Song Of The Day - 20th November 2008: Machine

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20 Nov 2008, 23:10

Ring of Fire / "Machine" / Lapse of Reality (7) / 2004

Artist: Ring of Fire
Original Album: Lapse of Reality
Track: Machine

What happens to Yngwie Malmsteen's former vocalists after he fires them? Do they immediately fade into obscurity or do they meet similar fates to the former drummers of Spinal Tap? Mark Boals certainly looks to be fading into obscurity quickly. His 2001-2004 project Ring of Fire doesn't even have its own wikipedia page.

The birth of Ring of Fire was very similar to the birth of Planet X, in the case of the latter, Derek Sherinian had been fired from Dream Theater and shortly thereafter recorded a solo album (Planet X) with drummer Virgil Donati which then, due to its unpredictable level of success became an ongoing project, taking its name from the album that started it. Ring of Fire then was similar in that Mark Boals was fired from Malmsteen's band and soon after recorded an album with the same Virgil Donati, (Ring of Fire,) the two must have enjoyed working together as this also soon became an ongoing project. Adding to the similarity of the two groups, (though they played largely different genres; Planet X playing a hybrid of metal and fusion while Ring of Fire would probably be best described as melodic metal,) guitarist Tony MacAlpine was eventually added to both groups.

As far as I'm aware currently though, Ring of Fire have split up. Though my sources may be mistaken, I have read claims that this was because MacAlpine and keyboardist Steve Weingart, didn't get along and MacAlpine allegedly meddled with the keyboard parts too much. Understandable, since MacAlpine is a high calibur keyboardist and pianist himself. If this is the case though, it may explain why MacAlpine didn't appear on the latest Planet X release Quantum replaced alternately by Brett Garsed and the legendary Allan Holdsworth.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand and today's Song of the Day. Mark Boals is one of the majority of Yngwie Malmsteen's former vocalists who despite having an impressive singing ability hasn't really left an impression on me as anything more than a generic very talented singer, of which there are loads around once you get used to using sites like this one to discover them. Lapse of Reality is the only disc I own by this band - I bought it without hearing more than a couple of thirty second samples from the album. It shouldn't be hard to recall though, that I've selected cuts from Virgil and Tony a handful of times before, so it was for their participation and that of bassist Philip Bynoe (also formerly of Steve Vai's band) that I invested in this record about a year ago. I was disappointed at the time of purchase, as I had anticipated more 'fireworks' and flashy technical playing from the virtuoso musicians involved, but adjusting my expectations a little, it's not a bad album. The music here centres primarily on the vocals, i.e. the songs are built around Boals as the centrepiece. The musical backdrop to the songs is therefore mostly fairly simple and subtle, with a small handful of exceptions like the clearly Donati written intro to today's SotD, my favourite on the album, but even the bulk of these moments aren't on par with the average of Donati's instrumental outings. Whether you'd enjoy Lapse of Reality then hinges on what you think of Boals' voice, lyrics and vocal arrangements. People familiar with Boals' Malmsteen albums (Trilogy, Alchemy & War to End All Wars) will by extension be familiar with the voice, but should consider that Yngwie was credited with all lyrics on those albums and probably therefore the vocal arrangements too. To my ears, Boals' lyrics and arrangements are a definite improvement over Yngwie's, though still not my favourites, and land somewhere in the vast chasm between Yngwie's and bands like Asia or Journey. Repeated listens will swing you gradually toward Boals' songs, and there is some nice playing from the instrumentalists that supports the material well, but it's not an essential addition to the collection unless you happen to be a fan of Boals. If you get the chance though a listen to this track and the extended version of the title track (my other favourite) couldn't hurt.

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