Ring Of Fire - 2003 Dreamtower

ARTIST: Ring Of Fire
ALBUM: Dreamtower
LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2003

LINEUP: Mark Boals - vocals * Vitalij Kuprij - keyboards * Tony MacAlpine - guitars, additional keyboards * Virgil Donati - drums * Philip Bynoe - bass

TRACK LISTING: My Deja Vu * 02 Dreamtower * 03 The Pharaohs Curse * 04 Refuge Of The Free * 05 Blue Sky * 06 Laputa * 07 Until The End Of Time * 08 System Utopia * 09 Ghost Of America * 10 Invisible Man * 11 Make Believe * 12 Murder By Numbers * 13 Undone (euro bonus)


The collective members of Ring Of Fire have been rather busy over the past year. We've had a solo album from Mark Boals, an album from Vitalij Kuprij's reformed Artension and two releases from Planet X. That's a solid amount of work by anyone's standards.

And solid is a word which can, for the most part, describe this second offering from Ring Of Fire. To be honest, not really being a Mark Boals fan, I didn't pay that much attention to the debut album, but parts of this sophomore Ring Of Fire offering pushes the right buttons.

The Songs

The opening of 'My Deja Vu' for instance utilises huge harmony vocals, very much in the Takara vein. They are used to great effect once again on the choruses, making this track one of the stand-outs from a more traditional AOR point of view. Both punchy and melodic, it definitely starts this album with its best foot forward.

From then on, as you might expect considering the people involved here, things get a little more muso-orientated, especially with MacAlpine's tendency to shred at times. It's his soloing and guitar fills which are definitely the high point of the title cut.

By the time we reach 'Refuge Of The Free', MacAlpine and Donati are hammering away at full bore (al a 'MoonBabies' by Planet X, although, thankfully, with less jazz tendencies). Most of the soloing here I feel is a little too fast, but its main riff, with its sludgy edge, really rocks. 'Blue Sky' provides some much needed contrast with its balladry and all round lighter tone (and lighter Tony).

The real star here is Mark Boals (I never thought I'd say that), whose huge vocals are at their best with the slower paced material, I feel.
The classical fuelled intro to 'Until The End Of Time' gives Vitalij a brief moment in the spotlight, impeccably played, as usual - before Donati's pneumatic drill style drumming drives the song into Yngwie Malmsteen territory.

Obviously, with Mark Boals involved, I expected the album to resort to this kind of thing at some point, but I really wish it hadn't. To be more than fair though, I know there are a lot of you out there who really enjoy things with a Malmsteen slant, so I'm sure you'll get a kick out of this track.

The aggressiveness of 'The Invisible Man' seems out of sync with most of the other Ring Of Fire material. It's far more in keeping with the early Planet X stuff. It's probably for this reason I find the vocals sit rather uneasily, almost as if they were an after-thought. It's definitely MacAlpine and Donati's piece. When they are on top form, they work so well together.
'Murder by Numbers' follows a similar path, driven by MacAlpine's solid riffing, this time, the vocals sound more settled too.

In Summary

At just under 70 minutes, there's a lot of music here. Even though I can't say I enjoyed all of it, it's still a solid offering, pretty much guaranteed to delight fans of Boals and friends.

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