Riot V – “Live in Japan 2018” DVD / Blu-Ray / 2 CD (AFM Records)
There are few bands that could have a tale to tell like that of Riot, once famed then unjustly underrated over the years to being tragically taken but ultimately immortalised. Such is the story of Mark Reale and his band Riot, and whose members Guy Speranza and Rhett Forrester were befallen by similar fates themselves. Despite being a lifelong sufferer of Crohn’s disease, Reale put the band together in the mid 70s, achieving promising starts touring with AC/DC before the NWOBHM catapulted Riot even further to Japan, where their brand of melodic guitar driven hard rock was to achieve a lifelong bond still strong to this day! Beset by label and personnel problems that saw the band disintegrate, Reale would relocate to Texas, recruit bassist Don Van Stavern (San Antonio Slayer) before returning to New York to release “Thundersteel” that saw the band take a more US power metal style with second guitarist Mike Flyntz joining the ranks for the band’s 1989 tour of Japan where Riot maintained their strongest following. Indeed this cycle of line up changes and would continue throughout Riot’s history until Reale’s own passing in 2012, aged 56. Following calls to continue his legacy not in the least from Reale’s own father, Van Stavern and Flyntz would recruit a new band, calling it Riot V to mark it as a new chapter rather than not continue the original band out of respect. Since then the legend has grown once more, in no small part owing to the authenticity of the music faithfully representing Reale’s winning formula of fast guitar driven hard rock with huge amounts of deep and epic melodies and matched by high soulfully soaring vocals! With 2 successful albums under this new line up, it seems apt that the determination be put to that market that has always been there for Riot – Japan! Recorded at Club Citta when the band played “Thundersteel” in its entirety along with other classics, this ‘best-of’ 23 track set list not only proves how the songs are still as fresh as before, but indeed, how loved (judging by the fan reaction and roars) Riot still are by the band’s devoted fans. From a ferocious ‘Thundersteel’ with Frank Gilchriest double bass drumming as if he were on a race track as the twin guitars of Flyntz and protégé Nick Lee work the intricate melodic structures to perfection and with passion, the rabid Japanese crowd roars out the chorus. Vocalist Todd Michael Hall is an absolute gem and definitely proves his own worth through his stratospherically high vocals that don’t just exude power but plenty of emotion especially on ‘Fight Or Fall’, the epic chugging bliss of ‘Flight Of The Warrior’ and the deep ‘Bloodstreets’, made all the more gutsy thanks to Van Stavern’s chunky bass. But it’s the classy handling of early classics like ‘Road Racer’ that really proves that Riot V can shine on, as Hall’s pipes excite me the same way Speranza did, while ‘Swords & Tequila’ is nothing short of a crowd riot as they roar out the chorus. Ending this truly special show with the epic glory of ‘Warrior’, Hall’s soul is fired up by the wailing twin guitars of Flyntz and Lee and thanks to the spell bounding sound the crowd singing along all the way is honourably captured too – domo arigato indeed! While not being a household name, Mark Reale’s legacy has without doubt left its mark upon the world, and while being a band in their own right, Riot V are set to continue that on in fine style.