Fire & Ice: Expanded Edition
In the 1980s, Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen made a name for himself thanks to his virtuosic guitar playing, and his albums Trilogy and Odyssey were acclaimed for their blend of powerful vocals and impressive guitar solos. Blending metal riffs with classical music compositional methods—he wasn’t above incorporating Bach and Beethoven into his melodies—one need not be a fan of his music to be impressed with his chops. Fire & Ice, his sixth album, was released in 1992, and it felt a bit strained. His previous album, Eclipse, had suffered a bit from overproduction and overthinking, so Malmsteen wanted to make an album that was a bit more raw and spontaneous, one more akin to his earlier work.
Yet sometimes in the desire to capture an older style one can fall victim to trying too hard, and such is the case with Fire & Ice. It isn’t a bad effort, but it’s not hard to notice that Malmsteen sounds a bit bored, as the songs flitter between slick radio-friendly rockers, a handful of instrumental tracks, and a handful of slightly bloated epic hard rock numbers that unfortunately sounded dated upon their release in 1992. The single, “Teaser,” is an upbeat rocker that probably could have been a chart hit three years prior, while “Dragonfly” is a great heavy blues number and “Cry No More” is a moody ballad that is oddly reminiscent of Genesis. “Forever Is A Long Time” is a potent rocker and his playing is inspired, while “All I Want Is Everything” is sassy and satisfying hard rock.
The album succeeds when Malmsteen’s playing is at the forefront; thus, the instrumentals “Leviathan” and “Perpetual” showcase his range, whist “Golden Dawn” shows his skills at non-metal licks, an all-too brief moment of acoustic tenderness that makes one wish he’d spent more time making songs like this. Yet songs like “C’est La Vie,” “No Mercy” and “I’m My Own Enemy” are heavy, overwrought rockers that run out of steam within the first minute, with four minutes left. While vocalist Göran Edman does a decent job handling the singing duties, on these songs he sounds almost overwhelmed by the job at hand. Had these songs been removed, it would have cut Fire & Ice by fifteen minutes and the overall album wouldn’t feel so disjointed and overweight.
Upon its release, Fire & Ice didn’t reach the heights of his earlier records, and was his last charting album in the United States, in part a victim of changing musical tastes. Yet it did practically cement his reputation in Japan, where the album was hugely successful and topped the charts. While it marked the end of his American commercial success, it did mark the beginning of a long running charting career in that country, one that continues to this day, with last year’s World On Fire.
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