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Overlooked classic rock in the vein of Rainbow and Dio
on March 21, 2015
Not long before the onset of Bay Area thrash and European proto-black bands like Venom and Hellhammer, soon to be Celtic Frost, and just after the assault of one Eddie Van Halen, the predominant heavier music was along the lines of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, who still were mighty influences after their demise, and Rainbow/Deep Purple. along with other similar outfits like UFO or Scorpions who rocked mightily in the face of dying disco and the synth pop of new wave outfits like A Flock of Seagulls and a ton of other nameless twits.
Motorhead, Judas Priest and Venom were about as fierce as anything, but with the exception of Priest, Motorhead were simply too bombastic for their early days before becoming the rock and roll icons they are today, same with Venom.
So it's no surprise that labels were scrambling for hot shot guitarists to capitalize on the Van Halen phenomenon, and among them was a very young Yngwie Malmsteen, who had first gotten attention with Steeler and then joined Alcatrazz for its debut, "No Parole From Rock and Roll", along with Graham Bonnet, late of Rainbow. Sonically, it was a sound highly reminiscent of Rainbow, with Malmsteen favoring his classical approach ala his mentor Ritchie Blackmore. It was to be a watershed moment, and possibly his most refined work because he had to be a part of a band that wrote good tunes, and had yet to become the egomaniac he's famous for today, not to mention helping spawn a dreadful flood of shredders, most of whom could burn up a fretboard easily but couldn't write a decent song to save their asses. It was guitar music for wankers, and today it remains an isolated genre for those who can't get enough notes crammed into a measure.
But with Alcatrazz, we get a picture of shred chops working within tighter restraints and help make the band a much stronger outfit because of it. "Islands In The Sun", "General Hospital", "Kree Nakoorie", hell, most of the cuts could have been AOR staples had the radio stations been paying more attention. Bonnet had the chops, if they were sometimes a tad overdrawn, and for once we got to hear Malmsteen in a rhythm capacity as well. For those who really like the classic hard rock/heavy sound of the very early '80's, Alcatrazz is well worth the time, and it's a lot better than latter period Rainbow. This lineup lasted only for the first album, and Malmsteen left to feed his ego with a solo career, to be replaced with the ever available Steve Vai on the second album.
"No Parole From Rock 'N Roll" is a bit dated perhaps, but it's still a fine album, overlooked, and deserves attention from Dio fans as well as Rainbow. Whether we need instrumental versions of the album tacked on is a matter of taste.