Riot are one of those bands that come with the “should have been much bigger” tag, there are distinct periods of Riot’s music that feature heavily with fans around the world, to me five distinct periods exist, mainly around the vocalist in the band at the time. Following on from the momentous ‘Immortal Soul’ album and following the sad loss of founding guitarist Mark Reale, ‘Unleash the Fire’ is the first release not to feature the guitarist, but this also marks a continuation with the full blessing of the fallen guitarists family.
So with the line-up currently, the consistent members of the band (now named Riot V to acknowledge that they could not carry on as Riot without Mark Reale and acknowledging roughly the fifth line up), Riot are now fronted by Todd Michael Hall who has recorded with Jack Starr’s Burning Starr as Tony Moore no longer wanted to continue with music by all accounts. Range and style wise, this is more in the ‘Thundersteel’ era, a track by itself heavily covered by many bands over time (and a live version is included on this release for good measure). The material on ‘Unleash the Fire’ has been mainly written by long-time member Don Van Stavern who started in Riot around that era of the band.
Mixing classic US metal with some power metal means that this is both full of energy and emotive at the same time. ‘Metal Warrior’ is a great crowd pleasing anthem, whilst ‘Fall from the Sky’ has some trademark staccato guitar work that really sets me in god like mode, this is the style I really, really enjoy within music. The title track itself has a cool vocal melody and Mike Flyntz guitar-work is great as he is joined by new guitar partner Nick Lee with the absence of Reale this time around. ‘Immortal Soul’ had a real powerful production. ‘Unleash the Fire’ is in a slightly different vein, it is the more US power metal and so the production suits this style perfectly for what it is…and is therefore just awesome!
The emotive response comes from tracks like ‘Immortal’ and ‘Until We Meet Again’. For the latter, I am sure it’s a tribute to Mark Reale, the lyrics fit so well. Collectively, the majority of the release is filled with full on US metal, and I reference the heavier ‘Kill to Survive’ and the great driving tune ‘Take Me Back’ as a clear benchmark for the adrenaline junkies amongst you.
Making a welcomed return also is their “seal” mascot, named Tior, it’s good to see this reference back on the album covers and on its own, the cover itself is a stunning piece of work. All in all, this is a great sounding release and a definite highlight of the year so far. Riot V certainly bring the metal to the table, ‘Unleash the Fire’ is a fitting continuation of a long standing respected band and for any self-respecting traditional and power metal fan, it is an essential album to buy.
(9/10 Paul Maddison)