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Do you have one ace left up your sleeve? - 90%

Tanuki, March 14th, 2019

I'll always remember Riot. I remember the first time the power metal prophecies of 1977's Rock City blew my mind, and when I first marathoned their entire 90's and 00's catalog, astounded at how well they fared through the dark ages of traditional metal. And I think it's safe to say we all remember our first time with Thundersteel. I have so many memories of the showmanship and the magic of Riot; I'm forever grateful to the band and its humble founder Mark Reale. The world lost a bit of its magic on January 25, 2012, when Mark Reale passed away mere weeks after leaving us with one last gift; the magnificent swan song Immortal Soul.

After Riot's longest-serving vocalist Mike DiMeo left the band, Mark Reale made some calls to see who's still around. And he assembled the league of metal superheroes responsible for one of greatest USPM records in history. Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz were now joined by drummer extraordinaire Bobby Jarzombek, who pulverizes polyrhythms and graces slower tracks like 'Insanity' with a Genesis flood of high-concept fills and creative beats. We've got Don Van Stavern, the bassist, songwriter, and fellow mastermind behind Thundersteel and Privilege of Power... who I think is underutilized in this album, frankly, but I'll get to that later. And last but not least, Tony Moore. Oh my god, Tony Moore.

Moore commanded the mind-boggling falsetto in my favorite Riot albums, and although his range has obviously taken a few knocks since then, his performance throughout Immortal Soul is nothing short of heroic. Soaring harmonies and textured falsetto are catapulted into outer space, particularly throughout the speed metal monsters 'Wings Are for Angels' and 'Riot'. 'Riot' boasts jaw-dropping vocals that couldn't be replicated by most singers half Moore's age, and the bittersweet majesty he ascribes to 'Still Your Man' makes it the worthy sequel to 'Johnny's Back' it was intended to be.

Much like the vocals, every other aspect of Immortal Soul is right on the junction of free-spirited and foamy-mouthed insanity. Most leads and solos you're hearing are actually the handiwork of Mike Flyntz, who delivers everything from potent hooks during chilling power-prog epics like the title track and 'Whiskey Man', to volcanic, burst-fire solos that sound like a cross between Akira Takasaki and Wolf Hoffman's shredcraft. 'Sins of the Father' is the best demonstration of this, beginning as a rapid fusillade of beautifully harmonized shredding but eventually slowing to a more manageable pace, allowing listeners to appreciate every explored backing chord.

Though Immortal Soul boasts superbly varied songwriting - as one should expect from an album attempting to echo Thundersteel - I was a bit disappointed by Van Stavern's lack of screentime. There are no bass intros quite like the iconic 'Johnny's Back', and even tracks like the ominous, Arabian-sounding power ballad 'Crawling' deny any rumbling bass undertones to add to the malaise. On the bright side, the production is nice and beefy, allowing for a good equilibrium of old school treble and some modern bottom end. Considering this was predestined to be a cult classic based on its risk-taking and unorthodox approach to power metal, I consider Immortal Soul a great achievement and one of the shiniest trophies Riot could ever place on their mantel.

The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the tale of a mighty king who sought out the secret to immortality. On his quest, he battled monsters, matched wits with gods, and traveled to the ends of the Earth in search of it. Although he returned home a mortal man, he realized that his magnificent accomplishments will live on forever, long after he's gone. At last he's at peace, as he knows this is the closest thing to immortality anyone can hope for. I'll always remember Riot.

Immortal Legacy - 90%

lonerider, August 2nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2011, CD, Steamhammer

A Riot album featuring essentially the same lineup as the unforgettable Thundersteel, which was arguably the band’s crowning achievement? Well, this could only turn out to be awesome, right? Luckily, the answer is that Immortal Soul is indeed quite awesome and (almost) everything a fan could hope for. After all, it would have been quite a pity had the band screwed this one up, as it unfortunately turned out to be Riot’s last and final album with founding member and guitar hero extraordinaire Mark Reale, who succumbed to complications stemming from Crohn’s disease shortly after its publication. It was probably mentioned in just about every review about this record that Reale leaves a legacy as one of the inventors – maybe even THE inventor – of speed metal, writing songs that could rightfully be called speed metal as early the late seventies, when most everyone else was still playing hard rock or punk. Well, this cannot be mentioned often enough, along with the fact that he was one of the best guitarists to ever grace the metal scene and that his band, Riot, is one of the most consistently good – as well as perpetually underappreciated – metal outfits of all time.

