Released: 2011, SPV
I’ve been a Riot fan for many, many years. My two favorite albums are THUNDERSTEEL (1988) and PRIVILEGE OF POWER (1990). Admittedly, these are the two dark horse albums in the bands extensive and revered catalogue, now 14 albums deep. Founder, main-man and guitarist Mark Reale in the past has said that he was ‘going through his Malmsteen phase’ for those two albums. It certainly showed because those two albums are the fastest, heaviest in the bands career. Shortly after Riot returned to their classic Metal sound for the next six albums. I’d always hoped deep down they would do another really killer, heavy, fast album but as the years turned to decades I felt deep down it would never happen. I certainly wasn’t unhappy with the high quality of the albums in the intervening 20 years (1991-2011) but I always carried this whimsical sense of, “What if… one day…Riot made another album that could rival the power, the glory and majesty of THUNDERSTEEL?”
When Reale announced in 2009 the new album AND the return of Tony Moore (the vocalist of THUNDERSTEEL and PRIVILIEGE OF POWER) I was optimistic, but also realistic knowing that 20 years is a long time. Voices age, fingers slow down and as the years creep by it seems to get harder and harder for veteran bands to recapture the glory sound or style. There are many, many examples of bands who have proudly stated, “This is a return to our classic sound’ or bold statements to that effect, only to release an album that is sub-par. I’ve been burned so many times, hoping veteran bands could re-create the sound I wanted to hear that over the years, that I’ve developed a sense of quiet resignation and acceptance that, most of the time, you can’t go back. However, you always cling to the hope that one day it could happen.
Click here to read Marko and Jarno’s excellent interview with Mark Reale conducting in July 2009: http://www.metal-rules.com/zine/content/view/1713/83/
A couple of years crept by, news would leak out that the THUNDERSTEEL-era line-up had reunited, song-writing was going was going well, recordings were going well, but I never dared to hope...to dream….
Well, the fateful day finally arrived and I got the new Riot album IMMORTAL SOUL. Would I be disappointed like so many times before? No. I have three words. THUNDERSTEEL PART TWO!! IMMORTAL SOUL has instantly catapulted into my Top Three favourite Riot albums of all time. This is an incredible album start to finish and is guaranteed a spot in my Top 3 of 2011. It almost goes without saying that this is the fastest, heaviest album the band has done since 1988. Yeah, sure I might be living in the past babbling on about ‘the good ol’ days’ and THUNDERSTEEL…but damn, this album just absolutely kills with raging power. It’s certainly a complete clone of THUNDERSTEEL, down to the production, delivery, song-writing, even some of the drum fills, Moore’s vocal phrasing, the lyrics, everything is a step back in time AND their most accomplished album in two decades. Let that sink in fer a sec. Two decades! I would rank IMMORTAL SOULS as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Metal. No lie.
This album has everything, melody, speed, power and top-notch performances. Reale hasn’t shredded like this in years. Moore has not, I repeat, not lost any of his vocal range and power. Some of the notes he hits are unreal. Jarzombek, a monster drummer in any band, puts on a drum-clinic with fills and flair that go above and beyond the standard power Metal double-kick attack. The album has 11 songs and a brief instrumental interlude for 53 minutes of awesomeness. The songs are all so unbelievably catchy. After one single listen, the songs ‘Insanity’, ‘Wings Are For Angels’ and the lead-off cut ‘Still Your Man’ were permanently fused into my memory bank. It’s stunning how good this album is, I never expected something this good in a million years.
Man, I should cut it off here before this review degenerates into a rambling, gushing, fan-boy, love-letter that wipes out my journalistic credibility! If you aren’t familiar with Riot this would be a great introduction to the band. If you are like me, and for years have been hoping for a return to form, you got it. Suffice to say IMMORTAL SOULS is a very strong contender for my album of the year.