Fire + Ice


Fire + Ice is a neofolk band from the United Kingdom very prominent in the scene for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that they are very good. Second (and less immediately obvious to outsiders) Fire + Ice is the musical dominion of Ian Read, who has worked with the biggest names in the genre, including Death In June, Current 93, and most recognizably Sol Invictus. Read's distinctive voice featured prominently on Sol Invictus' first two albums, Against The Modern World and the ever-popular Lex Talionis and played a somewhat lesser role on Trees In Winter. Read toured Japan with these three bands in 1988 and from this, the live album In The Jaws Of The Serpent was compiled. The live album is nothing spectacular as both Tony Wakeford and Ian Read sound like shit and it's clear the audience has little if any interest in what they're selling, but I digress.

Ian Read left Sol Invictus after he "moved to Germany to study fighting and sorcery from a master"* and took up Fire + Ice upon his return to the Isles as something of a defiant gesture to see if he could make a purer form of traditional music than what was being presented by other bands in the scene. To that end, Fire + Ice released its debut album Gilded By The Sun in 1992 to much anticipation and enthusiasm. After this great start, Fire + Ice blew it a couple of years later with Hollow Ways, almost universally regarded as a subpar album. With 1996's Rûna, Fire + Ice showed that they still had a truly creative drive, some stumblings aside. Combining electronic ambience with subdued, traditional English folk stylings, Rûna is rightly regarded as one of the neofolk genres' best albums.

In 2000, Fire + Ice got together with their old friends Death In June to release a split album called We Said Destroy, each side containing a new track from each band. Death In June's contribution was a heavy remix of an old track called She Said Destroy that, in all honesty, leaves much to be desired. Fire + Ice contributed their version of a traditional ballad called The Unquiet Grave, which is really good except for the over-trebly production. Later in 2000, Fire + Ice released Birdking, an excellent follow-up to Rûna that sounds little like its predecessor. The only problem that I have with Birdking is that it sounds a bit too close to Current 93's Thunder, Perfect Mind for comfort. That, however, is also an excellent album, so I suppose it's faint damnation. Ian Read collaborated heavily with the members of the American experimental neotraditional band Blood Axis and contributed to a self-professed heathen/pagan journal edited by Michael Moynihan called Tyr. Since Birdking, Fire + Ice has been fairly quiet, but hopefully this will not last.


Since Fire + Ice is Ian Read's private fiefdom, the views of the latter can accurately be represented as official stances of the former. As you may have gathered from Read's stated reason for leaving Sol Invictus, Fire + Ice adheres to some ideas not commonly held or accepted by the mainstream. According to Read, Fire + Ice is meant to represent a concise examination and representation of the Northern European ancient heathen tradition. Read himself is a very serious practitioner of Odinism and has little time for what he considers "alien" and "inferior" modes of spirituality: specifically Judaism and Christianity. He also vociferously denies that Odhinn is an archetypal figure comparable to Dagda or Zeus, which could have had something to do with his falling-out with Tony Wakeford, with whom -- by his account -- he has not spoken in years. Obviously, Wakeford's band Sol Invictus just sounds more Roman in spiritual orientation based on the name, but Wakeford draws parallels all across the board between deities/archetypes. Of course, this is just speculation on my part, and it should be noted that Read makes somewhat contradictory statements in interviews about the exact nature of his relationship with Sol Invictus, but I've hammered out the outline of the basic story.

Far from practicing by-the-book Asatrú, Read is very deeply attached to rune magic/magick/majick/etc. and asserts that it is absolutely necessary that one speak German (which he does) to truly understand the mysteries of the runes. He goes on to say that a full accounting of the guiding ideology behind Fire + Ice and his organization known as the Rune-Guild would fill more than a thousand books and that it's something a person can only come to on their own. Although Read often appears humorless and very high-minded, he has his funny moments. When asked if he was against the modern world, he responded "I am a traditionalist who is happy that modern dentistry exists."* Similarly, when asked what mystery he would like to know more than anything else, he didn't answer with "the fundamental basis for the secret of the Elhaz' rune;" rather, he merely said he would like to know who his great-grandfather was.** And unlike most neofolk luminaries, he takes a surprisingly accomodating view of black metal; while it is no secret that many black metal bands draw inspiration from the neofolk genre (and that many black metal musicians also actively participate in neofolk projects) there is a high lack of reciprocation on the part of figures in the neofolk scene. Read says that while he feels most of the aggression in thrash-derived black metal is not related to dark folk music, "some of it is."*** He sees an intersection of beliefs and underlying aesthetic assumptions and seems to believe that in the future, black metal will begin to influence neofolk in the way that neofolk has influenced black metal.

Selected Discography

Gilded By The Sun, 1992 (New European Recordings)

  1. The Horseman's Word
  2. Long Lankin
  3. Corpus Christi
  4. Ljosalfar
  5. Fire Above
  6. Sir John Barleycorn
  7. Blood On The Snow
  8. Basilisk Abode
  9. Gilded By The Sun
  10. Long Lankin Threshing

Hollow Ways, 1994 (Fremdheit)

  1. Lord Of Secrets
  2. Militia Templi
  3. Seeker
  4. The Old Grey Widowmaker
  5. Huldra's Maze
  6. The Rising Of The Moon
  7. Holy Vehm
  8. Ershebeth
  9. Fetter
  10. Svartalfar

Midwinter Fires, 1995 (Fremdheit)

  1. Fael Inis
  2. The Cause
  3. Reaper Man
  4. High Gallows Tree
  5. Olofæt
  6. Wisdon, Strengo, Ellen, Bliss
  7. Senlac
  8. Aceldama
  9. The Wind That Shakes The Barley
  10. Midwinter Fires
  11. Fokstua Hall
  12. Nine Doors

Rûna, 1996 (Fremdheit)

  1. Rûna
  2. Hamr
  3. Reyn Til Rûna!
  4. Weirdstaves: Fyrst Aettir / Anna Aettir / Þriði Aettir
  5. The Galdor
  6. ...Of Midgard
  7. Egil
  8. Holy Mead
  9. Seiðkona

We Said Destroy, 2000 (Fremdheit) - Split with Death In June

  1. DEATH IN JUNE - We Said Destroy
  2. FIRE + ICE - The Unquiet Grave (Traditional)

Birdking, 2000 (Fremdheit)

  1. Dragons In The Sunset
  2. Birdking
  3. The Werewolves Of Londontown
  4. Drighten's Hall
  5. Gaze Of The Proud
  6. The Lady Of The Vanir
  7. Flagg
  8. Take My Hand
  9. Greyhead
  10. My Brother
  11. Buast Til Ofriðar
  12. Where Have They Gone?


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