In a year that has seen quite few releases by big name bands in hard rock and heavy metal, there is one new album that should not get lost in the shuffle. Unleash the Fire by Riot V is that album.
Anyone who has watched, listened or for that matter read anything that Eddie Trunk has done has to be familiar with the band Riot. It was Eddie's passion for Riot that inspired me to check them out, and for that I give him a big thanks.
Riot is a woefully underrated band that in its 35 plus year career is now releasing its fifteenth album. During their history there have been multiple band member changes, but guitarist Mark Reale had been there through it all. With his premature passing in 2012, just after the release of the Immortal Soul album, I thought Riot had run its course. To my pleasant surprise, late last year I read that bassist Don Van Stavern and guitarist Mike Flyntz announced that with the blessing of Mark's father Tony they were going to carry on. The Reale family asked that the name change, so with the addition of the new vocalist Todd Michael Hall, the fifth recording singer in the bands recording history, we get Riot V. The rest of the band consists of drummer Frank Gilchriest and one time Mike Flintz guitar student Nick Lee.
So is Unleash the Fire a tribute album or is it a stand alone release of a new band? I think it is both. The first four tracks are excellent power metal songs that could have been on Riots monumental first power metal release, 1988's Thundersteel. The fifth cut is the the title track and where the band veers off the power metal formula and goes in a more straight heavy metal direction. This is a great song and makes a statement; this is a fresh band that has something to say. Land of the Rising Sun is next, and could be my favorite song. To me this song is not only a thank you to their fans, but cleverly mixes into the lyrics references past Riot songs and band history, very well done! Kill to Survive keeps the rapid pace going and then we come to Return of the Outlaw. This song seems to me to be the sister song to the Riot staple Outlaw. This song takes me back to that era but is also delivered with such swagger and confidence that will make the hair on your arm stand up! Immortal is the next track, and it is the first of two heart felt tributes to Mark Reale. The other is the last cut on the album, Until We Meet Again. Sandwiched between those two songs are the very heavy metal Take Me Back and the power metal Fight Fight Fight, and both are solid tracks.
For my taste, there is not a bad song on this album; the musicianship is top notch throughout. The band member who steals the show is singer Todd Michael Hall. I have no idea why this guy is not a household name, after all he has been in and out of bands since the late eighties. Apart from his four octave range, his voice is so strong and clear as he goes up and down the scales. The sense of melody in these songs is fantastic. If each song is worth one point, then I rate this album a 10 out of 12. Do yourself a favor and buy this record!