Tony MacAlpine – Guitars – Planet X, Seven the Hardway, Tony MacAlpine, ex-M.A.R.S., Devil’s Slingshot, ex-Joey Tafolla, ex-Vinnie Moore, ex-Vitalij Kuprij, ex-CAB
Vitalij Kuprij – Keyboards – Ferrigno, Leal, Kuprij, Mark Boals, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Vitalij Kuprij, ex-Artension, ex-Adagio, ex-Book of Reflections, ex-Stygia
Mark Boals – Vocals – Holy Force, Iron Mask, Joshua Perahia, Lyraka, Mark Boals, Seven the Hardway, The Codex, ex-Maestro Alex Gregory, ex-Royal Hunt, ex-Yngwie J. Malmsteen, ex-Genius, ex-Savoy Brown, ex-Ted Nugent, ex-Uli Jon Roth
Timo Tolkki – Bass – Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, ex-Revolution Renaissance, ex-Stratovarius
Jami Huovinen – Drums – Sentiment
And this impressive line-up is a pretty good indication of what you are going to get musically (it’s a safe bet that I wasn’t going to announce this as the Brutal Death Metal offering of the year…), but to narrow it down further, you will hear strong elements of mainly Artension, Planet X, Malmsteen, Royal Hunt and Stratovarius. Also it’s a given that it will be technical, expertly performed and professional.
And it is. I notice that it’s been almost ten years since their previous release and on the surface little has changed – but when Ring Of Fire cover so many bases then it’s difficult to see what could change. And why would it, or should it? Each member has plenty of other projects, thus allowing Ring Of Fire to be consistently multi-faceted (if that’s possible…). There also appears to be certain roles allocated within the band’s main 3 performers. MacAlpine and Kuprij bring the Neoclassical, technical, progressive parts and it seems a little like Mark Boals brings the melody and memorability. I may be reading too much into it, but given the history of their past projects, I feel that left to their own devices, and without a vocalist MacAlpine and Kuprij would deliver a technical prog-fest to make your eyes water. But having a melodic-orientated singer means that structures have to lean more towards melody and memorability. A bit like Jorn Lande in Ark for instance…Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I’ve just totally bored the crap out of MYSELF! What anyone reading this must feel I dread to think! And ironically, boring is one thing that this album is not! I feel I need at least a month just to get to grips with all the intricacies strewn throughout.
Originality is the key here and is what sets Ring of Fire apart. Though there are plenty of bands that you could compare elements of Ring Of Fire with, there is never a single band – or style – that they sound like for an entire song. It’s an interesting idea to get a well-respected Neoclassical Power Metal guitarist to play bass for you too – Timo Tolkki brings a second guitar feel to the bass playing that must have been great fun for him and the band.
One thing I noticed on first listen is that the closing track ‘Our World’ sounds like it was influenced by Kuprij’s time with TSO – clearly if you are going to have one ballad on the album, make it epic! There are probably many more influences dotted here and there that the main songwriters have picked up from projects they’ve contributed to in the last 10 years, but this one stood out immediately. The band are happy pushing their own boundaries without straying too far from there trusted sound, and this seems to work well. Let’s face it, the most helpful thing I can say as a reviewer about “Battle Of Leningrad” (also a lyrically well-written concept album by the way) is “Do you like the bands I listed above? Do you like Ring Of Fire’s previous releases? Does the description of the band at the start of the review fill you with excitement rather than dread? Then go buy it Sir or Madam and don’t spare the horses!”. I also must add that I personally think that this is the band’s most varied and prolific work to date.
To be honest, ask me in a month or two’s time and I might be able to pick out memorable tracks, moments or faves, but at present, after a few enjoyable listens “Battle Of Leningrad” has ceased being a technical blur with a few melodies scattered around and is happily registering with me as a great example of Neoclassical Symphonic Technical Melodic Progressive Power Metal (see what I did there? I added “Technical”! Ha! You can’t accuse me of using other writers labels!). I am also very proud that I refrained from making any jokes about eating a Vindaloo or Hot Chilli the night before…damn…
(7.5/10 – Andy Barker)