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Burning up the stage. - 95%

hells_unicorn, February 11th, 2007

One of the tests of the musical credibility of a Power/Prog band is their ability to faithfully recreate the wonders that they first conceive of in the studio in the live venue. Bands such as Dream Theater and Rush have consistently set a standard of perfectionism that is not easily adhered to, particularly when you write a highly complex style of music. In this effort Mark Boals and his band of top class virtuoso musicians once again rise to the challenge.

The music on here is executed flawlessly, as Tony Macalpine, Vitalij Kuprij, Virgil Donati and Phillip Bynoe live by the same perfectionist ideal that drives classical musicians to faithfully recreate the various compositions of the old maestros. And like many of those old maestros, they are not afraid to showcase their talent in the field of live improvisation. Phillip Bynoe is quite the expert at speed picking on the bass during the various Power Metal songs on here, but his slap bass solo rivals the likes of Les Claypool. Likewise, both Tony Macalpine and Kuprij showcase a fine set of improvised etudes comprised of rapid sweep picking (arpeggios in Kuprij’s case) and scale runs.

But more important than the opportunity to dazzle an audience with one’s technical skill is the ability to give the audience the songs that they came to hear. One of the flaws often caught on live CDs featuring Speed Metal bands are irregularities in the double bass drum work, but Virgil Donati is like a human metronome and doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “skipped beat”. Likewise, Power Metal vocalists are often mired by an inability to hit all the outlandishly high notes that they produce in the studio, but Mark Boals does not become a weak link and actually performs the songs professionally without a lot of the added shouts in between verses that some metal singers dabble in.

The bulk of the material played on here can be found on the “Ring of Fire” and “The Oracle” studio albums, but we also get an unreleased track in “Leviathan”. Perks like these are always an endearing quality for live albums as they give extra incentive for would be purchasers. Essentially the song is cut from the same grain as the fast songs off “The Oracle”, loaded with amazing guitar soloing and keyboard themes.

If you like Power/Prog in the vain of Symphony X and Ayreon, if you heard what was on the 2 previously mentioned Mark Boals albums, and you like listening to great musicians show off their skill then this is a Live CD worth getting. The concert contained within is massive, filling up 2 CDs, and encompassing nearly ever single song found on both “Ring of Fire” and “The Oracle”.