With the aptly titled Immortal Soul, the band added another milestone to their more than impressive catalog, but before we point out why, let’s discuss some of its shortcomings first. Such as ... the cover art, which, as can be expected, is god-awful. Why this can be expected, you ask? Because the majority of Riot albums to date have featured horrendous cover art, so this could almost be considered a charming and long-standing tradition. Then again – a Les Paul guitar rising up from a graveyard? Really? Lord have mercy. The motive may be kind of fitting in light of Mark Reale’s untimely demise, but it’s still horribly clichéd and unoriginal.

Alas, on to more important categories. As far as the music is concerned, there really aren’t a lot of negatives to be brought up. A point could be made that some of the songs or, to be more precise, some of the choruses are so melodic and catchy as to appear almost syrupy sweet, but that’s basically just nitpicking. Heck, some of the songs feature melodies in the pre-chorus that less naturally gifted bands would probably kill for. Another point of criticism is the lack of more truly fast songs, which have always been Riot’s forte and made records like Thundersteel and Privilege of Power the milestones they are. Then again, Riot have never been simply a speed metal band, but a stylistically diverse bunch. Their style is difficult to pinpoint, featuring elements not only of speed metal but also of heavy/power metal and hard rock. (Their very early albums from the late seventies, as well as Restless Breed and Born in America, predominantly qualify as hard/heavy rock.) Regardless of what direction you prefer, Riot generally excel in all of them and do a great job of blending them together.

An asset of Immortal Soul that shouldn’t be overlooked are the intelligent, thoughtful and sometimes hilariously funny lyrics. A track like “Whiskey Man”, with its ironic tongue-in-cheek ramblings about the good ole days, will really put a smile on your face while the title track will make you laugh and wax philosophical at the same time. Taking the cake in that regard (and not only in that regard), however, is album opener “Riot”, a song more than worthy of being the namesake of the band. If you could use but one word to describe this song, it would be this: angry. Following a short melodic intro, this is one seriously fast, thrashing, pissed-off song full of anger, rage and aggression, and these feelings are reflected perfectly by the lyrics, with every word oozing hostility and bitter disillusionment. It’s basically a bilious state of the union address, ripping a government and political system that has made a mockery of the American dream and the democratic principles it was founded upon. At the same time, it’s a refreshing rant that every citizen in any of the post-democratic societies of the western world can easily relate to, as that frustration over being sold and betrayed by a self-serving political class is, after all, a universal one. Moreover, the central question asked, or rather screamed out in the highest notes lead singer Tony Moore is capable of hitting, is a perfectly legitimate one: disenfranchised and exploited by politicians who serve only their own agendas and ideologies instead of the people they are supposed to represent, politicians who couldn’t care less about what the average voter wants and thinks just as long as they dutifully pay their taxes – what else is it gonna take to make YOU riot?! Leaving such musings aside, “Riot” might just be the best song on Immortal Soul, epitomizing everything that speed metal or heavy metal in general is all about.

Other fast songs, albeit with slowed-down and more melodic choruses, include “Insanity” and “Sins of the Father”, both of which are very good, but not quite as spectacular as the opening track. Then there’s “Wings Are for Angels”, which is every bit as blazing and every bit as reminiscent of the band’s glory days and the legendary Thundersteel era. It really is a pleasure to hear Tony Moore screaming at the top of his lungs, and though he doesn’t use the highest registers of his voice quite as often as he did some twenty-odd years earlier, it’s obvious he can still hit all the high notes when he wants to. As good as Moore’s predecessor Mike DiMeo was, it’s safe to say he would not have been a very good fit for much of the material on Immortal Soul. Other particularly noteworthy songs include “Crawl” with its Middle Eastern or oriental guitar theme, the very, ahem, Thundersteely “Still Your Man” – don’t look now, but Johnny’s back again, again –, the riff-heavy yet also ultra-melodic “Believe” and the aforementioned, more hard rocking “Whiskey Man”, the main riff of which strikingly reminds of the one first heard in the song “Babylon” on the band’s criminally underrated 1993 output Nightbreaker.

