Tuesday, December 12, 2017

(re)discovering the gold mine that is Riot, an American heavy metal treasure

Inishmore (Bonus Edition)
Metal Blade Records
30 June 2017
I wish more supporters of traditional heavy metal would be willing to dig deeper into the vast discography of the national music treasure that is Riot, the American act whose debut album is from 1977. I wish more listeners would discover this band in all its glory and would be enthusiastic about how great the music is and would give in and put their trust in Riot because the band has worked hard on its albums, but not simply because they work hard but because they are so loaded with talent. In addition, they have lots of experience and skills. As a result, you would be in a real bind if you tried to identify an album in which the band is going through the motions. Or I should say: at least for me, for instance, I have listened to this album with a critical ear and tried to find problems with it. I find none.
It makes me wonder if the people that assign mediocrity to this album have really listened to it from start to finish several times. Or, do they make up their minds beforehand because this album is not named Thundersteel? I sense a certain laziness, a certain hurry to judgement on this album, as if some reviewers do not want to give the album the proper time. Maybe someone has told them that only Thundersteel is good. Maybe the reviewers do not like the album artwork. Maybe they wanted a tank robot on the cover. Unfortunately, the lack of depth and the rush to judge are unfair to the album.
Let me tell you something: this album is very good quality all around. It has a good production, the instrumentation is great, the guitars are so good, the riffs, the melodies and the solos, it’s all creative and good and very friendly and pleasant on the ear. The songs are rocking and are easy to remember. However, none of this can possibly be true if one does not listen to the album in its entirety, but let’s come back to the track order in a moment.
For now, let’s turn to the question of questions. Is this singing good? Boy, is it ever! No, it’s not the air raid siren Judas Priest style of Thundersteel, but there is so much more to consider on this point. First, on style: Mike DiMeo’s singing is something along the lines of Paul Rodgers (Bad Company), David Coverdale (Deep Purple, and Whitesnake, the early 80s period before the MTV era) and Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow). It’s a bluesy, soulful singing style that opens up the songs to various tempos, from slower, midtempo to fast rockers, and it all sounds well done. The backing vocals on this album are also done very well and fill out the songs.
Now, let’s talk about song tempos. This is not a speed metal album, but this is not a slow album, either. It’s traditional heavy metal played uptempo and midtempo. It is true that it’s not an album with speedy drumming and lots of the drumming is rocking, but nowhere near the thrash tempos. Here is the track list for the album. Below I will explain a bit more about it.
1.Black Water 02:42
2.Angel Eyes 04:27
3.Liberty 05:08
4.Kings Are Falling 04:33
5.The Man 03:52
6.Watching the Signs 04:35
7.Should I Run 04:40
8.Cry for the Dying 04:39
9.Turning the Hands of Time 05:08
10.15 Rivers 05:18
11.Red Reign 05:27
12.Gypsy 05:20
13.Inishmore (Forsaken Heart) 01:45
14.Inishmore 04:32
15.Danny Boy 03:39
16.15 Rivers (acoustic demo) 03:45
total time 01:09:30
Overall the album is rocking, uptempo and fun, and easy to sing along to, and it is not until the Inishmore trilogy (tracks 13, 14 and 15) that the music goes more midtempo overall. During the trilogy the band sounds like they are taking some traditional Celtic music and working or integrating it in some ways (I do not know; I know nothing about Celtic music). You might think of some Thin Lizzy-like melodies here, or not, depending on your music knowledge/taste. Anyway, this trilogy closes out the album and it winds down the album in a very nice, pleasant way.
What is necessary is for more traditional heavy metal and classic rock supporters to say: “Ok, Riot has existed for a long time. I am going to trust that they know what they are doing and I am going to let the music go where it will go. Let it be what it is.” Riot is no amateurs, Riot is not halfhearted band, and this album is made up of good, memorable songs. I do not get the feeling at all that they just went into the studio and whipped out whatever they could in a jiffy. It doesn’t sound like an album made only for purposes of a contractual obligation.
I recommend it to people who like the sounds of classic heavy metal and classic rock and who want melodic songs that they can remember. It is true that the music sounds older and from a different era. That’s because it is and because it comes from an older tradition of real singing, riffs, melodies and the older sounds/tunings of heavy metal guitar and guitar heroes.

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