Riot V – Armor of Light (Nuclear Blast)Monday, 7th May 2018
If ever putting together a list of bands that should be huge when it comes to their output and discography, Riot fits that bill of groups that in a just world, would be arena headliners globally. Depending on entry point, there are specific pinnacle albums (for this scribe, Fire Down Under, Thundersteel, and Inishmore) that resonate most when looking at the deep catalog. Even with Mark Reale’s passing in 2012, the legacy lives on through Riot V. Armor of Light as the latest platter keeps the quality and diversity of their melodic hard rock/traditional and power metal style on high – guitars searing, tempos blazing, and melodies/hooks/harmonies abound.
The five musicians engage in a type of addictive songwriting penchant where the riffs just radiate surging energy, the momentum building throughout from complementary guitar licks and parts from Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee that gives bassist Don Van Stavern and drummer Frank Gilchriest ample room to showcase their fluid/speedy tricks. It’s hard not to note the band’s own reference points to their classic track “Thundersteel” for “Messiah”, Todd Michael Hall hitting sky high upper register notes as the lead break keeps things speedy and culturally relevant. Maiden-esque bass lines pump up another highlight “Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign” – the slinky verses and resounding chorus sure to be a modern Riot V anthem, designed for ultimate open road cruising (gotta love the ‘heavy metal… runs through my veins’ line). The spider web harmonies signal a second half favorite “San Antonio” – the back and forth background to main vocal work during the verses a precursor to the simplified chorus featuring another stunning Todd multi-part harmony that probably will go down a storm should they choose to add this one in the live setlists.
Throughout the band’s history, Riot has had various singers that made their mark during those eras. For my money, Todd embraces all facets – he can be bluesy during “Burn the Daylight” just as much as a powerhouse for “Victory”, which makes his chameleon-esque charm and professionalism so enduring. The mascot eagle Johnny returns brandishing a battle axe and proper shield for the cover – the added topping to an already splendid top to bottom outing. If people think older bands are simply resting on nostalgic laurels, Armor of Light is proof positive to the contrary – blazing in US power metal glory.