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On nearly all counts, the debut from Los Angeles heavy metal quartet Steeler is an unremarkable, even generic release; but what makes the album important is the presence of Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen, which marks his official introduction to U.S. audiences. Malmsteen's playing -- which would later gain greater notoriety in the context of Alcatrazz and his own band Rising Force -- was nothing short of a revolution in guitar circles at the time of Steeler's release. While other rock guitarists were still clamoring to figure out Eddie Van Halen's tricks, Malmsteen's shocking virtuosity -- based on classical music as much as rock -- was something for which few were prepared. The story goes that Malmsteen was flown in at the last minute by producer Mike Varney to finish the album after the songs had already been written (by bandleader/lead singer Ron Keel) and recorded; Malmsteen quickly added his tracks and Steeler was released. Obviously, cliché-ridden songs like "On the Rox," "Born to Rock," and "Backseat Driver" -- based on predictable rock chord progressions -- bear none of the compositional complexity and classical trademarks of Malmsteen's writing, and they remain undistinguished except for the dazzling guitar solos. Of particular note is Malmsteen's stunning unaccompanied intro to "Hot on Your Heels," which offers a survey of Malmsteen's Bach- and Paganini-inspired soloing ideas, delivered with unbelievable velocity and stamina. And yet there is an undeniable grace and beauty in his playing which few could emulate -- the fluid, violinistic vibrato, florid arpeggiations, and purity of tone remain breathtaking today. For any fan of the shred guitar
eo-classical genre of guitar rock, this album is an absolute must-have.