New York rockers Riot have just released their latest album and it’s special for a various number of reasons: it’s the band’s first album in five years and it also sees the Thundersteel era line-up back together. Riot may not sound familiar but the album, Immortal Soul, is their fourteenth studio album. Based on the songs and sound, Immortal Soul is a very strong release for Riot.
Riot formed around 1975 in New York. The band experienced many changes in their line-up but guitarist Mark Reale has been the only stable member of the band. From 1977 to 1981, the band cranked out three studio albums with original singer Guy Speranza (Rock City, Narita, and Fire Down Under). The third of them, Fire Down Under, is considered by many critics to be one of the most underrated hard rock albums of the time in 1981. Speranza left in 1981 and was replaced by Rhett Forrester. With Forrester, the band made another two albums (Restless Breed and Born in America) but the band had hit rock bottom financially in 1983. Also, a band called Quiet Riot was becoming popular and confusion happened often. The band either split or kept quiet until 1986 when Reale reformed the band with a new line-up. This new line-up included Reale, singer Tony Moore, bassist Don Van Stavern, and drummer Bobby Jarzombek. This incarnation of Riot released the power metal heavy Thundersteel, which achieved some commercial attention. When the band went on tour, guitarist Mike Flyntz joined. In 1990, the band released The Privilege of Power. It was the last album with Moore and/or Stavern on it as they left in 1992. Riot continued to release new music and tour, with Reale and Flyntz as stable members (Jarzombek was in and out). In 2008, the Thundersteel line-up of Reale, Moore, Stavern, Jarzombek and Flyntz reunited.
Immortal Soul opens up quite fittingly with a song called “Riot”…by a band named Riot. It’s a very smart way to happen the album up: a very speed metal oriented sound and Moore screaming the lyrics, including the chorus “What’s it gonna take to make you riot?” “Still Your Man” sounds very much like a song that could’ve been from Thundersteel. The lyrics seem to be a sequel of sorts to the song “Johnny’s Back” from Thundersteel if you remember the lyrics to it (Don’t look now cause Johnny’s back again/I am your man!). In this song, we are reminded of Johnny: “Hey Johnny, brother take my hand/I remember, I am still your man!). According to sources, Johnny is the name of Riot’s seal mascot that can be seen on their album covers. Songs like “Crawling” and “Fall Before Me” are very “sludge” sounding metal tracks, which is pretty cool to hear Riot do. It’s different, that’s for sure. If one of these songs had to be chosen as a single, “Wings Are For Angels” would be my pick. Much like “Still You Man”, it sounds like something from Thundersteel. Also on this album is the biblical “Sins of the Father” and the Iron Maiden riddled self titled track. The latter is a really good song and one of my favorites off the album. “Whiskey Man” is another interesting track. Of all the songs off the album, I can sort of imagine Guy Speranza singing it (sadly, he wouldn’t be able to: he died in 2003). The album ends with the guitar-oriented “Echoes”.
Immortal Soul is a very good album and it’s great to see this line-up of Riot back together again. Although I do prefer Fire Down Under and Thundersteel more, Immortal Soul is basically a kick-ass heavy metal album. Welcome back, Riot!