Released: 2014, Frontiers Records
Late 2013/early 2014 has been already an incredibly exciting time with so many established Power Metal bands that have been inactive for ages are putting out new material. Those posers who say that Power Metal is losing ground can kiss my ass! Here is a brief list of some Power Metal bands who have been inactive for a while but are back for the attack with a vengeance.
Axxis (5 years between albums)
Human Fortress (5 years between albums)
Minotaurus (5 years between albums)
Crystal Ball (6 years between albums)
Silent Force (6 years between albums)
Vanishing Point (7 years between albums)
Persuader (8 years between albums)
Chastain (9 years between albums)
Dragonhammer (9 years between albums)
Tad Morose (10 years between albums)
Montany (11 years between albums)
Dark Avenger (12 years between albums)
Kenziner (15 years between albums)
I could go on but you get the point. Let’s add one more important band to the list, Ring Of Fire. Fans have been waiting 10 years for a new Ring Of Fire album and it is finally here...THE BATTLE OF LENINGRAD!
There is a common misperception that Ring Of Fire is a European band. I can see why people make that mistake. For one, the Americans who created the band have had very successful careers in Europe especially Mark Boals. The fact that vocalist, Mark Boals has worked almost exclusively in Europe making a name for himself in countless European Power Metal bands adds to the misperception. When people think of Power Metal singers from Ohio they tend to think of Tim Owens, not Mark Boals. Secondly, the overall look and feel of the band is a Euro-Power project, which was the whole point of the gang of American progressive, instrumental virtuosos, to get together and do a Power Metal thing. Of course, it was successful in Europe and Japan but not at home. Thirdly, they don’t tour in America, and lastly, they are signed to an Italian label. So you can’t blame the Yankees for not knowing what a world-class, Power Metal gem they have right in their own nation.
In the intervening 10 years since LAPSE OF REALITY in 2004, the band has taken on a decidedly more European makeup. Virtuoso bassist Phillip Bynoe (Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine) in a very surprising move, has been replaced by Timo Tolkki! I can’t see that lasting, given Timo's desire to be the main player in all his projects. Next, drummer Virgil Donati, (Planet X and many others) has been replaced by Finnish newcomer, Jami Huovinen. An all new European rhythm section! Even furthering possible European comparisons the new Ring Of Fire album, BATTLE OF LENINGRAD is a concept album about well, obviously, the battle of Leningrad. The 10-track 53-minute album has a considerable darker cover image than the previous, science fiction inspired, metaphysical imagery. The cover art is by Felipe Franco who replaced Eric Phillipe who did the first three Ring Of Fire albums, more if you include the Mark Boals solo albums, which were basically Ring Of Fire albums with the same lineup.
OK enough trivia. If you didn’t know, Ring of Fire is a neo-classically inspired Power Metal band. The album is very atmospheric with many changes in tempo and tone to suit the story. I’d suggest that it is a bit less ‘happy’ in the song-writing than the previous albums, again likely due to the influence of the storyline concept of the horrible siege of that lasted over two years, almost 900 days. Mark songs his heart out, he has such a natural talent, his range and power undiminished after all these years in the business. The album is an intense and dynamic listening experience with sound-effects, lots of solos, atmospheric components that make the album come alive. There is a very nice piano intro to the ballad ‘Our World’ with some simple acoustic guitar as well as the tender song is punctuated by burst of electrified (but restrained) guitar energy. The band does not forget to bring the Metal, as they rage on tracks like ‘No Way Out’ with some smile-inducing soloing from Mr. MacAlpine as he deftly plays his way up and down the fret-board. Meanwhile the new drummer, Jami pounds along at a great pace and I’m sure he will get snapped up by a bigger band in no time flat.
BATTLE OF LENINGRAD has a tone and style of a Metal Opera, with a wide range of styles and moods. I’ve always really enjoyed this band (check out my other Ring Of Fire reviews on this site) and they have performed admirably once again. Hopefully Ring Of Fire will continue to entertain us for years to come.