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Lukewarm water - 53%

gasmask_colostomy, January 11th, 2018

I’m sure there’s a movie that would really put the fine gloss on what I want to say about Fire & Ice. Since I can’t put my finger on a suitable one, let me describe the movie that I’m thinking of. It would be a blockbuster (American of course) and feature the same kind of epic plot as Star Wars or Titanic, though I would anticipate it being about something more like a doomed battle taking place in the desert with lots of sun and tents, plenty of skirmishes and build-up, though nothing great in the characterization. The actors would probably be well known, at least in part, and there would be more characters than one could remember by watching once, although some of them might still seem unnecessary after several viewings. It would be really long, too, though that should go without saying given all the other features I’ve listed. I know that I’m sort of talking about Lawrence of Arabia, but then again I’m also thinking even of slightly older and more formulaic films that have that “classic” feel to them without being particularly important or fantastic.

The reason for all this? Fire & Ice is not a typically bad album to listen to, but I can’t imagine many people getting very excited by it. I mean, it’s definitely worthy and the musicianship is nothing to sniff at, yet there’s also not much that invites me to join in and shout the lyrics out along with Goran Edman. Perhaps Edman himself is actually one of the issues: I certainly don’t find him as exciting as Michael Vescera on the following release, who made much better sense of Malmsteen’s slower pace to shriek out ‘Bad Blood’ like a cat in heat, nor does Edman’s softer voice have the appeal of Jeff Scott Soto from the earlier releases. For an album like this that likes to take its time, a strong vocalist is really a must, especially one who can put an extra touch onto the songs. There isn’t a lot of nuance to the performance in that department, so the 11 songs with vocals here are mildly disappointing.

One of the other major problems with the kind of movie I described earlier is that they tend to stay at a steady pace for a long time, not reaching a crescendo of action or drama very quickly like modern movies tend to. In this respect, I have to point at Malmsteen and say that he overdoes it on Fire & Ice. I can understand what he was trying to do here, which was to combine his neoclassical chops and background with a more popular modern rock style, though that leaves songs with opposing extremes of manic guitar/keyboard/violin shredding and one-two drumming with catchy vocals. On the title track, it sort of works because the hooky bop of the rhythm playing supports Edman’s vocals to do what they need, while the classical shred diverts from the simplicity of the vocal-led moments. However, there are far too many instances of those songs, attempts such as ‘Cry No More’ and ‘Dragonfly’ leaving no particular mark except for the legacy of some impressive soloing and that general epic feeling.

Naturally, like with the movie, this style would be less problematic if it wasn’t so long, but the album is dragged out to an hour and five minutes, which is roughly the equivalent of Lawrence of Arabia lasting nigh on three hours. Many of the tracks cover the same ground as one another, while some of those that attempt something different are muddled, one instance being the overlong ballad ‘I’m My Own Enemy’ sounding like it has about eight choruses and six solos, each one going on agonizingly longer than the last. ‘How Many Miles to Babylon’ and ‘C’est La Vie’ interestingly bring the kind of “desert encampment” atmosphere that suggested the film analogy in the first place, although nothing happens musically to make me choose a more exciting movie for comparison. I’ve always been a fan of faster music, so supporting ‘No Mercy’ and ‘Forever Is a Long Time’ (what a disgusting title, by the way) is no surprise, though even fans of more relaxed styles will probably get sick of the monotonous pace that drones on for the rest of the album. At least it’s to Malmsteen’s credit that ‘Forever…’ sounds exactly like the song that Stratovarius kept trying to write for over a decade afterwards – it’s really fiery power metal. I needn’t mention the mediocre hard rock efforts and there’s just time to mention that the instrumentals are decent, especially ‘Leviathan’.

To drop the analogy for a moment and focus on Yngwie’s own chosen metaphor of fire and ice, the combination exhibited on this full-length is rather like the end result of adding the two elements together – lots of lukewarm water. As such, however catchy the rockier parts attempt to be and however impressive the neoclassical shredding might sound, the marriage of the two is likely to end in a watering down of fairly epic proportions, especially when carried out over such a period as this album. It’s conceivable that some people might warm to this, but I just feel relief as ‘Final Curtain’ plays and the credits roll.

Fire & Ice - 75%

DawnoftheShred, July 8th, 2009

Fire and Ice is perhaps the least recognized of all of Yngwie’s studio releases. The songs from this record are rarely played live and they usually don’t make it onto any sort of greatest hits album. It’s a bit hard to believe after listening to it, as it’s the same quality Malmsteen material that was found on Odyssey. With Goran Edman from the Eclipse album returning on vocals, there’s a certain poppy quality to it at times, but otherwise it’s just another good power metal album from Yngwie with perhaps a bit more division in song types.

