's one of the very best. No question.

On this song, he plays some beautiful melodic-minor runs. I must admit that he played even better on some of his other stuff, like "Parisienne Walkways." This is pretty much the same vibe, but it sounds like he's playing a Les Paul on this one.

Stone Free: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix, Reprise (1993)

Total blasphemy! You don't make "Purple Haze" into a f---in' rap song! You just don't! The mere thought makes me want to puke! It's like converting a Rolls Royce into a Volkswagen.

Whoever these guys are, they should be shot! And the fact that [producer] Eddie Kramer, who I've known for years, didn't ask me to do something on this Hendrix tribute is also blasphemy! I would've loved to play on it.

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