Riot V – Unleash The Fire


Riot founder and guitarist Mark Reale died in 2012 after releasing the consistently engaging Immortal Soul. Under-appreciated for their entire careers, Riot never quite managed to do as well as they should have in the underground credibility sweepstakes. Manilla Road and Virgin Steele have both acquired formidable reputations with the passing of time, and deservedly so too, but Riot has been relegated to a footnote in metal history for the most part.

Like W.A.S.P. and early Manilla Road, Riot spent the early years as a fun-loving hard rock band teetering on the edges of heavy metal, without compromising their knack for tasteful songwriting or acute, insightful storytelling. Greater musical awareness dawned with the classic Thundersteel, no doubt influenced by the heavier, more intense developments in the contemporary metal of the time. Their run since then till the present day contains many undiscovered gems sure to appeal to all lovers of classic heavy metal.

How does one judge an album like Unleash The Fire? Created by those that have survived Reale’s death, and containing no original members, it is a tribute to a fallen comrade whose essence yet permeates all that is contained within it. As opposed to the more extreme strains of metal, everything in this music is geared towards a culmination in the big vocal chorus, new singer Todd Michael Hall recalling the late Guy Speranza’s clean, distilled tones. Riot’s talent, however, has always been to imbue this deterministic course of things with intensely melodic — but never melodramatic — embellishments and minute detours, thus greatly enhancing the overall fabric of songs. A wealth of detail lies hidden within the simplest of chord progressions, allowing the listener to enjoy the moment regardless of general predictability. Picking technique relies on tighter, speed metal chugging for creating and maintaining tension, and conventional, open power chords to convey a sense of epic release. Neoclassical virtuosity finds comfortable home amidst an undeniable individuality that is touched with the harmonic sensitivity of old practitioners like Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, and Iron Maiden.

Albums like this are the reason why it is possible to be optimistic for the future health of metal despite much evidence suggesting that the rot has already set from within. There is a naive, guileless innocence to be found here, refreshingly free of the cynicism that reduces the best among us to surly curmudgeons at times. Unleash The Fire is a well spring of inspiration for all real strains of metal, as disparate as they may feel on the surface, if not always through its cosmetics then most definitely in what it aims to represent.

In its spirit, the way forward for metal can be seen much more clearly, by opening the eye at the back of the head, and keeping steady sight of what has gone before. What may appear as anachronistic or overly sentimental are actually the eternal universals; honour, beauty, pride, a respect for the past and, above all else, the debt to oneself to live up to these notions in the best way possible. These ideas may seem to be out of vogue in a transitory world but that doesn’t make them singular; it only means that they lie buried under the detritus of sensory overload and cultural conditioning, most people being unable to detect them or give them sufficient credence, and, if they do, unwilling to act on them due to conflicting interests. Their embers, however, occupy a perpetually smoldering space in all human consciousness, waiting to be stoked into the fullest of fires. As long as this stays true, heavy metal will endure.

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24 thoughts on “Riot V – Unleash The Fire

  1. hypocrite says:

    What the fuck is that thing on the cover, a ferret?


      That’s actually how your mommy looks in the mornings. Now this is a mindblowing album if you’re into heavy/power metal no two ways about it. The vocalist is the guy from power metal band Reverence which is band comprised of Tokyo Blade and Savatage band members. Here he sings in the style made famous by Riot´s opus Thundersteel back in 1988, the emotional vocals carry the song through a rollercoaster of sentiment a feeling. Riot is an incredible band, their 1981 album Fire Down Under is an underrated slab of powerful American heavy metal.


        Reverence – When Darkness Calls!/album/When+Darkness+Calls/8458951

        1. Jim Nelson says:

          Your mom

      2. neville says:

        Along with Thundersteel and Fire Down Under, Inishmore (1998!) is quite a good album, which made me look into this one, which was released around the time I explored some lesser-known Riot albums. I may have listened to some others from that era… in any case, it’s worth your time to look into Riot – they certainly put out good things through the years.

  2. Lord Mosher says:

    Their early output particularly “Narita” released in 1979 bears a good six heavy metal tunes out of ten songs. The rest is a metal/hard rock hybrid that while well written it may be too much arena rock flavored. Their next album “Fire Down Under” is a classic, with only one or two hard rockish songs. These unsung heroes were making heavy metal before the NWOBHM took over the world and even rivalled with them in intensity and emotion.
    Their 90s material is way too poppish for any metalhead to care but their last two albums “Immortal Soul” and the one reviewed here are trully excellent although you need to let them grow on you.

  3. Loads of Cum Splash my Face says:

    This site has recommended Blitzkrieg, Satan, Cruxiter, Infernal Manes and this time Riot. A few posts back Infernal Manes blew me the fuck away and this time Riot fucken slayed my balls and placed them in my eye sockets!!

    On a different note I don’t get why Bret Stephens praised that Hordes of Zombies album by Terrorizer and dismissed Malevolent Creation’s fourth one, they are practically the same fun for the sake of fun product. The fact that Malevolent is not on the Archives reeks of leftist crowd mentality and tiny penis complex.

    1. Richard Head says:

      Cool opinion bro. What puts MC on the level of the DLA bands? Personally I consider them on the level of the lower-ranking bands but I would like to hear your argument.

      1. Loads of Cum Splash my Face says:

        Well, for starters Bret Stephens placed Malevolent Creation as an example of great Florida death metal on the “styles” page that was available on older and cooler versions of the ANUS with sound samples.

