Release date: November 22, 2011
Difficult to imagine that guitarist Mark Reale started Riot over 35 years ago. At the time, the hard rock influenced group from New York were attempting to define the band’s sound at a time that commercial rock and disco owned the airwaves. If not for the breakthrough of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) Riot might have fallen by the wayside back then. Riot‘s sound fit into the NWOBHM style, so much so that many people thought they were in fact a British band.
Sadly, like so many great band’s something just never clicked with the public to get them the attention they deserved, and only a small Army of tuned in rockers knew what the rest were missing.
In large part bad luck, played a huge part in the band’s terminal limbo status. The band has gone through half a dozen vocalists, and some eight drummers over the years. Two of the band’s singers, Guy Speranza and Rhett Forrester passed away. Speranza from pancreatic cancer and Forrester when he was shot during an attempted carjacking.
The band’s last several albums have had vocalist Mike DiMeo at the mic, and fans simply haven’t responded to him.
Over the years Riot has continued to evolve from hard rock and traditional metal to the band’s newest record, their 14th studio album, Immortal Soul. An album which features former vocalist Tony Moore who replaced Forrester for 1988’s Thundersteel and 1990’s The Privilege of Power albums before DiMeo took over. Most fans consider those to be Riot’s best recorded works.
Roll ahead to 2011, and the band sums it all up with this line from their track “Still The Man”: “Nothing changes, nothing stays the same.” Reale is still the man, Tony Moore returns with his signature throat, and drummer Bobby “Wire” Jarzombek (Halford, Sebastian Bach, Arch/Matheos) who has been with the band since the Thundersteel album returns as well. Jarzombek just completed records with Bach and Arch/Matheos this year. Bassist Don Van Stavern also returns from the The Privilege of Power era, along with guitarist Mike Flyntz.
Immortal Soul is easily the band’s best album in over two decades, and perhaps their best yet. The first track, aptly titled “Riot” comes firing out at neck-break speed and asks the question that the band has been asking the world for 36 years; “what’s it gonna take to make you riot?” The answer, Immortal Soul.
One of the album’s high points comes next in the form of the aforementioned “Still The Man”, which returns us to the glory days of early Iron Maiden, with a hooky anthemic chorus that will lodge in your cranium for days. This is the sequel to Thundersteel‘s “Johnny’s Back”.
“Crawling” writhes with an epic Arabian neo-classic feel. This is the album’s longest track, and one of the band’s finest moments. Reale shows off his chops with a solo that reminds one of Yngwie J. Malmsteen or Ritchie Blackmore. This might well be the band’s anthem. “I had been there once before but the music would not play, though I had a song and then I had a story…”
Buckle in for “Wings Are For Angels”, which is a reminder of the band’s earlier speed metal roots. Plenty of fret fireworks abound here, and Moore’s wailing vocals bring it all home. This song blends nicely into the slower paced, but equally impacting “Fall Before Me”.
“Sins Of The Father” is a crushing melodic masterpiece. Jarzombek is an absolute beast here and throughout. Meanwhile, the album’s title track has that expansive Dio-esque vibe, before bleeding into a soaring chorus.
“Insanity” and “Whiskey Man” are throwbacks to classic hard rocking metal from the glory days. “It’s a son-of-a-bitch when I get that itch” sings Moore. That itch is your air guitar fingers twitching. “It was a fine idea, long ago, in a time of fine ideas…” Take us back brother, because our past is the future of rock and roll.
That early Maiden vibe returns on “Believe”, which mixes mid-tempo riffage with a galloping chorus. This segues quite nicely into the album’s closer, “Echoes”. Another of the album’s majestic points. This song encompasses all that is brilliant about Immortal Soul. A well-crafted rock song, which juxtaposes a mid-tempo vocal line over a foundation of speedy rhythms. The guitar work mixes the right amount of pyrotechnic wizardry with melodic passages. Moore’s vocals swoop to the earth than spiral to the skies, driving the emotion of the song.
Immortal Soul is easily one of the best albums of 2011. Riot have returned triumphant, with an extraordinary effort, full of memorable songs, deft lyrics, and amazing musicianship. “Nothing changes, nothing stays the same.” A perfect statement of rock and roll. The musical landscape has transformed in the last three plus decades, but what makes a great record has not. Riot have returned to what made hard rock and metal so engaging and have reignited our passion for more. Let the riot begin!
Stick around guys. We need more albums like this to keep the torch lit!!!