Riot V – “Armor Of Light” (Nuclear Blast)
One of America’s legendary heavy / power metal bands, its spirit continues even after the passing of founder guitarist Mark Reale. Formed as early as 1975 by Reale in New York City, Riot’s history is a roller coaster of success, tragedy and obscurity along with a revolving door of members although always defined in whatever form by Reale, who remained at the helm until passing from Crohn’s disease in 2012. With albums like “Rock City” establishing the band as a cult act in Japan, it was “Thundersteel” released in 1988 that really brought Riot to the attention of many with its searing music, blending incredible power with equal amounts of melodic passion, both being driven through powering guitars and soaring soulful vocals. With Reale’s passing, at the behest of his father, Riot changed its name to Riot V and continued his legacy. With “Thundersteel” bassist Don Van Stavern in its ranks, “Armor Of Light” is the band’s 16th studio album and what can I say, it’s an incredible follow up to “Thundersteel” so if you loved that album like I do, then you’ll revel in this one too! While Riot struggled and soldiered on bravely through varying labels and production qualities, it’s pretty clear that Nuclear Blast have spared no expense on this release and it is a huge commendation to give Reale the justice that alluded him for this truly inspirational music. Even the artwork is old school, a cool blend between the covers of “Narita” and “Thundersteel”! As such, “Armor Of Light” is everything that longtime Riot fans could dream of, and even more so given the incredible songs and matching musicianship, the latter in no small part due to the blinding guitar work of Mike Flyntz and his former student protege Nick Lee. Blurring in with fast, intricate fret board work on ‘Messiah’ backed by double bass drumming and not forgetting Todd Michael Hall’s soaring heartfelt vocals, the energy is incredible as is the overwhelming passion of the music and of course, those unbelievable guitar solos that duel, match and trade off one another in classic Riot style as pioneered by Reale himself. On ‘Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign’ the pace slows down a tad into chugging riffola and the brilliance of the melodies shines through to your heart as Hall passionately screams ‘….heavy metal runs through my veins!!!..’ – amazing. Closing off aggressively with ‘Raining Fire’ its more double bass drumming from Frank Gilchriest and the heavy, twanging bass of Van Stavern, but soon joined by those twin shining guitars bringing their luminescence to once again dazzle and awe to a jaw dropping ending. Definitely one of my albums of the year so far!