Riot V – Let Legacy Reign

Tuesday, 21st October 2014

Behind the scenes the common fan would shudder at the many forks in the road bands have to make in the hopes of climbing up the ladder in terms of popularity and better opportunities within the industry. Take Riot for instance- an act that has gone through many incarnations, numerous memorable singers and albums that have latched onto fans of bluesy hard rock to power metal and melodic pastures, all depending upon your initiation point to the group.

If ever there was a band that had opportunities to breakthrough to the big time in the 1980’s, but couldn’t due to a series of mismanagement and poor business decisions, Riot could write a large book-length expose based on their lives. Tragedy hit the band once again in early 2012, when founding member guitarist Mark Reale would pass away due to complications of his life long battle with Crohn’s Disease. Fortunately after a brief break away from the scene, many of the members of Riot decided to return to the fold and record a new album to maintain the legacy of Mark’s career.

Now renamed Riot V, the latest album Unleash the Fire is a masterpiece that captures as many facets of the band as possible. The tasteful guitar riffs and harmony runs, the stunning vocal melodies, the graceful tempos, the dynamic songwriting in terms of ballads, anthems, and power metal tracks – it’s all there and more. So speaking to guitarist Mike Flyntz, you can sense through his New York-style accent that he isn’t taking this opportunity for granted – and his thoughtful responses give me hope that if ever the metal scene should rally around a band and give them another shot at a larger following, Riot V would be near the top of the heap.

Dead Rhetoric: How long did it take to process Mark Reale’s passing and the decision to continue on with this new incarnation of Riot V?

Mike Flyntz: It took about a year. The decision was made when Mark’s father gave us permission to continue on with the band, so that his son’s music wouldn’t die out and his legacy would continue. With his blessing it was still tough for me but we decided to move on. I started with some music a year after his passing, bassist Donnie Van Stavern was already writing music, that’s how he chose to deal with Mark’s loss by jumping right in. I didn’t even think about the band or do much for a year.

Dead Rhetoric: Unleash the Fire is the latest album – an excellent follow up to Immortal Soul as well as an obvious companion piece to the classic Thundersteel. What are your thoughts on the songwriting/ recording?

Flyntz: We purposely set out to try and cover the whole span of Riot’s career and the styles/songs that Mark wrote. The first couple of songs that we wrote were just very much like Thundersteel, and Donnie wrote a song called “Immortal” that was very mellow – that’s when I suggested that we should pay tribute to Mark’s whole career. This album is for him; let’s see if we could write songs as if they were going to come out on the older albums. One of the songs I wrote was “Take Me Back”, which I pictured myself being in the band during Fire Down Under. That was what we set out to do – honor Mark’s entire career.

Dead Rhetoric: “Bring the Hammer Down” seems to have a few guitar layers and nuances that pay homage to George Lynch circa “Mr. Scary” or “Kiss of Death” from Dokken’s Back for the Attack. Can you tell us more about the development of this track – as well as “Return of the Outlaw”?

Flyntz: Wow, I haven’t heard that one yet, but that’s interesting. I have to be honest with you; those are two songs that Don Van Stavern wrote, he sent me his demos with his guitar playing on them. “Bring the Hammer Down” – the only thing I actually wrote on that song were the guitar solos, and Nick Lee played one of them which he wrote. Other than that, the bassist wrote all the guitar parts for that one, and Donnie did the same for “Return of the Outlaw”. We were trying to bow our heads to the older style, and that was in answer to the original “Outlaw”.

Dead Rhetoric: Is it frustrating that different territories have different release dates for the record, even in 2014?

Flyntz: I imagine so, I haven’t thought too much about that. I find it strange, the record has been out for weeks and weeks in Japan and it’s already been all over You Tube and people are hearing it. It is strange that this album is going to have different release dates all over the world. I don’t know if most people know it but another weird thing is that since the Japan release came out so much earlier, our deadline was earlier for them. We initially wanted Josh Block to record the album and then give it over to Bruno Ravel for the mix, as he did our prior record Immortal Soul. Amidst all the live shows we were doing, we did a couple in February, April, and June, we were behind schedule. So we had to ask Josh to mix it for us, because the deadline was coming. Japan has a different producer and mixer. The one coming out soon on SPV and all around the rest world is mixed by Bruno. You can buy the same record and hear two totally different mixes, I like them both. I don’t know which one the fans will like better, but they are both definitely different.

Dead Rhetoric: I do remember reading online some fans wondering if the mix was going to be different as if you were rushed to deadline for the first mix.

Flyntz: Yes, they were threatening to lawsuit us because we were asking for more time. We told them that Bruno wasn’t going to be able to mix it, so we sent them what we had; they thought it was great, so they took it. So we said okay, and then we sent it over to Bruno and he had another 3 weeks to mix it. There is more of a polished, produced sound with Bruno whereas the one with Josh is rawer. I think of Metallica when they put out the record that was really under-produced …And Justice for All. I’m very curious to see where the fans stand on this.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you think is the hardest aspect for the average Riot V follower to understand regarding your popularity?

Flyntz: (laughs). That’s a good question. Mark was very good at explaining the Riot story and saga. The different steps along the way where we made bad mistakes with management, staying with them too long, being taken advantage of, blackballed and we would need a whole hour to talk about each individual thing. There is no short answer for that one, a lot of bad decisions, the management pissed off a lot of important people in the business to the point that no one wanted to deal with Riot. A lot of it had to do with not touring a lot, you can’t stay together as a band and Riot had a lot of problems with that because Mark would never let on to anyone how sick he was, his Crohn’s Disease. Most of the times Mark was a trooper, he would be on the bus and come with us, but in utter pain, it’s hard to travel when you have Crohn’s Disease because you have to use the bathroom all the time. It would be hard to explain to an average fan why Riot is not more popular. I would just tell them, the catalog of music and the number of great songs Mark wrote, that’s the only reason we are still in the game right now.

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