        Second, there was a death metal compilation where he wrote poorly of the band Cancer stating their music was as intelligent as a sandwich but his comments on Malevolent were positive.

        Third, Malevolent were featured with regularity on Bret’s Oration of Disorder radio show. Need say more?

        1. What’s wrong with Malevolent Creation? We reviewed their 1987 demos here:

          On the other hand, they’ve put out about 300 albums since The Ten Commandments which I need to revisit.

        2. Richard Head says:

          Those arguments are based on Steven’s personal history more than the quality of the music itself. No one is above opinion, you know?

          1. Loads of Cum Splash my Face says:

            I agree those arguments are based on Steven’s personal history more than the quality of the music itself but, if you’ve visited Bret’s ANUS before, you’ll begin to notice his personal taste does reflect on the bands that make it to the Archive but more importantly those that do not make it there. The reason why Malevolent Creation is not reviewed on the DLA is not because they are a lesser band as you presume them to be, as Bret’s opinion about them has been mildly favorable but because Malevolent are essentially a speed-death metal band. Anything speed-death metal related that’s not Slayer gets thrown under the bus even if he deems the band worthy of notice.

            1. Richard Head says:

              I’ve noticed that in the way he dismisses Possessed’s “Seven Churches”. Still, a guy can change his mind; ANUS was a long time ago.

            2. Anything speed-death metal related that’s not Slayer gets thrown under the bus even if he deems the band worthy of notice.

              Writers have to make choices about what to focus on. The tendency here is to pursue newer material and the death metal based music (including Slayer, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Bathory and Sodom). Speed metal has its moments.

    2. parasite says:

      Once this site started reviewing deathcore albums and having extreme bias towards the Texas metal scene, I’ve been cautious.

      The anus I know wouldn’t have included so many albums in a best of the year list either.

      1. parasite says:

        Morbus 666 comes to mind as one of those bands. Nobody was listening to that. Let alone 5 years down the road

      2. Our goal here is closer to the radio show: pick likely contenders. The archive itself remains elitist in the purest sense, and even that could use some pruning.

        But what you forget is that we are not islands and not isolated. If we do not communicate about what is going on in the metal scene, IT BECOMES ACCEPTED AS A DE FACTO STANDARD.

        If you put your money where your mouth is, you’d be writing for us twice a week and getting the word out there instead of creating a circular firing squad.

        Consider it. Life happens; we either state our opinions and analysis of it and contribute to the community, or end up in our rooms stoned listening to early death metal releases.

        Which makes more sense?

        If you do not participate, you give license to others to continue doing what they do.

        1. Parasite says:

          May I participate with a “Sadistic Metal Review” of the Blaspherian albums, or perhaps when the new one comes out, write one for that? Unless of course it ‘kicks’ ass..and doesn’t ‘drag’ its ass through that “subterranean” mud-hut city, or where ever this stuff comes from!!?

          I will say you are right about the “firing circle”, it is counter-productive and not something I would like to be labeled as creating. I just have a few questions :

          Why all this #metalgate crap? forget the internet clowns and the “SJW”( im getting sick of seeing those 3 words placed beside each other!!) and just carry on with great Death Metal reviews which is what this blog does best.

          Fuckin A’ get more focused on a radio show, I’d say its been a long time coming for a DMU radio, even if it was just a weekly show. I remember a year or two ago a few people from the forum were getting ready to get at least some writings and recordings down, myself included(Momma always said I had a voice for radio! XD)

          So whats been stopping you guys from making one?

          Another question. Is it necessary to have article updates on albums that are coming out by bands whom this site doesn’t really care about? I’m thinking of Morgoth at the moment

          And one last complaint, no pictures of Justin Bieber on this website!

  4. Jim Nelson says:

    It’s brent Stephens ok jerk?

  5. TheWaters says:

    There is a reason Riot was forgotten. This is generic and unimaginative.

    1. Retard Dectector says:

      No it’s not! And Riot was not forgotten. Forgotten by whom? There are many lesser known heavy metal bands that never made it big but that doesn’t mean they were forgotten. By that logic Blitzkrieg, Satan and even Angel Witch would fall under you quick uneducated dismissal. Get off that meat pogo-stick you luv so much and actually study heavy metal during the 80s.

      Some Riot songs during their first 3 albums have powerful metal songs. Other bands to watch out are: Mythra,Black Axe, Tygers of Pan Tang, Sweet Savage demos, Mistreater, Legend, Pagan Altar, Savage, Spartan Warrior, Kraken, Tokyo Blade, Wildfire and Anvil’s third. All these albums and demos span from 1980-1983.

  6. thewaters says:

    Actually, Satan, Blitzkrieg and Angel Witch have always been considered top notch Heavy Metal acts. Also, being forgotten and not making it are two different things. I would be curious for you to tell me how much education I have metal history, since you know me so well. Once I have that big pogo stick out of my butt we should sit down and have a coffee. YUM!

  7. thewaters says:

    Anvil…now that’s quality……..

  8. mlotek says:

    Like W.A.S.P. and early Manilla Road, Riot spent the early years as a fun-loving hard rock band teetering on the edges of heavy metal
    – William Pilgrim

    Riot’s sound initially started out as straightforward heavy metal

    Riot was Always heavy metal
    – mlotek

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