Stealing the Fire: Hot Ice and Wondrous Strange Snow
There is a bit of guilt involved in writing a biography for a band when you’ve never heard the music. In a perfect world it would never happen, but I used to have the job of filling in information for some very obscure artists. The research piqued my interest yet there was no audio available at the time. A chance for redemption came in a message from Chris Bond. Stealing the Fire is reforming and he asked if I would like to review the only album in existence (for now). A copy was supplied and my conscience may now be at ease.
It is really too bad “Hot Ice and Wondrous Strange Snow” hasn’t reached much of an audience. It would be hard to not to argue that this one of the most interesting albums to come out of the ‘90s prog renaissance. On face value it is Neo-prog. Not a surprise since the majority of ‘90s prog was. Digging just a bit deeper may cause a head to be scratched. Is that a hint of psychedelia? Now I hear electronica and then Eastern rhythms. Most Neo bands took their cues from Marillion, who took theirs from Genesis. The influence does exist with Stealing the Fire, but loosely.
Stealing the Fire broke down boundaries in their version of progressive rock. While Änglagård and Discipline were going classic, this band went eclectic long before it became popular. Oddly however the sounds seem to be pulled from the ‘80s. The synths especially reek of the Regan / Thatcher era. The difference is that nothing sounded like this then. An album from 1995 that sounds like 1985 but probably couldn’t have been made then. A conundrum for sure, defying my best definitions.
Not retro nor exactly ‘90s makes “Hot Ice and Wondrous Strange Snow” a collection of music out of time. Though it could have been the natural evolution of prog ten years earlier. That is to say if prog had been allowed to evolve. Bands like Yes, Moody Blues and Rush went a more conventional direction. Should they have stayed on the path perhaps this is where they would have gone. Synths were still powerful and Kraftwerk was hot again, so why not incorporate electronica. Then we have the world beat of “The Moriarty Cube.” This tune could have been at home on a Talking Heads or King Crimson album (probably really talking about Adrian Belew in this case). Don’t forget that Gabriel was heavily into world music as well. Okay so other artists were doing similar things. What they weren’t doing was epic composition. Marillion was about the only band still doing that. Then come the Neo-proggers of the ‘90s who were basically riding Marillion’s wave after Fish just jumped off the board. This is what makes Stealing the Fire so unusual.
It’s a talented group of musicians as well with obviously diverse tastes. Chris Bond is the synth man and brings those unique electronic elements. Tim Lane can tear it up on guitar whether he is picking out a syncopated tempo or flat out rocking. Chris Phillips only played on a few of the tracks but he had a larger overall presence. Saff Edye is the tough one to peg. I know it’s a woman but the vocals on “Sirius Rising” and “Unknowing Angel” bring to mind what would spring from an unholy union between Geddy Lee and Roger Hodgson. “Spitfire Eros” is where she shows her real power. Singing deep and full from the diaphragm with a more than slight evocation of Nico.
“Hot Ice and Wondrous Strange Snow” is worthy of a listen just because of how it stands out from the crowd. Aside from that it is also a very satisfying album. Oh, there is nothing earth shattering here and a few times the line of cheese gets dangerously close to being crossed. Nonetheless, anyone seeking truly creative progressive rock needs to give this album a listen. Why pass up something cool? Far too many similar bands out there anyway. I am also very curious to see what will follow up, now almost 20 years in the making. One can only hope they kept that oddball flame burning.
Chris Bond – keyboards, drums
Saff Edye – vocals
Tim Lane – guitar, keyboards, bass, percussion
Chris Phillips – bass on tracks 1,2 & 4
GET STEALING THE FIRE AT BANDCAMP (link)