After a nine year break from their activities Ring Of Fire, known for their melodic Metal/neo-classical exploits are back!
It is a ten track affair with each song tugging on the reins of the epic and overblown with some top quality musicianship as always to back up the process. When I say overblown, the production has a lot to answer for as the sound isn't massive.
Initially I would say that is the only thing that is missing from making this album something special. The guitar riffs sound a little tinny and don't carry that big studio value that you hear sometimes on the big budget releases. This could be simply the result of the band having insufficient funds to inject in to that aspect of the recording process?
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Highlights that leap out to me include the majestic 'Land Of Frozen Tears', the truly epic 'Firewind' and 'They're Calling Your Name' complete with Yngwie J. Malmsteen rampant guitars. 'Land Of Frozen Tears' is sprinkled initially with fragility as a finger picking guitar introduces us to its inner beauty.
Carrying off lead vocal duties with his usual delivery and conviction is Mark Boals who is no stranger to this musical terrain. (Royal Hunt and Yngwie J Malmsteen). 'Firewind' on the other hand is the longest track amongst these.
Clocking in just over seven and a half minutes this song begins with some classically inspired piano which is joined by some melodic guitar, before then providing a punch! Mixing up the galloping paced sections with a multitude of shades really brings this song and the talent on display to light.
Boals clarifies that this album is indeed a concept album by sharing his thoughts.
"It is a true story of the strength and resilience of the Russian people throughout history and particularly in this instance of 900 days of being surrounded on all sides with no food and no hope of rescue, under siege of the Nazi army.
The magnificent city of Leningrad with millions of people trapped, found a way to withstand the daily attacks of rockets and bombs, the lack of food, water, and fuel for heat. Although more than a million starved to death, most survived, and the Nazis were never able to overtake the city completely.
They were finally forced to retreat by the Russian army. Not widely known by most, this was an amazing story and one of World War II's finest examples of heroism in the worst circumstances imaginable."
'Mother Russia' with its military toned drums and general mood sets up the album for those wanting to be a passenger on this true story about the siege of Leningrad during the second World War. Listen out for the lonely sole guitar bit during the instrumental just over halfway through; sublime.
'Empire' has no affiliation with the Queensrÿche song except they share the same song title while 'Our World' is a power ballad which ticks all of the boxes.
Technically this album is right up there with great musicianship on show. The song arrangements are all excellent and mix things up to a satisfying balance. 'Rain' which finishes off the album wasn't as strong as the other material and it's purely subjective, but I felt the title track let things down a little.
If you wish to submerge your ears in a classically-influenced Melodic Metal album to kick off 2014, then you could do a lot worse than give this a try. It's not going to be hailed as a classic but will be appreciated for showcasing some major talent within this field of Rock music.
For fans of Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Royal Hunt amongst the plethora of artists and bands that play what critics like to call Neo-Classical.
They're Calling Your Name
Land Of Frozen Tears
Where Angels Play
Battle Of Leningrad
No Way Out
Mark Boals – vocals
Tony MacAlpine – guitars
Vitalij Kuprij – keyboards
Timo Tolkki – bass
Jami Huovinen- drums