FIRE – Ignite


Not to be confused with the similarly named freakbeat band of the sixties (best known for their song ‘Father’s Name Is Dad’), Fire are five-piece melodic metal band from Malta. This debut album was originally issued independently in 2006 and available in Malta only. It was picked up four years later by the German label Avenue of Allies and given a proper international release.

The opening number ‘Get Out of My Way’ may have an intro with slabs of organ, giving the impression we’re heading into something retro in a 70s way, but once the main riff kicks in, there’s no doubt where Fire’s musical loyalties lie. For these Maltese hard rockers, there’s a clear love for classic sounding 80s melodic metal. The track packs a decent punch, with good performances from each of the band members (the organ very much a red herring, since no keyboard player is credited), but it’s the guitar solos which really grab the attention. Both Robert Longo and Joe Vella are accomplished players and here (as throughout the rest of this album) their old-school chops really give Fire an edge. Over a heavy bassline, coupled with great harmony vocals,‘Make Believe’ recounts those days of bedroom air guitar. Vocalist Kenneth Cajella sings “I’ve seen you on television / I heard you on your CDs / I tried all your guitar solos / It’s you I wanted to be”. Sure, it may be cheesy, but Fire delivers their brand of old-school hard rock with complete conviction.

‘Home and Dry’ has a groove which is slightly funky (though without stepping outside Fire’s old-school confines) and one of the album’s biggest choruses. Another solid performance from the rhythm section gives the song a strong base, but it’s the big hooky chorus (with plenty of harmonies) which makes it a track which deserves repeated listens. Cajella’s lead vocal is probably the album’s strongest, though interestingly, both guitarists are far more subdued here; they obviously recognised the hook was strong enough to stand on its own.

Normally, any soft rock or melodic metal songs with the word rock in the title would bring me out in a rash. Against the odds, Fire delivers something listenable with ‘Taste This (Rock ‘n’ Roll)’. Taking a step back from their more metallic tendencies for some old-style rock, the band adopts a more 70s rock aspect and tops a swaggering performance and half-memorable chorus with a slide guitar solo and organ work. ‘Keep On Moving’ is another chorus driven number which represents Fire playing to their strengths; Laurence Baldacchino’s drum work is heavy without becoming heavy-handed, Cajella’s vocals are confident and, although not the song’s main focus, Longo and Vella chip in with some twin lead harmonies. While ‘Goin’ Down’ has lyrics tackle that well-worn topic of drug addiction and its chorus isn’t as strong as it could have been, musically, it’s another of this album’s stronger numbers. There are some great harmonies throughout, which combined with Fire’s unshakable musicianship makes for a great listen. The bass and guitar parts both bring depth and warmth and Cajella’s lead vocal is self-assured.

You’ll get no such rock-solid simplicity from ‘Conspiracy Theory’ – an absolutely kitchen-sink affair with hugely pompous solos. A thunderous drum intro paves the way for a fast 80s metal riff (given extra oomph by the use of a really well placed twin lead). It sounds as if that’s going to be all that’s on offer until mid way, when fast 70s style keyboard work adds a fair amount of grandiosity which escalates further when Robert Longo and Joe Vella break into some neo-classical widdling backed by a keyboard sample of a choir. It may be overblown, but it’s fun.

The Avenue of Allies reissue contains two bonus tracks: ‘Miss You This Christmas’ (originally released as a single in 2007) and a cover of the Bryan Adams classic ‘Run To You’ (recorded specially for the 2010 re-release of ‘Ignite’).

While it may not be fashionable, I’ve always thought ‘Run To You’ was one of the great 80s rock singles (When on form, Bryan Adams could be great, y’know…it’s only post ‘Robin Hood’ that his output became mostly rubbish). The idea of someone covering ‘Run To You’ didn’t sit well with me – and especially not a metal-edged band; oddly though, the end result is okay. The song gets treated respectfully. Naturally, Fire crank up the main riff in the process, but still manage to retain most of the song’s melody and radio-friendly spirit. As for the Christmas single, I’m less fond. It has a great twin lead and decent enough melody, but its throwaway festive nature means I’m not likely to listen to it that often (especially the case outside of the festive period).

Since the original release of ‘Ignite’, the band has released a second album and has enjoyed increasing popularity in Europe. While they bring nothing new to their chosen genre (and their style of melodic metal is likely only going to be of appeal to the melodic metal die-hards), given their level of musicianship, any success they may have is very much deserved.

September 2010