Saturday, January 6, 2018

Riot reissues (review by MMB)

Shine On (bonus edition)
Metal Blade Records
The discography of the underdog traditional heavy metal band Riot (est. 1975, New York) runs from 1977 through the 1980s, and after some struggles in the mid 80s, the band experienced success in the latter part of the decade. In turn, this success, as modest as it was for a band operating at levels lower than filthy rich international rock stars, set Riot up for a reboot and a tremendous run in the 1990s with founder Mark Reale (R.I.P., 2012) at the helm and with new singer Mike DiMeo, who picked up the Riot microphone in 1992 and stayed for a long time for an important stretch of the band’s recorded output.
More specifically here, what we have is a documentation of the Mike DiMeo-era in 1998 after three albums with said singer upfront. The sound quality is all good, the performances are top notch. Below is the list of the songs. A few observations are in order. The album is very efficient. There is no time wasted with things like drum, bass and guitar solos. There’s no sing-along moments with the crowd. Whether those things happened in the concert is a different story, but on the album there is none of that. Instead, it’s just song after song after song, which is definitely a plus.
They mix the old songs with the new ones seamlessly. The hits and the more recent songs all fit in well. The album features plenty of hits, and it does not feel like a long album and it does not drag at all. As it stands, this album is great and it’s a lot of fun. It’s also important because it captures the energy of the band with Mike DiMeo on vocals at the end of the 1990s. For me, there is nothing to complain about and there’s lots to be pleased about with this quality live album.
1.Black Water 1:47
2.Angel Eyes 4:25
3.Soldier 4:52
4.The Man 4:04
5.Kings Are Falling 4:34
6.Bloodstreets 4:19
7.Watching the Signs (Bonus Track) 4:48
8.Swords and Tequila 3:24
9.Cry for the Dying 4:41
10.Inishmore (Forsaken Heart) 1:42
11.Inishmore 4:29
12.Danny Boy 2:50
13.Liberty 5:18
14.Gypsy 5:13
15.The Last of the Mohicans (Intro) 0:36
16.Glory Calling 6:23
17.Thundersteel 4:03
18.Nightbreaker (Bonus Track) 4:27
19.Outlaw 4:00
20.Warrior 5:45
Through the Storm (bonus edition)
Army of One (bonus edition)
Throughout the 1990s Riot experienced a long period of stability in the vocals department with the unique talents of Mike DiMeo. Both albums find the band moving on to a more blues-based heavy rock sound of heavy metal, as opposed to the festival of speed power metal that some less knowledgeable fans associate with the name Riot. To cut to the chase right away, if a person is dead set on speed, double-kicking near-thrash power metal, then these two titles, which were the last with longtime singer Mike DiMeo, might be a disappointment. To put it another way, the impatient, knee-jerk-reaction listener might not like this sound.
The singing. Mr. DiMeo’s singing has some three qualities: the tones of the blues, the classic rock stylings and the heavy metal singing. When the songs are uptempo, the energy level picks up accordingly to a more metal approach. The uptempo songs also show a basis in 70s classic rock melodic, ear-friendly singing. In addition, DiMeo has the rather unique quality, not often found in metal music and certainly not in 1990s metal music, of bringing a sense of blues sensibilities to the songs. He’s taking his time with the words, with the melody, with the notes, and giving it a personality that is distinctly DiMeo. Sometimes, he adds some seemingly improvised phrases in between the verses. It might be a “yeah” tagged at the end of the word, or an “oh-oh,” or a heavy breathed tone, or an elongated, extended note, or a bunch of other such little details to be noticed with repeated listens.
The instrumentation. These veterans would not be able to play badly even if they tried. They are too proud to turn in mediocre work. They are also too skilled to do it badly. They are experienced enough, essentially, to play various and contrasting moods, tempos and styles all under the name Riot.
The songs. Relax your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Riot is not your servants. They are not going to make all the albums the same. These two albums are not identical. Army of One (2006) picks up the uptempo in heavy metal considerably in comparison to the more midtempo overall vibes of Through the Storm (2002), but paradoxically it is Army of One that has the deepest cuts into the blues sounds. What they have in common is DiMeo’s substantial growing into a confident singer who can do whatever his voice needs to do for Riot in this period.
If these albums are not identical, then why am I reviewing them together? I’m doing that because these are reissues from 2017 and I have taken too long to get to them; because I have already written individual reviews for two other Riot great reissues: Inishmore (1997) and Sons of Society (1999).
The main problem with these albums has been that the reviewers and the old Riot fans have proven themselves to be not ready for the adult contemporary side of Riot. The fans were too young to understand, and have been too impatient to give the music the space it needs to breathe to move within the confines of people’s tastes. Some people wanted the band to stay a pure power metal band, which is ridiculous because the band never was that in the first place considering that their first album is from 1977. The wider gamut of sounds found on these two albums just perplexed too many people who wanted instant gratification. In conclusion, if you want quality musicianship, you really can’t go wrong with these albums or Riot in general. They are not nonstop, pedal-to-the-metal intense works, but they are packed with entertainment music value in traditional metal.

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