Friday, January 24, 2014

RING OF FIRE: "Battle Of Leningrad"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Not to be confused with The Battle of Stalingrad. Lenin, Stalin, they're all the same. Dead. Never discuss politics at the online music mag? The seige of the city of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) lasted for 872 days and more than 1 million people succumbed to starvation. Operation Barbarossa. Uncle Germany vs. Mother Soviet Russia. Nazis vs. Commies. Von Leeb vs. Popov. WWII at its coldest peak and Finland and Mannerheim at their worst. The strategy board game player in me - finally awake after years of slumber.

It's the grim history of future past. Well, let's face it... humans are stupid and doomed to eventually repeat their mistakes. Hitler and co. thought the city would give in after a couple of weeks but the blockade lasted for 872 days and caused famine due to lack of utilities, water, food supplies. This resulted in the deaths of up to 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of 1,400,000 more, many of whom died during evacuation anyhow.

It's the grand epic concept story and work of keyboard wiz: Vitalij Kuprij (music/arrangement), guitar hero: Tony MacAlpine (music) and former Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist: Mark Boals (words/melody). The doom and gloom attitude lay like a heavy metal carpet on the doorstep of Ring of Fire as they stand face to face with the darkness, the cold, the hunger, the bloodshed, the madness. To be completely honest, we expected even more of the terror, the horror, and basically trauma of this awful blockade (lyrically), but I guess that's just me being morbid and gruesome?

Music-wise, it's dark neo-classical hard rock (Mother Russia, Battle Of Leningrad) mixed with symphonic metal and tons of keyboards, pianos, choirs, etc. It's epic, doomy, and you can't help to shout along to the words from "They're Calling Your Name" and the lines of and I quote, "You don't remember and you don't care. Screaming voices. Ghosts out there". end quote. Suddenly, in between all the great, heavy, and rather dark neo-metal, the heartfelt power ballad, "Land of Frozen Tears". Listen to the opening strong lyric, you know exactly what they mean and it's an uncomfortable feeling. It's been what?, 9, 10 years since their previous album and they deliver their best effort so far. Produced by the above three wise-men and mixed and mastered by Timo Tolkki (also bass).

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