Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie Malmsteen is arguably the most technically accomplished hard rock guitarist to emerge during the '80s. Combining a dazzling technique honed over years of obsessive practice with a love for such classical composers as Bach, Beethoven, and Paganini, Malmsteen's distinctively Baroque, gothic compositional style and lightning-fast arpeggiated solos rewrote the book on heavy metal guitar. His largely instrumental debut album, Rising Force, immediately upped the ante for aspiring hard rock guitarists and provided the major catalyst for the '80s guitar phenomenon known as "shredding," in which the music's main focus was on impossibly fast, demanding licks rather than songwriting. Malmsteen released a series of albums over the course of the '80s that, aside from slight differences in approach and execution, were strongly similar to Rising Force, and critics charged him with showing little artistic progression. He was also reviled as an egotist whose emphasis on blazing technique ultimately made for boring, mechanical, masturbatory music with no room for subtlety or emotion. Malmsteen responded by insisting that since he was already playing music he loved, he had no desire to develop any further, and that his love did come through in his playing. He also vehemently insisted that it was his imitators, not him, who reduced songwriting and composition to merely generic vehicles to show off the guitar player's amazing technique. Toward the end of the decade, Malmsteen fell out of favor with metal audiences, and even some of his musician fan base seemed to tire of him and the incredible amount of practice it would take for them to emulate him. Following a series of personal setbacks, tragedies, and even injuries, Malmsteen eventually resurfaced on small, independent labels and then recorded at a prolific, rapid pace, continuing to play the music he loved in his patented neo-classical style.