Riot - Immortal soul 4.5/5
2. Still your man
4. Wings are for angels
5. Fall before me
6. Sins of the father
8. Immortal soul
10. Whiskey Man
13. Johnny’s back (live)
14. Metal warriors (live)
The 14th CD from the enduring New York metallers is a return to their greatest, “Thunderous” glory, and an outstanding CD in its own right. It is essential for those who love a pure, American power metal sound, and even better for those that loved 'Thundersteel' the first time around.
Riot has a history rivaling all but the longest running bands out there, stretching back 35 years, including 2 deceased vocalists, and having veered between hard rock and straight forward metal. For many of us, the pinnacle of their worthy career was 1988's 'Thundersteel', with the addition of vocalist Tony Moore, an almost too-good-to-be-true CD, which, as hinted at by its title, delivered one of the purest and best examples of American “power metal” ever. It combined blazing speed, complete polish and precision and superb production, high-pitched vocals, and an incredible sense of melody and great songwriting. It was followed by Moore’s only other CD with the band (until this year), 'The privilege of power', a decidedly oddly structured and uneven CD that was disappointing to many. But despite a couple bizarre tracks (“Killer”, with its now infamous horns) and a host of time consuming sound effects, those who passed up on that CD still missed out on some superb metal, with the insightful “On your knees”, and the mind-blowing “Dance of death”, still one of the greatest metal songs ever written. Moore left the band and was replaced by Mike DeMeo, who recorded 6 CDs with the band over 13 years - high quality output that never quite the brief metal ascendancy of Thundersteel.
With all that said about the past, 'Immortal soul' is a magnificent, inspiring CD that brings together all that was great about Moore’s earlier tenure with the band, and will not disappoint fans of that earlier glorious work. For those who weren’t on the ride the first time around, fans of impassioned, clear, high potency and high pitched metal should love this, and, while power metal has exploded in terms of bands and availability, this type of American flavored, straightforward melodic metal with speed is not a highly represented sub-sub-genre. But if you love the best representations of Kiske/Hansen-era Helloween, Stratovarius, and fast Judas Priest mixed together, this CD is something you have to hear.
Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz return with their ever magnificent guitar work, well into their 2nd decade playing together, and it is better than you’ve ever heard. Listen to the blistering solo of impeccably precise notes on the CD’s scorching opener, “Riot”, and you will stand amazed. The relentless theme is for all the impressive speed on display, song after song, riff after riff, and lead after lead are crafted of such exquisite melodies that they are an instant joy. Don Van Stavern keeps up with the surging pace through ridiculous bass playing, while drummer Bobby Jarzombek, lately of Fates Warning/Arch-Matheos, provides a crystal clear staccato assault through the speed and melody of the CD. And yes, he earns a special place in 2011 by playing on both of its 2 best CDs, both of which in different ways recapture the glory of the late-80s, and this journey is far more direct.
Tony Moore’s paint blistering, high-pitched vocals are the finishing touches to the band’s return to sound, and he sounds amazingly good, not only hitting those vocal histrionics, but conveying tremendous emotion throughout the well crafted, instantly engaging and highly memorable songs. These songs are getting more and more firmly wedged in my mind and heart.
While those who hear this band for the first time on this CD will more than get their money’s worth, and no nostalgia is necessary to find it magnificent, there seems to be an emotional feedback for those that loved these CDs the first time around that the band captures, especially with its lyrics. Time is of course a lens enhancing emotion in our memories, and all that we’ve been through in our collective lives since then, and all the metal under the bridge. “Still your man” is a sequel to “Johnny’s Back” from Thundersteel (a live version of which appears as a bonus on this CD), and hearing Moore sing:
“Here's to the thunder, remember the screams
Of a thousand times twenty they call your name
No one's forgotten, they carry the flame”
... in a way far exceeds the typical metal praises we hear much more often these days, and, simply, takes me back and lifts me forward.
Just an outstanding CD of polished, magnificently written metal, this is one that should not be missed.
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