On Wednesday, January 26, 2012, the metal world suffered a great loss. Mark Reale, the guitarist, founding member & driving force behind Riot, passed away due to complications from his life-long battle with Crohn’s disease. He had been in a coma for the past two weeks after suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
An official statement from the surviving members of Riot (Tony Moore, Mike Flyntz, Don Van Stavern & Bobby Jarzombek):
“To friends and fans of Mark Reale and Riot, we are deeply saddened to confirm that Mark has lost his battle with a lifelong illness. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated by Mark’s family, friends, and bandmates at this difficult time.”
This is really shocking news to me. I was aware that Mark was suffering from Crohn’s disease and had been hospitalized, but I did not know he actually entered into a coma and had a brain hemorrhage.
His contributions to the world of hard rock & heavy metal are immeasurable in my opinion. Despite Riot’s line-up changes over the years, and the shift in styles from hard rock to NWOBHM to power metal to Celtic influences to southern hard rock to melodic rock, Mark was always the driving force and the one constant.
It was only in the last few years that I got into Riot but I was blown away once I started buying their albums and I quickly acquired the entire catalog. They never released a bad album. Riot’s constant shift in styles was a double-edge sword though. They did so well at playing numerous styles of rock/metal, and I enjoyed the variety, but it probably kept more casual fans at bay and prevented them from ever gaining a large following. Albums like Fire Down Under (universally agreed to be their best), Thundersteel, Born in America, Restless Breed and even last year’s Immortal Soul are absolute CLASSICS.
I do not know where Riot goes from here or if there even is anywhere for them to go. Mark & Riot have soldiered on through various line-up changes and styles since 1975. They’ve even had to deal with two previous deaths. Former vocalist Rhett Forester was killed during a carjacking in 1994 and original vocalist Guy Speranza died of cancer in 2003. With Mark’s passing, there are no more original Riot members left in the band. And to me, Mark was Riot.
Neither Reale nor Riot ever really got the credit or success they deserved. While the loss of Mark is a tragic tale for his fans, friends & family hopefully some good can come out of this and people will be compelled to look back into the Riot catalog and realize just how talented and consistent the man has been since the 1970s.
My condolences to all of Mark’s friends and family during this tough time. Rest in peace, brother. Your suffering is over and I thank you for all the years of great music you gave the world. You will be missed.