Riot V - Unleash the Fire

Riot V Unleash the Fire cover
Riot V
Unleash the Fire
It’s hard to consider a “Riot” album, by a band that came out, playing the glorious songs of “MarkThe Immortal SoulReale” without him… almost something akin to a sacrilege… but, not really by intention, I guess, rather a combination of having to conclude a recording contract, undertaken previously and maybe binding the rest of the members but also the will to carry the torch and not let the legacy of this great band fade away and die.
While the “Privilege” line-up, to be more precise, came up with the pretty awesome “Immortal Soul” that ended up being Mark’s swansong, upon his passing, Tony Moore, decided to once more depart the band after a while, making them to go out of their way to seek a capable vocalist. Apparently, a great number of great, even historical vocalists, with great appreciation for this great but very under-appreciated and long running NY outfit tried out, but they settled for the pretty amazing Todd Michael Hall, whose just on a whole another level, and has got “the shirt” to prove it!
Don Van Stavern (bass) and Mike Flyntz (guitars) as Riot veterans, welcome to the ranks among others also, Flyntz’s young student and guitar protégée Nick Lee, a dear, young bearded lad, that shreds it with the best of them out there and rather tastefully too. Frank Gilchriest best known from his Virgin Steele days, but also a Riot alumnus since he had drummed on “Army of One”, he’s doing his job quite fine, other than having a rather bad set of drum patches for the sound replacement, I’m afraid to report. All these fine, gentlemen, rockaway causing a minor ruckus... a mini metal riot in a beermug, if you will!
What’s cool, is that Riot V, mission statement, is to “pay tribute” to Riot, basically, so they try to be themselves really. Having played alongside Mark for so many years the style has rubbed off so much that it’s easy for them to emulate the same feel and appeal and largely they succeed in writing great songs! While I still feel that “Immortal Soul” was a tad more original and spirited, “Unleash the Fire” is more straightforward and back to the roots and you just can’t hate it for doing just that!
Ride Hard, Live Free” is the opener and manages to combine the style of the “Thundersteel” days with the more “rocking” mo, of the earlier days. While, Todd’s singing for the most part goes to emulate the great Tony Moore, the whole tone and style brings about a welcome sense of warmth and familiarity.
Upon hearing “Metal Warrior” live for the first time, when the band aired it – when they played it, I thought, it was a bit different, too many words, and a little too flashy in the guitar solo... while I still find that both those claims are true, the proper production, allows me to understand all the lyrics…
Fall from the Sky” is a strong “riff” based number, that is a lot more “original”. This is “Riot V” basically, not classic “Riot” and for all intends and purposes, it’s a good song, more modern, reminiscent of how power metal bands begun sounding in the early 90s.
Bring the Hammer Down” is somewhat of a comparative letdown, not old school enough to be considered “Thundersteel”-like, but not very modern either. It’s rather repetitive of the sole good idea it has and tends to become rather tiresome after a while.
The titular title track, “Unleashes the Fire”, but doesn’t do so, before the chorus really, wasting a lot of precious time, building up and up, for quite a while. At least here the solo is quite nice.
Land of the Rising Sun” is a highly melodic number that begins with a harmony dual solo and actually quotes and cross references a shitload of other Riot titles, in it. Cool as well as one of the better songs on the album.
Kill to Survive” also builds up, to release into an amazing bridge leading to a simpler chorus. Fantastic dynamics on this song. Another “minor classic”.
Now “Return of the Outlaw” I could have probably could have done without… with its mock of the original’s riff and thug bop, it’s somewhat, second rate…
Immortal” is a simple, yet very emotive softer quasi ballad/rocker with great lyrics, a dedication to their fallen comrade, the one and only, Mark Reale. R.I.P.
It also seems that the band is on fire because “Take Me Back”, is an epic, which with its “distinct atmosphere” recalls memories of “Bloodstreets”… only rockier...
The intro of “Fight, Fight, Fight” is soft but it is very misleading... as the track is quite hard hitting. The problem with it however is that it’s a comparative letdown when you think of how much better the rest of the songs are, this is just too plainly “silly”...
The “Digipack only” bonus tracks…
Until We Meet Again” however that follows makes up for the slight misstep in a great way… it begins with a bluesy intro and breaks into a poignant solo midway... that’s just heart breaking. The lyrics are deeply personal and another dedication to the late Mark, that just feels completely heartfelt and not pretentious.
Lastly there another song marked as (bonus) a live rendition of “Thundersteel” from God-knows-where, which sounds commanding and cool, as ever… and I’m not sure if they’ve dubbed fake crowd noises or if that’s real audience reactions “because it sounds too uniform” to the point where I thought it was distortion/feedback from the guitars!
For a band that should be “dead and buried” along with Mark, Riot (V) prove that their “Immortal Soul” is just too hard to kill, and it just goes on “Beyond the Grave”... I can’t see any other band more qualified than them to carry on the legacy of the mighty Tior. Shine, shine on, through the darkness and the pain. Shine, shine on, Warrior…