With everything RIOT V has had to endure, it truly is a testament to the power of heavy metal that they are still a band. In the wake of founding member Mark Reale’s death in 2012 no one knew what the future held, but as it happens, guitarist Mike Flyntz hangs out with Mark’s dad a lot, and Mr. Reale urged him to continue the band, to honor his son’s legacy and to keep giving the fans something to rock out to. So with that in mind, Mike and bassist Don Van Stavern set about writing tunes that they felt could be from any time in RIOT’S career. And guess what? They’ve succeeded admirably with Unleash the Fire, out October 28 via Steamhammer/SPV Records.
The disc opens with “Ride Hard Live Free” which is the perfect introduction to Flyntz’s new partner in crime and former guitar student Nick Lee. The two of them proceed to set their fret boards ablaze like it’s 1983 while Van Stavern and returning drummer Frank Gilchriest keep their feet on the gas to keep up with vocalist Todd Michael Hall’s high-pitched wailing. This song, as well as this record, serves as a declaration that this band isn’t fucking going ANYWHERE so you better get used to having them around! “Metal Warriors” is not only one of the best tracks on the record but it made me think of days gone by, and I really think fans old and new will dig it. Plus, Lee does this crazy solo that just makes the song even better. Another one that floored me was “Fall From the Sky”, a galloping tune that Mini-Amps went fucking crazy over in the truck several times this week, so you KNOW that’s a good song, right?
More of a stomping, breaking shit vibe surrounds “Bring the Hammer Down” which is a little more slow and deliberate in its heaviness. Either way the song crushes. Title track “Unleash the Fire” lets Hall drive the train while the band wrecks shop behind him, and I swear when you hear that chorus YOU’LL be singing it for hours on end. Good luck getting it out of your head, because I still haven’t! Believe it or not I got a tremendous THIN LIZZY vibe from “Land of the Rising Sun”, which made me smile because it once again reminded me of a much better time in music. Chunky riffs and heavy hooks abounds on “Kill to Survive” while the straight-ahead riff-rock of “Return of the Outlaw” suggests that you pull up a chair and start doing shots with the band while they size you up as a potential threat.
In an earlier interview Flyntz said he wrote “Take Me Back” while pretending he was in the band during Fire Down Under. Trust me when I tell you this song is perfectly at home alongside those others, ok? The closer “Until We Meet Again” is a tribute to Mark that tugs at the heartstrings and is an unfortunate reminder that a musical voice has been forever silenced. The solos are executed flawlessly; it’s as if the band was hell bent on making sure this was the swan song with which to honor him, and it succeeds on every level. All told I think RIOT V did the right thing by picking up and carrying on. Because Unleash the Fire is an album that is not only a fitting tribute to Mark but also a true testament to the power of Heavy Metal music. I will be cranking the shit out of this record for quite a while, and once you get it so will you!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Metal Warriors”, “Fall From the Sky”, “Bring the Hammer Down”, “Land of the Rising Sun”, “Until We Meet Again”, “Ride Hard Live Free”