Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Riot V- "Unleash the Fire" album review

 Riot - Unleash the Fire
Riot/Riot V
Unleash the Fire
Rating: ****

When heavy metal/hard rock band Riot announced they would start working on new material, some fans were skeptical. The band’s founder and sole original member, Mark Reale, passed in early 2012 after a lifelong battle with Crohn’s Disease. With Reale’s passing, it seemed that the band would die with him. The band, now under the name Riot V, have been touring all of this year and now have a new studio album. The album, Unleash the Fire, is a touching hard hitting tribute to Reale. While Reale might be gone, the Riot riffs and melodies he wrote are very much alive on this new album.

            Riot are one of those bands that carries a long history with them. The group were originally formed in 1975 by Reale in New York. Despite constant line-up changes, the band were able to churn out three studio album with original singer Guy Speranza. The band’s third album, Fire Down Under, is considered by many to be an underrated hard rock gem. Speranza left in 1981 and was replaced by singer Rhett Forrester. With Forrester, the band made another two albums. In 1984, the band were left in limbo as they had reached rock bottom with disappointing album sales.  Reale left the band on the back burner until 1986 when he revamped the band with a new line-up and more heavy metal oriented sound. This line-up released 1988’s Thundersteel, which help resurrect the band and gain some attention. Although this line-up would end in 1992, Reale and guitarist Mike Flyntz (who was added to the group during the Thundersteel tour) kept the band going. The Thundersteel line-up reunited in 2008 and in 2011, they released an album entitled Immortal Soul. In early 2012, Reale passed away after being a coma for several days due to his lifelong battle with Crohn’s Disease.

            Sometimes after Reale’s passing, Flyntz and Thundersteel era bassist Donnie Van Stavern started putting together a new version of Riot. Flyntz and Stavern are joined by three other members: drummer Frank Gilchriest (who drummed on 2006’s Army of One), singer Todd Michael Hall and guitarist Nick Lee (who is also one of Flyntz’s guitar students).

            The band gets down to business on the head-banging “Ride Hard Live Free.” Right from the start, Flyntz and Lee are at it with their twin lead guitar melodies. As for Hall, he is a remarkable singer. Listening to this song, Hall could be mistaken for former singer Tony Moore. I highly recommend watching a video of the band performing live with Hall: the man has a range that gives him the ability to tackle all of the Riot material. The guitar heavy “Metal Warrior” is lyrically filled with references to other Riot songs. The cries of “shine on” are heard throughout, which references to the chorus of the Riot classic “Warrior.” There are also mentions of Johnny, the name of the band’s seal mascot (other fans will argue his name is the Mighty Tior, but I like to think of him as Johnny- the Mighty Tior): “Raise your fists up to our brother man” sings Hall. “Johnny lead us to your promised land.” The songs is filled with so many references to Riot songs, one might find it hard to keep track of all of them!

            Riot sure know how to deliver heavy metal songs and this album is no exception. “Bring the Hammer Down” certainly lives up to its title while Gilchriest shows off his rapid-fire drumming skills on the thunderous “Fall From the Sky.” The title track is even badass, with Hall shining again on lead vocals. There’s also the anthem-driven “Fight Fight Fight” and the melodic “Land of the Rising Sun,” a Stavern-penned tune written for Riot’s rabid fanbase in Japan. Believe it or not, there are a few songs on here that are a throwback to the old school hard rock Riot. “Return of the Outlaw” is exactly what it sounds like: it is lyrically and musically a sequel to the Riot classic, “Outlaw.” Musically, the song captures the sound of the original while Hall channels his inner Guy Speranza. Hall channels his inner Speranza once again on the nostalgic “Take Me Back.”

            Overall, Unleash the Fire is an impressive album. After listening to this album, I feel that Riot can indeed go on without Mark Reale. Somebody has to play these songs, and that is what this new band is exactly doing. I think it’s safe to say that Mark would be proud.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jack Bruce dead at 71

John Symon Asher "Jack" Bruce
May 14, 1943-October 25, 2014

Jack Bruce, bassist and lead singer for 60's power trio Cream, passed away today. He was 71 years old. The cause of death has not been announced yet. 

