Yngwie J. Malmsteen is of course a legendary guitarist along with Joe satriani and Steve vai that were all the rage in the 90s. I remember this album well back in the 90s as everyone was getting hold of it and I had it on cassette back then. It is a pleasure to finally get the CD but it is not hard to find in bargain bins so it appears many decided to ditch it. Understandably this is very dated and sounds like the 90s neo-classical period.
There are very poppy moments such as 'Teaser' and overall the Whitesnake style power metal, merged with melodic soft rock. I was into it at the time but have since grown completely out of the style. It is not complex music, apart from the lead breaks by maestro Malmsteen. The prog on this is rather hard to find, though occasionally there are interesting orcestrations such as the intro to 'How Many Miles to Babylon'. This is a definitive highlight of the album. The flute and violin with acoustics is quite enchanting. The problem I always had with Malmsteen's albums is the choice of vocalist. On this occasion Goran Edman is actually quite good, adequate at the least but he is always staying on that typical metal note. He can reach a high falsetto and sounds great on the heavier songs.
The best moments for me are the instrumentals such as 'Perpetual', a standout fast lead solo, 'Leviathan', an atmospheric piece with fret melting lead work, and 'Golden Dawn', an acoustically driven piece. Of all these I prefer 'Leviathan' especially the screaming lead break with the odd time sig and constantly shifting tempo. I remember seeing this on video and being amazed at Malmsteen's ferocity on the Fender. It kind of annoys me how the songs fade as Malmsteen continue to shred, it would be better to finish on a huge power chord.
Malmsteen is a genius guitarist and he shreds brilliantly. The lead breaks are incredible, creative and virtuoso as one might expect having a band named after you. He looks great on stage too, and I always enjoyed when tracks from "Fire and Ice" appeared on concert performances. The liner notes of the CD includes that the album was "dedicated in loving memory to Bjorn Malmsteen" which is a nice touch. A clue to his influences are in the personal thanks as Malmsteen mentions the likes of Erika Malmsteen, J.S.Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, H.P.Lovecraft, Enzo Ferrari, Leo Fender, Dinsdale, and Monty Python's Flying Circus. An interesting line up there showing where the music stems from. Indeed the classical influences are prevalent among others. Listen to the intro of 'C'est La Vie' with Malmsteen on sitar for an example of Indian Raga.
There are fast metal moments such as 'No Mercy' with a traditional shredding rhythm, and then an orchestra plays Vivaldi or Bach-ian music for a while till Malmsteen performs a blistering lead break. He loves those high string bends and speed picking sweeps as well as massive hammer ons and arpeggios. The album songs are forgettable, indeed I had to listen to the whole thing to remember a single melody, but at the time of listening it is enjoyable. 'Fire and Ice' is a rather pedestrian hard rock song sounding more like glam. At 2 ½ minutes in though we are treated to a brilliant lead break with ferocious arpeggios and classical inlfuences. It leads to a wah-wah sound for a change and it fades out again.
There is huge diversity on the album such as the speed power metal of 'Forever Is A Long Time' which includes symphonic keyboards by Mats Olausson. Edman sounds great here and the violin section is appropriate to usher is another super fast killer lead solo. He trades of with some equally fast keys too and this is fantastic. Malmsteen loves his ballads and here is no exception with 'I'm My Own Enemy' giving Göran Edman a chance to shine though it lasts for 6 minutes and is hard to sit through. This is perhaps one of those lighters in the air concert moments and Malmsteen can relax on 12 string. The string section is a nice embellishment though. 'All I Want Is Everything' follows, and it is okay but the album is tending to drag a bit at this stage and needs a real kick in the guts to bring it up to standard. After the beauty of the acoustic section it ends with 'Final Curtain'. There is a cool riff to begin and thunder rolls across the heavenly striking violins. The pace is slow but the music is intriguing. The obligatory lead break hammers in once more and she is all over with a thunder clap.
This is a long slog to get through the whole album, especially as it sounds so commercial. It was the album that a lot of my friends had in the 90s and I ended up with it but I rarely played it due to the lack of interest in the neo classical feel, but it is a bit more enjoyable these days with the prog references. Though I admit I won't be returning to this often as there is so much better out there, that leaves this outdated music for dead.