Riot - Unleash the Fire
SPV
Power Metal
13 songs (60' 31")
Release year: 2014
Riot, SPV
Reviewed by Andy
Album of the month

Two years after the death of founding guitarist Mark Reale, a few members have put together a version of Riot that is a cross between a continuation and a tribute band: Riot V. Their first LP, Unleash the Fire, shows not only that his band's output will survive his passing, but that they can even produce an album close to the quality of their 1988 classic, Thundersteel. The melodies and riffs of this one do more than just continue Riot's excellent track record; they bring back the lingering magic of this band's sound that reached full flower in the 80s.

Ride Hard Live Free begins the album with a hammering snare-drum/palm-muting combo that perfectly underlays Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee's two-guitar attack. Vocalist Todd Michael Hall's harmonized vocals are higher than Tony Moore's last album with the band, but no higher than Moore's singing on Thundersteel. Anyway, this isn't the kind of power metal that runs any risk of not being ballsy enough. Both Ride Hard Live Free and Metal Warrior are fierce, guitar-driven pieces that counterbalance the high pitch of the singing, with more of an American feel to them than anything Northern European. Fall From the Sky continues the strong start with a choppy set of high-speed riffs on the verse and a magnificently fist-pumping chorus, while Bring the Hammer Down is a more down-to-earth, pounding song with the vocals on the verse ground out through gritted teeth. On all of these tracks, one can feel the band's enthusiasm for the material, something that sometimes gets polished out of existence on such a good production, but not here; the guitar riffs are jagged and tough, Don Van Stavern's bass reliably supports guitar riffing and solo breaks while still jumping out every once in a while for some fills on its own, and Hall takes most convenient opportunities to let out a high-pitched scream.

The subject matter is also enthusiastic and has an emotional feel to it. Aside from the usual power-metal fare (easy drinking game: Knock one back every time the lyrics mention fire, lightning, warriors, or battle), we get reminiscences of their fallen leader (such as Immortal or Until We Meet Again) and paens to their favorite tour destination (Land of the Rising Sun). I wasn't struck by all the songs -- Kill to Survive isn't at quite the same standard melody-wise as some of the others -- but there's no filler on this one. Headbanging moments are rife on songs like Take Me Back, an infectiously swinging track with a killer guitar solo and prechorus melody, or Fight Fight Fight, a fairly mindless but fun song that goes back to the hammering of the first song on the album. And at the end of the album, we get a live rendition of Thundersteel as a bonus.

I'm sure there were plenty of fans who assumed Riot might be finished without Mark Reale, but Unleash the Fire shows both the same high standard as Reale-era Riot albums and the band's determination to continue his work. This is a strong showing that I'm certain Reale would be proud of.

Killing Songs :
Ride Hard Live Free, Metal Warrior, Fall From the Sky, Take Me Back
Andy quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Riot that we have reviewed:
Riot - The Privilege of Power reviewed by Andy and quoted 84 / 100
Riot - Narita reviewed by Andy and quoted 95 / 100
Riot - Immortal Soul reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
Riot - Rock City reviewed by Mike and quoted 90 / 100
Riot - Army of One reviewed by Mike and quoted 88 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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