4 out of 5 Stars!
Formed out of the ashes of an obscure Pennsylvania group named Brigg, Hybrid Ice appeared on the scene in the early ’80s with its eponymous debut album that contained high-caliber Hard Rock/AOR material. With splendid musicianship and vocals, above-par song arrangements and catchy material, the album is definitely recommended for lovers of late ’70s/early ’80s Pomp-Rock.
Many tracks on the album remind me of Styx (mainly the Man of Miracles/Equinox period) due to the various melodies, the abundant harmony vocals, and the Pomp keyboards. One of the vocalists even has a voice similar in timbre (although a less forceful vibrato) than Dennis DeYoung (try listening to the opening of the track “Please Tell Mary Ann” and swear it’s NOT Dennis singing…go on, I dare you). Heck, the album even has a song called “Castle Walls”—although the track sounds nothing like the Styx song of the same name, it does feature all those pompish Styx-type keyboards I mentioned earlier and some Progressive-Rock influences that would have done Styx proud.
Overall, the material is quite fitting for the album’s original year of release, in the era when bands such as Styx, Kansas, Roadmaster, Hellfield, and Starcastle generated regular buzzes both large and small throughout America, especially in the Midwest. In my opinion, with the right promotion and financial aid—and perhaps a rounder, fuller production quality—Hybrid Ice could have been right up there with those aforementioned acts, but sadly, it was not destined to be. The band certainly had the ability to write decent material, including the previously mentioned tunes as well as “On We Go,” “Heart of the Night,” “Magdelene,” and “Do You Believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll?” so it’s a shame Hybrid Ice couldn’t make a bigger splash.
Regardless, I have a copy of the 2000 re-release of this album, not only including the original nine songs, but also two excellent bonus tracks (“Looking Glass” opens the album, and “Test of Time” closes it). This is the version worth seeking out.
Although Hybrid Ice went on to release a second album (No Rules) in 1988, then another one (Mind’s Eye) a full twenty-one years later to little fanfare, it’s nice to see that the group’s talented keyboardist, Bob Richardson, is the founder and driving force behind the melodic Prog-Rock band Cell15, an exceptional group that released its debut (Chapter One) in 2014 and allows Richardson’s skills to truly shine.