Former Riot vocalist Guy Speranza died on November 8, 2003 of pancreatic cancer, and former vocalist Rhett Forrester was murdered on January 22, 1994.
Mark Reale, the founding guitarist of the legendary metal band RIOT passed away on January 25th due to complications of Crohn's disease — an ailment he has battled for most of his life. Mark was 57.
Riot - Rock City (CBS/Sony) 1977
The band's first album was originally released as an independent release released back in 1977. It's a pretty heavy record for it's time and I can imagine it would have put 'ol Uncle Ted and the mighty Aerosmith up against a wall for sheer volume. What is also amazing is that this record proved that money and marketing power were not all that were required to make a great record, for Riot had neither of these at the time. "Warrior," "Rock City," "Overdrive" all rock hard. This particular copy is a Japanese release on one of the biggest labels ever, Sony.
Riot - Narita (Capitol) 1979
1. "Waiting for the
Although "Narita" was released in 1979, this album sounds like classic 1980's heavy metal. In other words, "Narita" was ahead of it's time. Mark Reale and Rick Ventura were a great guitar tag team. Guy Speranza's vocals were perfect fitting. This album was a strong step forward from the band's debut and should have made them one of the reigning kings of the early metal scene. Sadly, they did not become that. Still, to those in the know, "Narita" is a bona fide classic with tracks hard rockin' tracks like "Road Racer", "49er" and the barn stormin' opener "Waiting for the Taking". The melodic title track was named after a Japanese military airport, apparently built on sacred ground. At one time I considered Riot's cover of "Born to be Wild" one of he heaviest, most outrageous covers ever, that is until Raven and Udo unleashed their monster onto the world some years later. Still, Riot's cover is a classic. So, while "Narita" might not be as widely available as albums like "Killers" or "Sad Wings of Destiny", it is every bit as important to the metal scene as those classics.
Without a doubt, this CD was on my want list longer than almost any other CD in my collection. Why a classic album like this is so hard to come by is a mystery. Previously this CD was only available as an expensive and limited Japanese CD. Apparently the disc was remastered and rereleased in 2005 on England's Rock Candy Records, although for some reason this CD is still no easier to find. A quick check on Ebay shows the album still selling for over $40. Amazon.com and others have the CD in stock with a price tag of $30. Ouch! If you are lucky enough to find this for cheap while browing pawn shops in NYC it is definitely something you want to pick up. I have the original Japanese version.
A classic heavy metal platter in the tradition of NWOBHM bands like Saxon. By many accounts most consider this to be their best disc, and from what I have heard, I am inclined to agree. Several smoking tracks on this one including an early speed metal title track. I am also quite fond of the 'throwaway' track 'Flashbacks' which is basically an instrumental with various live stage banter and crowd chants mixed in. According to the extensive liner notes in this disc, these chants of RIOT, RIOT, RIOT are from the crowd of 50,000 people at the Monsters of Rock Festival. Other standout tracks are the ferocious opener "Swords and Tequila," and the mid-paced metal anthems "Feel the Same," "Altar of the King" and the ode to Spanish-America "Outlaw." This German re-issue features several bonus unreleased songs from the same recording sessions, and extensive liner notes from long-time RIOT producer Steve Loeb. The last track is interesting to me because, although it is only a short teaser, there is a small vocal part that sounds almost exactly like Steven Tyler.
Riot - Riot Live (Metal Blade) 1980
1. "Intro" (:56)
An energetic and spirited live performance recorded during Riot's 'Narita' tour. "Riot Live" was recorded at London, England's Hammersmith Odeon in 1980. The raw and crunchy production gives the band a punch that their studio albums were lacking. I also enjoy the liberties taken with the songs on stage, such as the extended jams in "Warrior" and "Narita", as well as the crowd interaction injected into songs like "Road Racin'". To me this sort of stuff is what makes or breaks a live album. Mark Reale and Rick Ventura are both excellent guitarists who strut their stuff quite a bit at this Hammersmith show. The inclusion of "Train Kept A Rollin'" was also a nice addition. This track has been covered by more bands than I can think of. Of course no one has beaten Aerosmith's smokin' version, but Riot's version is actually quite good. Every time I hear this band's early material I cannot help but wonder why they didn't become much more popular than they were. Riot were leaders of the heavy metal movement in the late 70's and early 80's. Their punchy heavy metal was certainly ahead of it's time.
