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Under the Radar: Riot (Part 2, 1986-present)
Resurrecting Riot (1985-1986)
Depending on who you ask, Riot either dissolved in 1984 or guitarist Mark Reale decided to keep the Riot name on the back burner. Reale moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1985 to form a new band or two: S.A. Slayer and Narita. By 1986, Reale went back to using the Riot name. However the line-up was slightly different. Reale reunited with drummer Sandy Slavin and also hired bassist Don Van Stavern. Initially, Reale recruited Harry Conklin to be the band's lead singer. When Conklin left, Reale was able to have Rhett Forrester rejoin the band for a brief time in 1986 (a concert of this line-up does exist, as a bootleg recording of a concert has gone around on the Web).
The "Thundersteel" Line-Up
Tony Moore- lead vocals
Mark Reale- guitar
Mike Flyntz- guitar (joined after the release of Thundersteel)
Don Van Stavern- bass
Bobby Jarzombek- drums
Also worth noting: Drummer Mark Edwards played on some of the tracks on Thundersteel before Jarzombek joined.
The Tony Moore Years, aka the Thundersteel Line-Up (1988-1992)
In the end, Forrester would leave again and Slavin followed suite. They were replace by Tony Moore and Bobby Jarzombek. This line-up would become the new Riot band.
The band's 1988 comeback, Thundersteel, is a powerful album. However, some Riot fans don't care for it as it's different musically compared to the first five albums. These fans have a point: there is a change in the sound. The first five Riot albums leaned more towards a hard rock sound while Thundersteel (as well as most of the band's catalog after it) lean more toward a heavy metal sound. Nevertheless,Thundersteel still has the spirit of a Riot album. With the exception of Fire Down Under, Thundersteel is the other album that was their closest thing to a hit.
The album opens with the speed metal sound of the title track. Moore is a great singer throughout the album, screaming like a banshee. The power metal-like "Bloodstreets" became a minor hit thanks to its accompanying music video while Stavern's bass-playing skills are solid throughout "Johnny's Back." The lyrical content has also changed: while the first five albums consisted of songs that were mostly about partying and women, the songs on Thundersteel deal more with mythical and fantasy themes. This can be heard on songs such as "Sign of the Crimson Storm" and "On Wings of Eagles." Overall, Thundersteel might have a different sound but it still manages to be a great metal album.
When the band went on tour for the album in 1988, guitarist Mike Flyntz was added to the band. It's a job that Flyntz still carries to this day.
In 1990, Riot followed up Thundersteel with what might be their most experimental album: The Privilege of Power. Unlike the albums before it, Privilege revolves around the concept of society and politics. Throughout the album, you can hear the sounds of news reports from TV and TV static. "On Your Knees" serves as the album's opener, which is followed by the anthem-driven "Metal Soldiers." While there are some melodic songs ("Runaway" and "Maryanne"), Riot play some of their heaviest and fastest work on this album with songs such as "Dance of Death," "Storming the Gates of Hell," and "Black Leather and Glittering Steel." Singer Joe Lynn Turner guests on "Killer," a song about convicted murderer Jeffrey R. MacDonald. While it is different, The Privilege of Power is an impressive album coming from Riot.
In 1991, Stavern left the band. A year later, Moore would follow.
Line-ups during this time
Mike DiMeo- lead vocals
Mark Reale- guitar
Mike Flyntz- guitar
Pete Perez- bass
Bobby Jarzombek- drums
John Malcusco- drums (for Brethren)
Bobby Rondinelli- drums (for Storm)
Frank Gilchriest- drums (for Army)
The Mike DiMeo Years (1992-2006)
After the departures of Stavern and Moore, Real recruited two new members: singer Mike DiMeo and bassist Pete Perez. Aside from Jarzombek's absence on one album, this line up of Riot would prove to be one of their longest lasting. As for DiMeo, he would sing on the next six studio albums by Riot.
This is where I start to lack material by Riot. I will try to go through each album that I don't own based on what I know (who's playing on it, any themes, etc.)
DiMeo's first album, 1993's Nightbreaker, could be seen as Riot's attempt to get back to their sound during the Guy Speranza years. While that might not be the case for each song on here, some of the songs on here do sound like Guy could've sung them. "Soldier" opens up the album with strong lyrics and hard rocking guitar riffs while the title track has features impressive pounding on the skins from Jarzombek. "Silent Scream" is an anthem while "Babylon" has a strong chorus. There's also a re-recording of "Outlaw" on here, which is slower than its predecessor.
On paper, The Brethren of the Long House is the kind of album that could flop- especially coming from a hard rock band: how do you make an album about the Native Americans? However, this isn't the case for Riot: the 1996 album is a surprisingly strong album with great rockers and meaningful slower songs. The thunderous "Glory Calling" gets you right into the album while "Wounded Heart" is wonderfully melodic. There are quite a number of slower songs, but they are all very strong. Of them, "Rain" and "Santa Maria" are my favorites (the latter is said to have inspired the album artwork).
