Riot V – Unleash the Fire
Buy the album
1. Ride Hard Live Free
2. Metal Warrior
3. Fall From the Sky
4. Bring the Hammer Down
5. Unleash the Fire
6. Land of the Rising Sun
7. Kill to Survive
8. Return of the Outlaw
10. Take Me Back
11. Fight Fight Fight
12. Until We Meet Again
Todd Michael Hall – Vocals
Mike Flyntz – Guitar
Nick Lee- Guitar
Don Van Stavern – Bass
Frank Gilchriest – Drums
Bruno Ravel, Joshua Black & Riot V
After the unfortunate passing of Riot founder/lead guitarist Mark Reale in 2012, Riot called it a day… temporarily. In 2013, longtime Riot band members guitarist Mike Flyntz, bassist Don Van Stavern and drummer Bobby Jarzombek announced the formation of an off-shoot band called Riot V with the purpose of keeping Mark’s music alive in concert as well as recording new studio music. This was done with the blessing of Mark’s family.
The “V”, I assume, is in reference to the 2010s being the fifth decade of Riot’s existence. I’ve read elsewhere that it’s because this is the fifth line-up of the band but that’s ridiculous and absolutely not true. This band gives Black Sabbath a run for their money with line-up changes… and probably beats them!
After some touring, by the time Riot V got around to recording new material, Bobby Jarzombek was out of the band and in his place is Virgin Steele drummer, Frank Gilchriest, who previously played in Riot from 2003 – 2007. Longtime on again/off again Riot vocalist Tony Moore chose not (or was not asked) to partake in Riot V. In his place is vocalist Todd Michael Hall. Hall does a fantastic job and sounds similar to Tony Moore, which helps this album retain it’s classic Riot sound. As much as I would have loved for Tony and Bobby to remain in this group, Hall and Gilchriest are more than able to step in for them.
So how does Unleash the Fire fare in comparison to Riot’s catalog? Quite well. While Riot always stayed within the realm of hard rock and heavy metal, they took a few twists and turns. With Immortal Soul and Unleash the Fire, it seems like the idea has been to get back the band’s traditional metal roots. Even the title of them album seems like a nod to the band’s 1981 classic Fire Down Under, while there’s also a sequel to that album’s “Outlaw” in the form of Unleash the Fire‘s “Return of the Outlaw”.
As much as I liked Immortal Soul, I think Unleash the Fire may be a bit better. It has more of that classic ’80s melodic power metal sound that Riot had in their glory days. Like a lot of Riot fans, I use Thundersteel as the measuring stick (although I know there are many who would say Fire Down Under). Unleash the Fire does a good job of capturing both eras, even if the heaviest moments here aren’t as heavy as some of the Judas Priest Painkiller-like moments found on Thundersteel.
There’s a couple of songs that are obvious tributes to Mark Reale — “Immortal” and “Until We Meet Again” (and “Land of the Rising Sun” sounds like the band was trying to do Maiden). Even the album art features a nod to Mark Reale with a street sign. While we unfortunately do not have that gifted and severely underrated songwriter/guitarist with us anymore, Riot V is carrying on the legacy of Mark Reale and Riot in grand fashion.
Any fan of Riot should be able to appreciate this album. Despite losing the founding member and lead creative force of the group, Unleash the Fire still sounds like Riot. For myself, and like when I listen to many of Riot’s releases, this album takes me back to a simpler time and headspace. Anytime an album can do that for you, it’s a win.
Highlights: “Ride Hard Live Free”, “Fall from the Sky”, “Unleash the Fire”, “Land of the Rising Sun”, “Immortal”, “Take Me Back”, “Until We Meet Again”