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Riot - Army Of One (CD)

Army Of One
by Grigoris Chronis at 08 September 2006, 6:38 PM

Mark Reale can as well be one of the most underrated guitarists/composers of all time in the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal universe. How many times this specific comment has been posted at a Riot-related article/topic, I wonder. It's a shame - and a protest - for Riot to behold a somehow retro/obscure 'image' in the eyes of today's youth. Yes, Thundersteel (1987, Epic) kicks ass but there has been no 'weak' release from this New York city-based band in all these 30(!) years of career.
Brief historical facts are essential in this review: Riot was founded in 1976 by guitarist Mark Reale. Guy Speranza (vocals), LA Kouvaris (guitars), Jimmy Iommi (bass) and Peter Bitelli  (drums) completed the lineup at that time (the lineup has changed for more than a dozen of times till today, I know add). 1977 and 1979 did mark the band's two first efforts, Rock City (on the petite Fire Sign label) and Narita (Capitol grabbed them at first sight). Heavy Metal anthems (of that time) - a Metal 'version' of Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Rainbow - did both albums present; tunes like Warrior, Rock City, Tokyo Rose and Roadracin' are still fave live cuts for Riot. 1981 marks an even better release, Fire down Under (now on Elektra). Swords And Tequilla along with Outlaw and the same titled opus are still eternal 'classic' Hard & Heavy (at least) songs.
It was time, though, for the wonderful 'dirty' voice of Guy Speranza to leave the band. Another 'outlaw' - Rhett Forrester - stepped in and Restless Breed (1982, Elektra) along with Born In America (1983, Grand Slamm) did prove to be slightly more 'bluesy' in regards to the three first straightforward albums. Still, tunes like Restless Breed, Showdown and You Bun In Me did instantly establish themselves as Riot 'classics'. There the first part of the Riot History comes to an end; the band had achieved - in six years - to perform live with the likes of AC/DC, Molly Hatchett, Sammy Hagar, Kiss, Rush, Scorpions, Whitesnake,  (plus the first edition of the legendary Monsters Of Rock festival in Great Britain during 1980).
After a 'break' in Riot's 'deeds', Reale tried - unsuccessfully - to built up a self-titled project and eventually stepped in the reincarnation of Riot. Inking deal with the CBS/Epic label, it was not until 1988 that the World of Metal music did see a revamped Riot lineup - now featuring Tony Moore (unbelievable vocals!), Don VanStavern (unbelievable bass, ex-S.A. Slayer) and Bobby Jarzombek (unbelievable drums, ex-Juggernaut) - releasing a 'shocking' album called Thundersteel! Honestly, a thunder of steel is what the album's all about. Power Metal the 'authentic' way, with neckbreaking cuts like Thundersteel, Johnny's Back, Bloodstreets (an anthem from past times) and Flight Of The Warrior. 1990's The Priviledge Of Power was of the same taste, even if the continuous interludes between songs were a little bit 'over the edge'. Still, Riot were back in business for good! But it was time for Heavy Metal music to be 'outta business' for the major labels…
Nightbreaker (1994, Rising Sun/Metal Blade) was next to follow (from now on with Mike Dimeo on vocals) and it was a semi-return to the late 70's (songwriting) roots. A German tour with Jag Panzer, Metal Church and Vicious Rumors (what a billing!) never occurred and - shortly afterwards - John Macaluso replaced Jarzombek behind the kit. 1996's The Brethren Of The Long House revealed another aspect of Riot's music, now dealing with the concept of American natives. A brilliant release that was (as well) not fairly promoted. Signing to the Metal Blade label now, Inishmore (1988) featured Bobby Jarzombek back on drums. It also featured - along with the band's next releases, Sons Of Society (1999) and Through The Storm (2002) - brilliant pieces of hardrockin' Metal tunes such as Angel Eyes, Kings Are Falling, On The Wings Of life, Twist Of Fate, Turn The Tables and Chains. Phew…That's a lot. 2006 finds Riot 'unleashing' their first studio album in four years. Mark Reale's consciousness is the 'ace' from the beginning. To expand:
Army Of One opens up the album in a Thundersteel-isque mode, with Dimeo performing ass-kicking hardrockin' vocals. A set of wonderful harmonies, furious different tempo soloing by Reale and thunderous 'backing' bass lines.
Knocking At My Door is supported by a 'crawling' double-bass groove, with Dimeo delivering passionate vocals ala Joe Lynn Turner or Lou Gramm. A real Hard Rock track, in the vein of 'minor'  Van Halen or 'powerful' 70s Foreigner.
Blined is 'filtered' with the Sons Of Society blend. Mid-tempo, a wonderful solo bridge and beautiful drumming are the 'key' facts.
One More Alibi stands tall in a 'traveling' mid-tempo groove. Reale provides nice senitmental chords while Dimeo's singing 'approach' reminds me of Rhett Forrester in the band's early 80s creations. A nice 'hook' chorus is added here.
It All Falls Down is marked by the ghost of (80s) Rainbow. Again, Dimeo delivers passionate singing while the smart 'sharp' drum groove is of special importance.
Helping Hand 'smells' America. Carrying the same vibe like It All Falls Down, an 'esoteric' bridge presents the 'soft' side of Riot.
The Mystic starts off with a thunderous guitar riff, rapidly to be transformed into a Kill The King-meets-Angel Eyes mix. It could - as well - be used as the album's opening tune, to put you in the picture.
Still Alive is listed in the It All Falls Down/ Helping Hand category. Rather typical, it surely is of good taste anyway.
Alive In The City: New York City at its best. Indisputably out of the Restless Breed album, this song is essential for playing around in the city at night. A 'retro' 80s cut.
Shine is backed up by string arrangements, giving a 'confession' tint due to Dimeo's singing. A rather weird - not typical Riot - song, it can 'win' you at last.
Stained Mirror'; an instrumental interlude that marks great leads by Reale, supported by beautiful keyboards. Does Don Airey perform in this one (gottcha, you old-school…)?
Darker Side Of Light wraps up the 'normal' issue of the album, featuring a vast mid-tempo guitar riff that initially reminded me of a Neil Young's Keep On Rocking In A Free World cover take. A live-friendly tune, I'd personally put this cut in the middle of the track list to give more 'shinning' to it.
The Japanese edition of the album features a nice '98 Japan-live version of the Roadracin' classic. The album is due to also be released in Europe via the Metal Heaven label, while no info is yet available for the US. Anyway - and any issue - Army Of One honestly carries on the tradition of post-'Tony Moore era' Riot releasing dissent albums, a fine mix of 'archetypal' Hard Rock and 'classic' Heavy Metal music. If you are a Riot fan, no need to be afraid. For the rest: getting this album will help you start 'digging' the band's discography. There, you'll realize how much of the Hard & Heavy history (globally) has to do with Riot the last thirty years.

3 Star Rating

Army Of One         
Knockin At My Door       
One More Alibi       
It All Falls Down       
Helping Hand       
The Mystic       
Still Alive       
Alive In The City       
Stained Mirrors       
Dark Side Of Light       
Road Racin' (Live)
Mark Reale - Guitars
Mike Flyntz - Guitars
Mike Dimeo - Vocals
Pete Perez - Bass
Frank Gilchriest - Drums
Record Label: Toshiba - EMI


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