RING OF FIRE – Burning Live In Tokyo 2002

RING OF FIRE - Burning Live In Tokyo 2002


Frontiers Records
Release date: February 21, 2002

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Does it seem a bit masturbatory to have a five-minute guitar solo, a four-minute bass solo, a six-minute drum solo and a NINE-MINUTE keyboard solo all in one concert? If you said “yes,” then you answered correctly. And the other part that is a little too self-loving is when the lead singer has his own message on the CD (that ends with him saying “peace”), for some reason misplaced as the penultimate track on the two CD set. Shouldn’t it be first? So you are going to find yourself hitting skip many times on Ring of Fire’s (ROF) Burning Live in Tokyo 2002, but you are also going to have a chance to hear one of the most talented heavy metal bands out there today doing what they do best — playing live.

The concert starts with an instrumental introduction, like many bands tend to do, making the audience wait just that much longer and forcing them to listen to atmospheric blather until the band hits the stage. Here, it goes on for almost two minutes, but when the band starts playing, it is probably worth the wait. They open with “Circle of Time,” which is an aggressive song, and then they jump into “City of the Dead,” with singer Boals nailing all the notes and showing that he can reproduce those screams live just as good as he does in the studio. Boals was voted in a reader’s poll by Japan’s Burrn! magazine the #2 best vocalist (behind Bon Jovi), and he CAN sing. But if you are familiar with Boals from his Yngwie days, then you’ll remember a vibrato that is second to none, and it still shows its head now and then. (Vibrato=bad, if you were wondering. Don’t do it, ever.)

During “Atlantis,” a song written with ROF’s extraordinary keyboardist Vitalij Kuprij, you’ll hear (or see, if you get the DVD) Boals at his vibrato-iest. While musically, the song is intricate and impressive, the vocals don’t work as well here.

Following “Atlantis,” you’ll get a taste of ROF’s skills, as they play an instrumental “Prelude n. 2.” If you are not familiar with guitarist Tony MacAlpine, he’ll blow you away. He’s fluid, precise and a true professional. One thing you’ll notice as you listen to this CD is that, even if you are somewhat bored by their unending solos, THEY are not. They truly enjoy every second they are on stage, they are self-effacing and just happy to be playing to the fans that dig them so much. They should be commended for that, although when Boals panders to the crowd and says, “Tokyo! Yeah, is this the greatest city in the world or what!” you’ll have to get the waders out.

“Samurai” (vibrato) and “Dreams of Empire” finish off the first CD, and then you’ll bear witness to MacAlpine’s solo. All you can do is sit back and enjoy for as long as you are able. He rips. And if you make it through the whole five minutes, brav-o.

The second CD starts with one of their best songs, “Keeper of the Flame,” a hard, well constructed song that gets stuck in your head after hearing it. Not many bands can be mellifluous and heavy all in one take, but ROF pulls it off. But beware, because the second CD is chock-a-block full of solos, the aforementioned bass, drum and keyboard ones. While the bass solo is entertaining, any drum solo longer than a minute isn’t, and well, you just have to be in love with keyboards to sit through a nine-minute solo. Again, if you make it the whole nine minutes, brav-o.

One of the best tracks is “Bringer of Pain,” an abnormally short track (under four minutes!) that shows they can dumb it down if they want to. This is straight ahead metal, with Boals using his good voice again for the most part. The song is heavy, and just shows another facet to ROF’s talented songwriting and playing style.

“Face the Fire,” a hilarious song called “Fairy Tales Won’t Die,” and “Ring of Fire” ends the concert. Wow. “Fairy Tales Won’t Die” could be considered Boals turn at a solo, a soft, keyboard piece that he just sings falsetto over for about two minutes. You can’t blame him for that, since the other guys got their chance, but if they left the track off, no one would complain.

So, you’ll get a lot of everything with this CD. For the most part, ROF impresses, and you can’t criticize them for showing that they have real talent when many popular bands today wouldn’t DREAM of playing a solo. Both CDs are about an hour long, and you get what you pay for. Fans of ROF will obviously enjoy this, because they prove they are not just studio musicians — they are great live ones. There are enough good songs on here to make up for the occasional miss.

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