I must also make mention that this disc is yet another that shall be added to my list of the worst album covers of all time. The insert features terribly cheesy cover art. I've owned two different versions of this CD. Neither the Metal Blade release, nor the Japanese copy on Sony that I now own contain any photos of the band. The Metal Blade version didn't even include anything in the way of liner notes or lyrics. The Sony version contains these things, albeit in Japanese.
Riot - Restless Breed (Metal Blade) 1982
1. "Hard Lovin' Man"
Exit vocalist Guy Speranza, who apparently had just become such a problem child in the band due to excessive drug use that he couldn't hack the touring life any longer. Enter new vocalist Rhett Forrester. "Restless Breed" is a classic album and one that many fans list as Riot's best. This CD, to me, always had a slight Southern Rock tinge, which may be in part to Forrester's raspy, soulful vocals. "Over To You" and Eric Burden cover "When I Was Young" especially have this sound to me. Even some of the guitar work and songwriting here reminds me of hard rocking Southern bands like Blackfoot. "Showdown", one of the bands first ballads has a definite Skynyrd touch as well. "Loanshark" is perhaps the albums fastest and heaviest track being an early speed metal classic."Love By You" has a cool, southern bluesy groove that comes alive with the harp solo in the middle that breaks way into duo between the guitar and harmonica. Maybe my thoughts here are blasphemy to the longtime Riot die-hards, but I honestly like the Rhett Forrester years a bit better than the Guy Speranza years. "Restless Breed" and "Born in America" rock!
Riot - Born in America (Metal Blade) 1983
1. "Born In America"
"Born in American" features the same line-up as "Restless Breed" with Rhett Forrester on vocals, Mark Reale and Rick Ventura sharing guitar duties, Kip Lemming on bass and Sandy Slavin on drums. Originally released on Quality Records back in 1983, this album was finally reissued on CD by Metal Blade in 1999. "Born In America", in my opinion, is the quintessential Riot CD before their breakup and reformation. This CD just screams 'classic'. Forrester seems to just take command here, turning up the knobs to 11 and cranking out some of the finest heavy metal ever.
Riot - Thundersteel (CBS) 1988
Having grown up in the 80's metal scene, Riot was a name I would constantly see. However, most of these releases eluded me until almost a decade later. Shame, as this CD smokes! Despite the cartoon looking cover, and the glammy, big hair shot on the back of the CD, this is not a glam metal CD. This is pure heavy metal that even touches on speed metal at time. Riot actually broke up in 1984 for a short time, and reformed in 1986 with founding member Mark Reale being the sole original member. Reale recruited vocalist, Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer). (Man, I wish something would have been recorded with Conklin.) Anyow, Harry left the band, and in came Tony Moore, an over-the-top vocalist that studied in the Rob Halford school of heavy metal screaming! (In a small Priest connection, Halford drummer Bobby Jarzombek was part of the Thundersteel line-up.) The first two tracks cannot be labeled anything but speed metal. Fast and furious, these two songs are worth the price of admission alone. The guitar work reminds me of "Painkiller"-era Priest, only this came out two years before "Painkiller". Reale is an innovator, never a copier despite what some have said. It isn't until the fifth song where Riot slow down a bit. However, "On Wings of Eagles" is a great song and isn't wimpy in the slightest. "Run for Your Life" is actually the second Riot song by that name and is completely unrelated to the first song from the "Fire Down Under" album. This may be the best song on here. It is fast, furious, and contains a killer, shredding guitar solo. Reale is an underrated player for sure. The album closes with the epic "The Telltale Heart", which is 9 minutes mid paced heavy metal with a speed metal intensity. Overall, an album that should have kicked down doors in '88, but unfortunately wasn't promoted properly by their label and fell through the cracks proving once again that Riot are one of the unfortunate victims of the big corporations.
Hammerfall covered "Flight of the Warrior" on their "Masterpieces" CD.
