Riot V – Unleash the Fire (SPV)Thursday, 9th October 2014
When Riot founder Mark Reale passed away in January 2012 due to complications relating to his lifelong battle with Crohn’s disease, fans and band members alike wondered if this would be the end of this fabulous veteran band. After contemplating different scenarios and the blessing of the Reale family, guitarist Mike Flyntz and bassist Don Van Stavern began the assembly of this lineup: guitarist Nick Lee being a student of Flyntz’s teachings, while drummer Frank Gilchrist replaces Bobby Jarzombek due to his ongoing Fates Warning commitments. The new blood also includes singer Todd Michael Hall, a relative unknown who’s recently recorded albums in Jack Starr’s Burning Starr.
To say expectations are high based on reputation and previous discography alone is an understatement. Most metal veterans possess their favorites in the Riot discography (for me, it’s the hard rocking Fire Down Under, the power metal oriented Thundersteel, and Sons of Society), so will Riot V (for chapter five, Todd being the fifth vocalist for the group) and Unleash the Fire bring the quintet back to the top of the power/classic metal heap?
Unequivocally, yes indeed. But I would be giving this album a short sale without digging into the details. To those who have heard the Japanese edition of the record leaked onto social media sites, know going in that the North American version has a little more polish thanks to Bruno Ravel’s mix. The 12 songs run the gamut of Riot V’s versatile songwriting chops. You’ll have numbers like “Ride Hard Live Free” and “Fall from the Sky” that are pure adrenaline, double bass power riff monsters, taking the Thundersteel template to a current level. You’ll get metal anthems that may recall “Warrior” from their back catalog such as personal highlight “Bring the Hammer Down” (check out the George Lynch-like lead bends during some of the instrumental sections) or their own homage to the past in “Return of the Outlaw”. There’s even nods to the Mike DiMeo years through the melodically enticing “Take Me Back” or the masterful ballad “Until We Meet Again”.
Overall the guitar playing from Lee and Flyntz is tasteful, thoughtful, and resonates completely from first song to last. And when it comes to Todd Michael Hall – he has the pipes, the soul, the restraint, and the total package to pull off almost any era of Riot through the years. He’s proven his worth this past year on the road with the band, and I think this album will win him many more converts. So fear not fans of Tony Moore, Todd can hit ungodly fearless falsettos (check out “Metal Warrior” and the title cut for his commanding melodies and harmonization ability).
Riot V in Unleash the Fire keep Mark’s legacy alive, and at the same time prove that they can execute an exemplary power metal album decades deep into their careers. Honestly I haven’t heard an album in this category this mind blowing since Lost Horizon’s Awakening the World – fly high, scream your lungs out and wave the axes to the stratosphere.