Bruce started his career in the early 1960s, playing in blues groups such as Blue Incorporated and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. It was in 1966 when Bruce joined up with former Yardbirds guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker to form Cream. Given their background prior to joining the group, Cream is widely considered to be one of the first supergroups. The band would make four studio albums and release a few hit singles such as "I Feel Free," "Sunshine of Your Love," and "White Room." The band split in 1968, but would reunite in 1993 for their induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and for a series of shows in 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall. After Cream's split, Bruce pursued a solo career. Before his passing. Bruce had still been active. Earlier this year, he had released a new album entitled Silver Rails

It is sad to hear of Jack Bruce's passing. He was a great bassist and I think he's pretty underrated as a bassist. He was also a good singer, with great bluesy-soulful vocals. My condolences go out to his family and friends. 

Rest in peace, Jack. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2015 Nominees- My Thoughts

The nominees for the 2015 Rock N Roll Hall of Fame have been announced today. As with the past few years, 15 acts were nominated. Personally, I feel this year's list is weak. There are too many R&B/Soul acts and not enough actual ROCK bands on here. I'm pretty surprised by this list. Still, the Hall is allowing the public to vote but we all know that the public vote means nothing.

So here we go...

PUT EM IN: My Ballot
Lou Reed- Many predicted that Lou would be nominated for his solo career, given he passed away in late October of last year. This is Lou's third time being nominated as a solo artist. The Velvet Underground were inducted in 1996 so at least Lou lived to see that. Hell, he even attended with John Cale and Maureen Tucker! If Lou doesn't get in this year, I will be pissed.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts- Like Lou, many predicted Joan would get a nod. I've always liked Joan and think that she's one of the greatest women in rock. I think I said during the first time she was nominated that it was strange that she was getting a nod before the Runaways did. It's pretty clear now: the Hall wants Joan in. The Runaways might get in one day.

Stevie Ray Vaughn- I can't say I'm a fan of his music. I don't think it's bad, mind you. It's just that I haven't really gotten into the guitarist/songwriter category he falls under. Still, the fact that he's been eligible since 2008 and wasn't given a nod once is a joke. He should be in already.

The Smiths- I've been wanting to get into the Smiths for some time. I've recently heard their debut album and I really like them. The Smiths are definitely influential and have an immense cult following in the indie rock crowd. Morriessey recently announced his cancer diagnosis, but hopefully he'll be able to attend the ceremony if the band gets in...or not. From what I know about the Smiths, it's very unlikely the band will reunite for a one-off performance.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band- Why not?

Wouldn't Mind
Nine Inch Nails

These bands are all pretty cool. Again, I can't say I'm a fan of them. Kraftwerk should be in there for their Krautrock and electronic influences alone while War are worthy enough. It might surprise many of you that I'm okay with Nine Inch Nails. I think Trent Reznor is a creative guy and I've heard a few of their songs. I think they're cool. It might be too soon for them to get in compared to all the other bands that need to be in but I wouldn't mind seeing them in there. Some may think of Sting's solo work as too mainstream or not cool but compared to the others on the list, he's looking good now.

The Marvelettes
The Spinners
Bill Withers

That's an awful lot of R&B acts. The first three have all been nominated before and they never get in. I sometimes like to joke that Chic are almost like the Ron Paul of the Hall, as this is their ninth time being nominated. I don't really care what happens here. What makes me mad is that these acts keep getting nods and they never get in. It's a spot wasted in a way.

Whatever. They'll get in anyway.
Green Day- Earlier this year, I was surprised to find out that Green Day would be eligible for this year's list. I don't know if I've ever said it on this blog but I absolutely cannot stand Green Day. I think Billie Joe Armstrong has good musical tastes but I always thought Dookie was their debut. It isn't. That's their third album. Their first album came out in 1990 on an indie label, but their first release (an EP) was released in 1989. That's 25 years ago so that makes them okay to nominate. This pissed me off. I understand the rules and whatnot but to me, Green Day weren't really known until the early 1990's. I'd even argue that there was a better reason to induct Nirvana last year and I don't care about them either. I did say that Bleach wasn't as popular as their next two albums but at least that album had some relevance and hell, it was an actual ALBUM. With Green Day, the Hall just waited until that one moment. It's almost like someone going "Hey, I just found a cassette Kanye West made when he was a toddler. Let's put him in!!!" NO! Just no.


I hate rap music. I don't want it in the Hall but it's already too late. If they wanted rap in the Hall so badly, then they should wait until you induct some actual ROCK bands.