Riot - The Privilege of Power (CBS / Epic) 1990
1. "On Your Knees"
Ahh, the forgotten Tony Moore-era Riot album. "Privilege of Power" isn't anywhere near as heavy and powerful as "Thundersteel" but is a good album nonetheless. There is a great variety in songwriting, tempo, and intensity here. One minor complain right off the bat however, what is it with those annoying little interludes between each song? There snippets of nuclear bomb testing, Vietnam war references, and a football game. Is this some sort of theme running on the album? If so, I don't get it. That aside there is some butt-kicking metal on this album. The disc starts off with one of the better songs, "On Your Knees". Oddly enough, however, this song introduces a horn section that is really out in left field. Many felt this didn't work well for the band. I like it. "Metal Soldiers" is more anthemic and sing-along-ish. "Runaway" is a very enjoyable ballad, where Tony Moore proves he has a great voice. "Killer" is another highlight on this album. This tracks brings back the horns, and uses them to complement to the guitar work. Again, I think it works quite well and is rather stunning. "Dance of Death" returns to a "Thundersteel", speed metal approach. "Storming the Gates of Hell" is just a cool, mid-paced heavy metal song and another favorite on this CD. Tony Moore manages to change up his voice on this track, convincingly playing two characters in the song, one male and one female. The last song is "Racing with the Devil on a Spanish Highway" which is an Al DiMeola cover and a totally shredding instrumental. It's a bit jazzy but jams nonetheless. Overall, this is an excellent album with some choice cuts. The snippets are a bit annoying, but the strength of the songs overcome this easily.
Riot - Live In Japan (Metal Blade) 1992
1. "On Your Knees"
Originally released in Japan only. Later it became part of a special 2CD issue of "The Brethren of the Long House" which was only issued in Germany. The live album finally was issued worldwide in the year 2000 through Metal Blade Records, which is the copy I now own.
Riot - Nightbreaker (Rising Sun) 1994
"Nightbreaker" is a stunning album from one of the most under appreciated bands in hard rock/heavy metal history. 1993 was an odd time for heavy metal as it was changing drastically. However, Riot was unapologetic in their traditional heavy metal sound. Without following trends or seeking out experimentation over quality, the band offers eleven songs with plenty of variety yet sounding completely cohesive. There are the heavy rockers like "Soldier" and the speedy title track. "Medicine Man", "Babylon" and "Magic Maker" offer up heavy, mid-paced riffs not unlike what you would expect from classic Riot. "In Your Eyes" is a beautiful ballad that doesn't sound forced or canned. In fact, it's one of my favorite songs on the album, right next to the smokin' Deep Purple cover, "Burn". From what I have read, the song became a semi-hit in Japan. Mark Reale is quite the virtuoso on guitar. Listen to the jaw dropping guitar work on the title track and see if it would raise the eyebrow of the most discerning guitarist. "Nightbreaker" easily ranks as one of Riot's best songs along side "Heavy Metal Machine" and "Swords & Tequila". And speaking of classic Riot, a freshly recorded version of the Reale/Speranza penned "Outlaw" is also included here. Newly acquired vocalist Mike DiMeo, who would go on to sing with Riot for over a decade, is an outstanding vocalist who recalls David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. Top it all with crunchy guitars and a crystal clear production and "Nightbreaker" is easily one of Riot's finest moments. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, "Nightbreaker" was never properly released in the U.S. That is a shame as American metal and hard rock fans are truly missing out.
Riot - Brethren Of The Long House (Metal Blade) 1995
From the primitive metal of "Rock City" and "Narita" to the speed metal of "Thundersteel", Riot have run the gamut of styles. "The Brethren of the Long House" brings that band to a completely new sound; melodic heavy metal. As with any Riot release, expect some stellar guitar work and plenty of memorable melodies. However, what Riot in the 90's offers is something not as harsh and "headbanging" as one would expect from this band. Rather the band has more in common with what Rainbow was doing in the 80's. Mike DiMeo's vocals may be a big part of that comparison. The quality and tone of his vocals remind me of guts like Joe Lynn Turner, and I mean that as a compliment. It's not that he is a clone, but he just has that quality and style. A big highlight of this CD for me is the cover of "Out in the Fields", a song penned by Gary Moore and Phil Lynott. The band stick very close to the original version adding only a bit of their own flavor to the song. Another standout cut is the acoustic ballad "Santa Maria". This song features some very cool Spanish influenced acoustic guitar work. Others are the infectious "Rain" and the blazing instrumental "Last of the Mohicans". I must confess that I miss the days when Riot were a racious, boisterous heavy metal band, however, since those days are come and gone, at least we have a Riot that is still releasing quality rock n roll. My copy of this CD is a 1989 Metal Blade re-issue which contains the added bonus track "Sailor".