The Fire

Opening instrumental “Perpetual” kicks about as much ass as is humanly possible; the guitars and keyboards interacting beautifully and…what’s that sound? That low scratching sound? If you listen carefully you can hear it….that’s the sound of Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo and keyboardist Michael Pinnella taking notes. They do this exact thing on various Symphony X material to equally incredible effect (see: “Fallen” and “Of Sin and Shadows”). Though I heard their stuff first, it’s no less dramatic on here. Instrumental works are where Malmsteen most excels, and there are a few of them on here. “Leviathan” is also excellent, actually reminding one of early Dream Theater. “Golden Dawn” is just a brief acoustic thing, but it too is nice.

Vocal tracks are still the majority though, and a lot of good songs are present. Goran Edman, though less remarkable than his predecessors, isn’t a bad singer, kinda reminds me of Glenn Hughes or Doug Pinnick really. Very soulful. Anyway, he actually adds a lot to the Purplish “Dragonfly” and the sprawling “How Many Miles to Babylon.” “Cry No More” is an excellent addition to his more pop-oriented catalogue and another place where the keyboards are so poignant in backing the guitars that they actually garner most of the focus while Yngwie shreds away. It’s also one of dozens of places on early Malmsteen albums that predict the rise of Symphony X. “Forever is a Long Time,” despite the moronic title, is a good return to the all-out power metal songs, as is “No Mercy.” However most of the stand-outs here are in the slower, atmosphere-oriented songs like those above; the power metal tunes worked a bit better with the earlier lineups.

The Ice

“Teaser,” ugh. Starts a cappella like “Heaven Tonight,” then proceeds to be a poppy Foreigner reject. Easily one of Yngwie’s worst commercial songs. “C’est la Vie” is significant as the first song on which Yngwie plays the sitar, which I’m sure was decided in all of the time it takes to say “fuck it, it has strings doesn’t it?” Otherwise, it’s not particularly special. Same goes for the title track and the ballad “I’m My Own Enemy,” where Malmsteen’s ever-dazzling leadwork is one of the few saving graces. None of this stuff is really outright terrible, but Yngwie’s albums might be a bit more consistent if he left a couple of the weaker tracks off instead of just throwing as much material onto his CDs as possible.

But overall, it’s great 80’s metal from the early 90’s. Certainly not the best thing out there or even the best thing with Malmsteen’s name on it, but it’s another good album for those that enjoyed Trilogy or Odyssey.

Good to a point - 87%

The_Ghoul, January 10th, 2008

Fire and Ice came at a critical time in Malmsteen's career and the world of metal as a whole. As many have pointed out, grunge had just come into play and metal bands were either folding or defecting and breaking ranks in droves, and Yngwie had just done the album Eclipse, which was a stain on his career after the 4 rising force albums. So he either had to make a good album, and define the next decade of his career, or he would burn out and jump on the wagon of the has-beens.

Obviously, it worked, because the early-mid nineties were a great time for Malmsteen, and he released scorcher after scorcher. However, this album, in itself, is not that memorable. Sure, the songs are all catchy. Sure, the guitar playing is spot on. However, as I said, this album is good to a point. That point is Goran Edman, who technically doesn't fail as a singer, since he does hit the notes, fails as a successor to Joe Lynn Turner. His voice is thin and voiceless, losing power as he hits the higher notes, sounding like a teenager just getting into his new manlier voice. Thank the metal gods that Yngwie booted Edman and replaced him with Michael Vescera. The singing isn't bad, as I was led to believe, it just adds nothing to the album, and strikes the listener as extraneous and unnecessary. However, on songs like Fire and Ice, where he avoids the higher range where he loses power, and Leviathan, where he doesn't sing at all, the album works. From this, it can be deduced that Goran detracts from the overall listenability of the album.

However, the drums are good, shining in the aforementioned songs, being wonderfully technical but not stealing the spotlight from the almighty Yngwie. The bass, as always, is inaudible most of the time, but that it doesn't detract from the fun of Fire and Ice. The songwriting is a preview of what's to come, namely catchy, melodic, and aggressive power metal/shred, with blistering guitar solos and plenty of neoclassical influence, as well as influences from hard rock and blues rock. It expands slightly upon Yngwie's repertoire, as well as rectifying the mess that was Eclipse. So yes, it succeeds as an album. Get it if you like Malmsteen, chances are it won't change your opinion.

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.

A Must Have - 94%

KingMoo, February 27th, 2005

With the exceptions of perhaps Teaser, this is another Yngwie epic, but I shall go into that later, so lets begin.

Perpetual, track one, is without doubt the best instrumental of Yngwie's career, to best describe it would take too long so I will attempt to sum up the track within a few sentences. If you liked Black Star, imagine something around 20 times better, with 20 times more effort put into it. Perpetual has so many layers I still doubt if I have heard them all yet, from the clockwork chimes to the relentless & to die for riff, Perpetual shreds through with it's Black Star style note bending and dies out fulfilling it's own title to create the imagery of living forever.

Dragonfly kicks in with a bluesy intro very very similar to Bedroom Eyes from this album's predicessor. But somehow, this track is alot better than Bedroom Eyes, it feels less empty and you can feel the atomosphere which is to enter the album soon being built up around the chorus. An uplifting song but after track one, you are left with the feeling that this album may be heading in the downwards direction Eclipse went after track one.

