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"A streak of lightning is shooting through the air"
How's that for a title? Thought I'd throw that out right away since you really can't go through any of the previous reviews without seeing Judas Priest noted all over them. No, I don't hate Judas Priest, in fact they're among my top favorite bands. But since everyone seems to compare this album to Priest's "Painkiller", I guess I'll just be the first reviewer to simply say: "Thundersteel" defeats it. This unlike "Painkiller" comes out with absolutely nothing holding it back, nothing forcing it into play, no commercialized vibe to be found, this feels completely natural. Its pure class. And as the former reviews noted they must have taken tips from Judas Priest, well look at when Riot started, 1976. These guys are pretty dang old themselves, and I can honestly see more hints leading back to their own stuff such as "Fire Down Below" rather than other bands. But hey! Enough comparisons, this album just simply annihilates everything in sight!
When you look at Riot's genre's here at the archives, you'll see just about everything. "Thundersteel" is when they were pretty much purely speed metal, and probaby had an influence on a lot of power metal as well. The faster songs on here such as the opener and self-titled track "Thundersteel" are blazing fast, and the insane solo's just rip. As most can say, when it comes to technical virtuosity with the guitar work, this is hands down some of Mark Reale's best work. Throughout several songs especially such as "Fight of the Warrior" you'll get some awesome shredding in the background as well, and the leads and solo's themselves are innovative and completely original.
Vocalist Tony Moore is often regarded as one of Riot's finest, if not the best one they ever had. Although his singing style is pretty similar to a lot of other melodic vocalists out there, he has his own texture and vibe to his voice. He comes out so lively and gives so much energy into his singing its nearly incomparable, and there's just not a lot of vocalists who can soar with those high notes as clearly as he does. With the music itself, he fits absolutely perfectly. The lyrics are extremely easy to hear as well. As noted above Mark Reale's guitar work on here is hands down his best, technically, and its extremely unique. Every song has their own distinguished riffs and never tends to sound like something that's been done before. As for the bass, it never really tends to stand out as much as other things here, but its not bad at all. Bobby Jarzombek works the drums perfectly and builds upon the speedy sound that they were going with here. They're fast and as proud as ever. Everyone gives more than 100% here.
The production is probably in the higher B range, or maybe lower A quality. There's a few times where it may be a little hard to hear Tony, or something just doesn't seem right. I've heard a few albums from this time that are better production wise, but really its not that bad at all. No complaints here. Its consistent as well and the quality between songs doesn't jump around thankfully, and each instrument is pretty clear, especially Moore's vocals. It just -could- be perhaps a little better in the end.
There's no argueing there's quite a rock vibe to the music from time to time, something Riot has always been known for. In this case though, its like sped up rock with tracks like "Sign of the Crimson Storm", "On Wings of Eagles" and possibly "Run for your Life". I think the vibe comes off from Mark Reale's writing and guitar playing, but tracks like these are undeniably catchy and Tony Moore's singing is as proud as ever. The more aggressive tracks "Thundersteel", "Fight or Fall" (always been my personal favorite), "Flight of the Warrior" and maybe "Johny's Back" are far more speed metal than the rest, and these tracks are totally destructive in every way. "Bloodstreets" is a slow song that I actually really enjoy, regardless that I can't help but think of the Scorpions when I listen to it, its a sin perhaps. Tony Moore again gives off an incredibly emotional performance with that song and really takes the spot light. The final and longer track "Buried Alive" starts off with one of those generic TV intro's, and then gets into some incredible soft shredding and builds up to quite a monster. A very diverse song and even pretty dark at times. From the beginning and to the end, this album is an unstoppable force. Practically every single track is unforgettable in its own way, with each song being unique and dynamic and jam packed full of power and energy.
In the end, "Thundersteel" is often seen as a speed metal classic, and rightfully so. Its an extremely high calibur album with a natural and effortless feel to it. With no low points at all, you really can't go wrong with this legendary release. Riot's other releases jump around tending to fall into the hard rock genre from time to time, and their newer stuff is way more dynamic than this, but don't turn your back on trying this one out just yet. Its truly something else, and at times a little surprising something like this came from this band. But it did, and man does this album just trample over everything in its path! Recommended to just about any metal fan of any kind.