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Sacrificing popularity for principle. - 82%

hells_unicorn, October 6th, 2006

In 1992, in viewpoint of many, heavy metal died at the hands of Nirvana and the grunge scene. Or did it? Truth be told, heavy metal is not something that is capable of being killed, it can only die if it's bands surrender their principles and join ranks with it's adversaries. Dokken, Queensryche, and Metallica chose to abandon metal in favor of popular approval at around this time. Others like Anthrax, Sepulatura and Slayer would not fully abandon metal but would allow their brand of it to be corrupted with mediocre non-metal influences.

However, despite the mass defections and the self-destruction of several principle bands, Yngwie went into the studio with his recently formed solo project and decided to make music rather than make friends with the faceless and utterly ungrateful mainstream. "Fire and Ice" is essentially a large collection of songs that scream out to it's detractors, "I just wrote a bunch of melodic and catchy metal tunes with tons of shredding, suffer and die slowly listening to it".

Yngwie's greatest flaw as a musician is that he is keen to the point of arrogance and 100% uncompromising. However, in this respect, it also proves to be his greatest strength as his actions kept his music alive and kept an enthusiastic metal audience alive in much of the world.

However, there is a rather interesting new feature to this album that has not surfaced before, but would show itself again in a few subsequent releases. Apparently Yngwie got a tiny bit bored just shredding on the guitar and bass, and decided to pick up a sitar. Although the track that it appears on "C'est La Vie" is not the strongest track on the album, the sitar intro is quite a nice touch and helps give this album a new flavor.

Sadly there is one drawback to this album, and that is that Goran Edman is still the lead vocalist. I was pretty rough on his performance on Eclipse and nothing much has really changed here. It's not neccesarily that he has a bad voice, but his voice is more suited to hard rock or glam rock, and is far to clean and thin sounding to fit into a band that had been fronted by the likes of Jeff Scott Soto and Joe Lynn Turner.

Highlights on this album include both fast tracks "No Mercy" and "Forever is a Long time", for their amazing guitar work and driving drum lines. The more Hendrix inspired "Dragonfly" has some great leads as well. "Fire and Ice" has an amazing intro lead line that reminds me a little bit of his Trilogy work. The instrumental works "Perpetual" and "Leviathan" both contain some excellent keyboard work, in addition to some rather violin-like guitar work. Acoustic composition "Golden Dawn" is very charming and nostalgic, though a bit short. And the album's closer "Final Curtain" has some interesting thunder sounds mixed in to give it a more atmospheric feel, though the riffs are standard Yngwie material.

There is, however, one outlier on this album and that is "Teaser". It seems that Yngwie merged the practice of placing a blues/classic rock inspired song on the first track that started on "Eclipse" with the practice of putting a radio friendly/glam rock sounding rocker on the 3rd track that began with Odyssey. While this is not a bad song, lyrically and musically it sounds more like something you'd hear out of Motley Crue or perhaps even Bon Jovi.

In conclusion, although this is among one of the weaker Yngwie releases, it has the essential elements of all of his past work. Plenty of great guitar work, a good mix of slower rock songs and fast paced speed metal, and the same combination of Baroque cliches and pentatonic riffs. I like this album for the fact that it was an utter rejection to conform to the tides of a musically bankrupt era, but at present music is enjoying a renaissance. And this album deserves a bit of credit for helping it to happen.