CD Review: Riot V – Unleash The Fire

CD Review: Riot V – Unleash The Fire
All Access Rating: A-

Riot V - Unleash The Fire 2014
There is life after Mark Reale for the rest of Riot. When Reale, the band's driving force, died in 2012, it appeared that was it for the scrappy hard-rock underdogs, Riot having written its final chapter with 2001's critically acclaimed reunion album Immortal Soul.

Urged by Reale himself, as well as his estate, to carry on in his absence, the remaining members have reconvened as Riot V, picking the pieces to roar back to life with the Steamhammer/SPV effort Unleash The Fire. With bassist Don Van Stavern handling much of the songwriting and guitarist Mike Flyntz assisting in the album's creation, Riot V – also featuring Todd Michael Hall belting out vocals, plus drummer Frank Gilchriest and shredder Nick Lee on guitar – has risen from the ashes, molding and shaping a record that's more than just a throwback to Riot's glorious past.

Unleash The Fire has everything a fan of Riot could want, from its electrically charged riffs to its soaring melodies, gripping hooks and distinctively sculpted dual-guitar leads. Intense and gripping, the gnarled "Kill To Survive," a pounding title track and the striking "Bring the Hammer Down" are surprisingly visceral, somehow managing to recapture the raw excitement of Riot's best work. And yet they pale in comparison to the thrilling barrage of riffs that make the action-packed "Return of the Outlaw" an absolute corker of a track.

A touching and emotional ballad that, without resorting to cliched sentimentality, honors Riot V's fallen leader, "Immortal" offers a testament to Reale's enduring artistry, his dedication to his craft and his stubborn refusal to give up on Riot, even when it seemed all was lost. There's little time for mourning, however, as the dazzling hooks and streaming guitars of "Land of the Rising Sun" light up the darkness, betraying the stylized pop-metal sensibilities of the song's creators.

Unleash The Fire is classic Riot, but because it harkens back to the days of Thundersteel and carries the flag for traditional metal, Riot V could be accused of simply retracing their steps. Such criticism is unwarranted. There is a freshness and vitality to this material that's undeniable, and they deliver it with passion and superb execution, the well-coordinated guitar attacks, in particular, mapped out with an ear for melody and a thirst for power. There is plenty of fire left in Riot V's belly.
– Peter Lindblad

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