Inishmore was released in 1998. This was the band's Irish album, which sees the band taking on songs such as "Danny Boy." Of the songs, "Angel Eyes" is the one I'm most familiar with as it's also on a live album that came out not too long after called Shine On. This was followed by 1999's Sons of Society. 2002's Through the Storm had a different drummer (Bobby Rondinelli) while 2006's Army of One was the band's last with DiMeo.
DiMeo was replaced by singer Mike Tirelli. Tirelli was in the band for a year or two and didn't record an album with the band.
The Thundersteel Line-Up Reunion (2008-2012)
In 2008, the Thundersteel line-up reunited and soon went on tour. With this, the band started writing new material. In late 2009, Tony Moore had announced he left the band. His departure wouldn't be for very long as Moore rejoined the band the following year. In 2011, Riot released Immortal Soul.
Two decades after recording The Privilege of Power, the Thundersteel era line-up of Riot returned in 2011 with Immortal Soul. It's a heavy album, reminiscent of the work from the Thundersteel album. The band are in fine form and the production is strong too. "Still Your Man" is lyrically the sequel to "Johnny's Back" while "Wings Are For Angels" has Moore screaming like a banshee. There's the Maiden-riddled title track and the surprisingly old-school Riot sounding "Whiskey Man." Overall, Immortal Soul is an impressive reunion album.
On January 13, 2012, Mark Reale was rushed to a hospital in San Antonio, Texas due to complications from Crohn's disease. Reale has been battling with the disease for almost his entire life. In a public statement, the band also admitted that most of the guitar parts on Immortal Soul were recorded by Flyntz as Reale was not feeling well enough to record them. With Reale in Intensive Care, the rest of the band had no choice but to perform without Reale for a few shows- including that year's 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise. A week later, Reale slipped into a coma.
On January 25, 2012, Mark Reale passed away. He was 56 years old. With Reale's passing, the band was left with no original members. Reale's death put the band in limbo for a while
Riot V is...
Todd Michael Hall- lead vocals
Mike Flyntz- guitar
Nick Lee- guitar
Don Van Stavern- bass
Frank Gilchriest- drums
Riot V (2013-present)
After Mark Reale died in early 2012, it seemed as if the band was done given Reale was the sole original member. Not much was reported on the band, with the occasional Facebook post about one of the members. Sometime around 2012, it was announced that the band were writing new material. It was revealed that it wasn't known whether it would be new music from Riot or a new project all together. In 2013, Tony Moore left the band once more while Bobby Jarzombek was contractually committed to play gigs for progressive metal band Fates Warning. This left guitarist Mike Flyntz and bassist Don Van Stavern the last two members of the group. At the same time, Flyntz and Stavern were also caring for Reale's father, who was left without any family (Reale's mother had predecessor her son a few years before). With the blessing of Reale's father, Riot would reform but under a new name.
Later in 2013, it was revealed the new band was called Riot V. The "V" represents the "fifth era" of Riot in terms of lead singers (the first four being Speranza, Forresterr, Moore and DiMeo). Flyntz and Stavern were joined by Army of One drummer Frank Gilchriest and guitarist Nick Lee- one of Flyntz's guitar students. Singer Todd Michael Hall was chosen as the band's new frontman, now being the fifth (sixth or seventh if you include Harry Conklin and Mike Tirelli) lead singer for Riot. The band toured throughout 2014 and by the fall, the band had a new studio album.
Riot V performing "Warrior" with former Riot guitarist Lou Kouvaris (2015)
Unleash the Fire is a heavy and heartfelt tribute to the late Mark Reale. While Reale doesn't play on the album, the guitar riffs and melodies used throughout Riot's career are very much alive on this album. "Metal Warrior" is the band's next anthem while "Land of the Rising Sun" is a song dedicated to Riot's rabid fanbase in Japan. "Return of the Outlaw" serves as the sequel to "Outlaw" from Fire Down Under and "Take Me Back" is a nostalgic trip down memory lane for fans of old-school Riot. It is also worth mentioning that the lyrics in the songs cleverly reference to older songs from Riot's career. There's so many, even I don't think I've been able to spot them all out. As for Todd Michael Hall, he is amazing. Hall is able to pull off all of the songs, tackling each song from each era in the band's long career.
As of 2015, Riot V are still going- paying tribute to the late Mark Reale and his music.
These two articles are dedicated in the memories of...
Mark Reale (1955-2012)
Guy Speranza (1956-2003)
Rhett Forresterr (1956-1994)
Do you like Riot? Favorite album? Song? Ever seen them live?
Whatever the case may be, leave a comment in the comment section below.
Thank you for reading and SHINE ON!