Riot - Inishmore (Metal Blade) 1998
1. "Black Water"
"Inishmore" is complete and total Ritchie Blackmore worship. This CD sounds so much like Rainbow at times that it's almost uncanny. The music is quite melodic, the songwriting is strong, the solos shred, and the vocals are strong but to be honest, after several listens I still struggle to remember much of it. "Angel Eyes" is actually one of my favorite tracks following the celtic-influenced opening track "Black Water." Mike DiMeo's vocal style is not like the high singers of Riot's past, but instead has more in common with Joe Lynn Turner and even Graham Bonnet at times. The title track that finishes this CD off, is a emotional ballad with some awe-inspiring guitar work from Riot mainstay Mark Reale. I actually owned and traded this CD several times over the years. Once I started getting a decent Riot collection I finally decided to hold on to a copy and have grown to appreciate this one more over time although I still don't find it quite as inspiring as some of the band's early material or even the follow-up "Sons of Society".
Riot - Shine On (Metal Blade) 1998
Riot captured live on their "Inishmore" tour. Excellent sound quality and a good selection of songs from the newer Riot catalogue. Disappointed that nothing from the Rhett Forrester-era was included. However, even if it were, I am not sure it would have had the same "attitude" that it would have had back in the day. While the newer material on this CD sounds great, the old standards like "Swords & Tequila" and "Warrior" just don't have the same aggression that they once did. That's not to say this album sucks, however. Actually the new material is outstanding. "Shine On" peaked my interest in Riot once again. Shortly after purchasing the live CD I began searching for the rest of Riot's catalogue.
Riot - Sons of Society (Metal Blade) 1999
1. "Snake Charmer"
Yet another stellar melodic metal platter from Mark Reale and Co. This time around 'ol Johnny returns to the cover. However, this is not the Riot of old. "Sons of Society" follows in the footsteps of "Inishmore" with what I would describe as Ritchie Blackmore inspired metal (see "Bad Machine" and see if you don't hear Blackmore in those riffs.) There is plenty of variety here, with some mellower moments, although for the most part this CD rocks. The title track blazes along at an almost speed metal pace. Mike Dimeo has a smooth voice that works so well with the more melodic nature of modern Riot.
Riot - Through the Storm (Metal Blade) 2002
1. "Turn the Tables"
Yet another stellar melodic metal platter from Mark Reale and Company. "Through the Storm" follows in a similar formula to "Inishmore" and "Sons of Society", sounding a bit like Ritchie Blackmore worship. However, I absolutely love this disc. Whereas "Insishmore" took some time to grow on me, "Through the Storm" just grabbed me by the jugular on the first listen. The songs range from the melodic, classic hard rock sound to a slightly more power metal approach. A few songs, like "Chains" and "To My Head" actually have a classic heavy metal vibe. However, nothing on this CD approaches the band's early sound, or even the speed metal of "Thundersteel." "Only You Can Rock Me" is a UFO cover. Excellent choice for a cover IMO. Riot's version sticks pretty close to the original but Reale adds a bit of his own flavor to the guitar solo. I found it a bit odd to put two instrumentals at the end of the disc. I think I would have preferred to have had them mixed in with the other tracks. Of the two instrumentals, I like the original "Isle of Shadows" a bit better than "Here Comes the Sun" which is an acoustic cover of the Beatles classic. If I were looking for something groundbreaking, this CD would have been a disappointment. However, having been familiar with Riot's recent work, I was expecting solid, melodic metal, and that is what they delivered.
Riot - Army of One (Metal Heaven) 2007
1. "Army of One" (4:23)
Originally recorded in 2003 to be the immediate follow-up to "Through the Storm". For whatever reason, "Army of One" wasn't released until 2006 in Japan and then finally in the U.S. in 2007. By the time the album saw the light of day, long time vocalist Mike DiMeo had left the band to join Masterplan. As might be expected, the music on "Army of One" is a continuation of the style to "Through the Storm". My best description of the music would be Ritchie Blackmore/Rainbow inspired, melodic, power metal with outstanding guitar work and quality song writing. It really is a shame that this album wasn't given proper release while DiMeo was still in the band. Quite frankly it's one of Riot's best albums. It's at least as good as "Nightbreaker", which I also count as one of Riot's best.
Riot - Immortal Soul (SPV) 2011