December 4, 2022

Now Mark Boals may not be the first singer that comes to mind when people are voting for their greatest vocalist but he most certainly should be as this classy American has been at the forefront of the rock movement and has appeared on some very exceptional albums indeed. He is, perhaps, best known for his work with Yngwie Malmsteen but he has also recorded with so many bands over the years including the likes of Uli Jon Roth, Royal Hunt and Iron Mask as well as releasing several solo albums as well as being the singer with the awesome Shining Black which he formed with Vision Divine and Labyrinth guitarist Ölaf Thörsen. Boals’ second solo album was called Ring Of Fire which he put out in 2000 on which he played guitar and bass as well as being the voice with most able assistance from the legend that is Tony MacAlpine on guitar and bass, Vitalij Kuprij on keyboards and Virgil Donati on drums. It was this album that then led to him to forming the band Ring Of Fire and thus a true rock monster was born.

I leave it to you to decide whether this was really the first album for Ring Of Fire or if it was The Oracle which came out a year later with most of the same line-up still on board but with Philip Bynoe coming in on bass and George Bellas replacing Tony MacAlpine. The die was cast and the band hit the ground running with their all-action classic metal with touches of progressive and symphonic metal that effectively covers nearly all genres in hard and heavy metal. The band continued the momentum with the live album Burning Live In Tokyo in 2002 which was then followed up with Dreamtower and Lapse Of Reality in the following two years with both albums seeing MacAlpine return to the fold. Each album saw a shuffling of the personnel with Lapse Of Reality being the last before a 10-year hiatus as Boals, MacAlpine, and Donati went on to form the rock band Seven the Hardway before a triumphant return was made in 2014 with the spectacular and epic Battle Of Leningrad which truly is a metal album of gargantuan proportions. This album saw Boals teaming up again with MacAlpine and Kuprij with Jami Huovinen coming in on drums and the master Timo Tolkki taking over bass duties. If you haven’t heard this yet then please do so as a matter of urgency as it is a real hard rock masterclass with Boals full of simmering power and might with MacAlpine and Kuprij showing to be as good a paring of guitars and keyboards you will find this side of Deep Purple and Rainbow.

Hopes were high for another series of rock albums to match those heady days from 2001 to 2004 but this was not destined to be and all has been quiet until now with the band returning with the awesome and monumental Gravity which gloriously turns back the clock to return to those halcyon days when rock was in the ascendancy and metal giants strode the earth! The line-up has been revamped yet again with Boals reuniting with the extraordinary talent that is Vitalij Kuprij and if you ever need proof of his genius then simply check out any of the Artension albums which proves that he is up there with the best of them. Then it’s all change with Aldo Lonobile on guitars, Stefano Scola on bass and Alfonso Mocerino on drums with the much in demand Lonobile being a ready replacement for Tony MacAlpine and he has instantly built up an intense and most impressive partnership with Kuprij as they trade guitar and keyboard solos in the same way that Blackmore and Lord did. Alfonso Morcerino is a real asset to the band and you can also hear him display his prodigious skills with the excellent bands Starbynary, Temperance and Virtual Symmetry. The new bassist is Stafano Scola and he appears to be being a relative unknown although he is a music teacher in Italy and a member of a couple of tribute acts as well as the rock bands Hungry Heart and Wheels Of Fire and he has settled in with aplomb. Mark Boals has one of those stunning voices that hit you immediately with the sheer power, range and scope that he can bring to any recording with his style sitting most comfortably between Ronnie James Dio and Klaus Meine and he adds that special touch of class to any project he is involved in and is, quite simple, perfect for metal with him warm and enticing delivery.

Ring Of Fire specialise in epic and anthemic metal and is another of those sumptuous groups that creates a wall of sound with so much happening in the background and with ever so many mazy and exhilarating solos but with Boals always totally in command and leading the proceedings. The songs are impressive and engaging all have that delicious symphonic treatment that makes for a truly epic sound and an experience that is unforgettable with the delivery being off the scale in terms of fluidity and dexterity. Mark Boals gives another of his vocal virtuoso classes and remains in a class of his own with a voice that continues to thrill as he serves up anthemic stadium rock to die for.

The man has an extensive back catalogue and if you are looking for somewhere to start then you could do much worse that check out his recent 2CD retrospective All The Best which features killer cuts from his solo career as well as a healthy portion of Ring Of Fire material. Couple that with this album and you will spend many amazing hours in hard rock heaven.

Gravity

  1. The Beginning (7:48)
  2. Storm Of The Pawns (6:08)
  3. Melancholia (4:41)
  4. Gravity (6:24)
  5. King Of Fools (5:35)
  6. Sky Blue (4:59)
  7. 21st Century Fate Unknown (6:22)
  8. Another Night (6:41)
  9. Run For Your Life (4:58)
  10. Sideways (4:55)