For a traditional/power metal band Riot is rather nebulous. There’s all the different eras, sound changes, the vast amount of lineup changes of all instruments, and then there’s the name change from Riot to “Riot V” (whatever that means), and people seem to have strong opinions about all of that. For me my money is on the fucking phenomenal Thudersteel which is a power metal classic, but is also an anomaly for the band as they’ve never really made an album that sounded like Thundersteel ever again. Even the follow up, The Privilege of Power, that consists of much of the same lineup was lacking in comparison. I’ve never wanted to hold a band to just one album, despite how amazing it is, but was always intimidated to jump into their discography for all the previous mentioned reasons but Metal Blade just reissued and remastered some later, mid era albums so this is as good a time as any to finally take that Riot plunge.
Well, it’s not Thundersteel, but let’s not be hasty. It’s still pretty good. They’re back to a more traditional, heavy metal sound on this one. A lot of the power metal elements are more subdued, or used sparingly, but it’s still a fairly powerful album, even the cheese-a-riffic ballad “Cover Me.” It’s kind of that straight to it, no fucking around power metal. Reminds me a lot of later era Dio or earlier Grand Magus. Vocalist Todd Michael Hall, who probably had the longest stretch as vocalist for the band, has a commanding voice, if not exceptionally remarkable, but perfect for this kind of metal and some Dio-ish qualities there. The songs all go on like this, cool melodies and riffs, solos, and good vocals. They’re catchy, they’re “hard rocking” and just a lot of fun.
This came out in 1999 when metal was at it’s lowest and playing a stripped down traditional infused style of metal must have been like being invaded by aliens but Riot sticks to it and fucking kills it. No, I don’t think it matches Thundersteel, but I won’t hold that against it.