This feeling is unfortunately not destroyed as Teaser kicks in. I don't want to totally knock this track because it's catchy but it just isnt Yngwie, it's not rock its not classical and in no way is it anything in comparison to track one. It sound's like some sort of glam rock release which would gain radio airtime at christmas (which apparently was Yngwie's aim here). If he had made a separate album and put tracks such as Bedroom Eyes and Teaser on alongside more similar styles I probably wouldnt have minded so much and seen it as Yngwie trying something new (which I have nothing against whatsoever). But tracks like this on an album with the world's best front cover (bar 'Trilogy' of course) and such an atmospheric introduction track just shouldnt have this sort of stuff anywhere at all.

How Many Miles To Babylon? Not sure, but that isnt the point. This track, it's instrumental epic genius and it's metaphorical lyrics line it up on the same scale as track one. Lolo Lannerback plays flute in the long instrumental introduction which is perfectly relaxing to say the least, until the church organ explosion into the main riff lets us know this track is the business. Goran Edman's vocals can be tedius at points and I tend to cringe as he makes an indescribable strange noise on the higher notes with in my opinion too much vibrato, but it still suits the track very well in other manners such as is perfectly in tune smooth tone. The Epic song of this album, How Many Miles To Babylon is as complex as it is relaxing.

Cry No More is to me a filler track, but it still carrys on the atmospheric feel and has a pretty nice riff to go along with it. Goran is clearly more relaxed and confident in this album than Eclipse and this track does well to prove it as he seems to enjoy himself and add his own emotion to the track. It is simplistic and although I would call it a filler track, its a damn good one at that.

I think that this track could have been produced better to give the effect Yngwie was searching for (which he easily finds on his album Alchemy from 1999). Its a fast metal track carrying the same atmosphere, here created by the keyboards as the guitar tends to concentrate on the speeding metal more. Now, I have searched the booklet all over (and maybe I'm stupid) but I cannot find anywhere stating the interlude is by J.S. Bach, because to my own knowledge it is a short suite from his Brandenburg Concertos (my knowledge of classical music not brilliant), and Yngwie still includes ''All Compositions By Yngwie Malmsteen'' in the booklet which I find rather amusing. A good track which I enjoy to listen to, but perhaps with a better mix this track could have been a true headbanger.

I purchased The Seventh Sign and Magnum Opus before this album so I had beleived that Pyramid of Cheops from The Seventh Sign had introduced us to Yngwie the sitar player and this had continued into Time Will Tell from Magnum Opus. But of course I have just discovered I am incorrect upon my purchase of this album, C'est La Vie opens with the sitar and is continued throughout parts of the track here and there. Edman is at his best in this track, fantastic ranges and shows off how quickly and brilliantly he can switch between keys and the speed he switches between even separate notes with his vocal chords often rivals Mr Malmsteen's guitar abilities.

Leviathan is another strong instrumental, the riff is again fantastic and the emotion involved is brilliant, I do however feel that this track could have been better named. It feels more like 'Marching On' if you will excuse the slight pun those of you familiar with 'Marching Out'. It feels more like an adreniline raising pre-war song to me. But still, title aside, this track is fantastic is does very well to keep flowing the atmosphere, with Yngwie introducing a dirty tone at points. Extra Note - I like this short flick to blues at the end of the solo - works quite well considering the next track is a brilliant blues scaled song.

Fire & Ice, the title track and what a track it is. Opening with a long stream of arpeggios and reaching the blues riff. Now despite this being a blues track which I sort of ditched earlier, Fire and Ice still maintains this brilliant feel the album creates. There can't be a person who doesnt sing along to the chorus, it is so drenched in blues and enjoyable to sing. The solo brings us closer to Yngwie's natural style and is as every other track basically ass kickingly brilliant. An allround gorgeous track with a really cool name.

Forever is a long time begins what is my opinion is a 3 track filler section. Three tracks in a row which I always skip because I'd rather here Golden Dawn which lasts 1 minute if this tells you how I feel about it. Yes they maintain the feeling of the album but no they don't have that extra boost that makes tracks such as Fire & Ice and How Many Miles to Babylon so great, so in saying this I am going to miss out reviewing the following tracks:
Forever is a Long Time, I'm My Own Enemy, All I Want Is Everything.

Golden Dawn in contrast to the last three tracks is a gorgeous acoustic track, very short but perhaps had it lasted longer woudlnt have had the same effect as it has at its short length. It's very baroquey, if that is even a word, reminding me slightly of music from the reign of King Henry 8th of England.

Final Curtain is a fantastic epic track with severe use of a string section to emphasise the 'The End is Nigh' feeling to the track. It sums up feelings of desperation, seriously aided by the brilliant vocals of Goran Edman. Mats Ollaussen's keyboards are vital in this track and create the explosion of the atmosphere which I have referred to so often. You really feel as if this is what the album has been building up to. A great end to a great album.

And Thankyou for taking the time to read this.