Combining classic Riot songwriting with punchy production, Tony Moore’s vintage soaring vocals, the virtuoso riffing and soloing of Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz, the solid bass playing by Don van Stavern and the expert drumming by Bobby Jarzombek, who always makes his presence felt no matter which of his many bands he plays for, Immortal Soul is right up there with the best work ever recorded by these genre-defining trailblazers. The reason it doesn’t quite reach Thundersteel levels of awesomeness is that it may be a song or two too long, with the album’s latter half lacking a true standout track and dragging on a little longer than necessary. Nevertheless, it is a lasting testament to the amazing talent of the late Mark Reale, inventor of speed metal and guitar hero extraordinaire. Forever shine on!

Choicest cuts: Riot, Still Your Man, Wings Are for Angels, Immortal Soul, Whiskey Man

Mark Reale's Immortal legacy - 85%

Thorgrim666, February 3rd, 2014

It's very sad to see how happy was Mark Reale with this album and Riot's line-up in late 2011, when he died by surprise only three months later. Now, the title of this album makes more sense than ever. But I'll try to stick to the music itself and avoid any sentimentalism.

Riot is a band that, despite constant line-up and style changes, always maintained a high degree of quality and an identity personified in the guitar of Mark Reale. This reunion with the full "Thundersteel"/"The Privilege of Power" line-up (plus Mike Flyntz) really lives up to the expectations created. It can be true that Tony Moore has lost a bit of his range from the aforementioned albums and that some of the songs lack the instant charisma of "Thundersteel", "Johnny's Back"or "Bloodstreets", but it's hard to imagine a better continuation more than 20 years later.

Since the very first seconds of "Riot" and, specially, "Still Your Man", a sensation of familiarity will suddenly run your spine. The same power metal riffing, Tony Moore's over the top vocals, the impressively skilled and thundering drumming of Bobby Jarzombek, Mark Reale's classic soloing... all of the Riot trademarks are here, in the best tradition of 80's US Power Metal. Certainly there are some modern euro power metal influences spiced in a few songs from the album, but nothing that would take them out of what you'd expect to hear in a Riot album.

"Still Your Man" is insanely catchy, "Wings Are for Angels" is fast as hell, "Fall Before Me" will give you thrills as "Bloodstreets" did in 1988, the opening riff of "Sins of the Father" is the pure essence of heavy metal... I'm not very fond of making track by track reviews, but I promise that "Immortal Soul" is a worthy successor of this band's legacy and now, after how things turned after its release, also a great way of ending a brilliant 35 year career. Shine on Metal Soldiers!

Originally written for Ample Destruction 'zine.

Riot's best - 99%

KilluA, March 11th, 2012

I may be in the minority here, but this surpasses Thundersteel as the best Riot album. Tony's vocals sound just fine and he hasn't lost any of his range. He may not drag the high notes as was done in Thundersteel, but his high vocal range is still present here. The production is quite amazing, it's sounds heavy and crisp, and all instruments can be heard clearly. Quite frankly, it's the opposite to Thundersteel's underground metal-like production. Not that I prefer the new mastering style, but it helps define the high energy present in this album.

The album starts off with "Riot", easily the best song on this album, high speed soaring power metal. My gripe is that this song was placed first and should have been placed later, because the album contains a varied pace. I do think it would have been better to finish the album with a bang. So yes, some songs are better than others, namely I prefer the faster songs like "Wings are for Angels" and "Insanity" but the slower paced songs are quite excellent. Songs like "Crawling" and the title track are examples of quality mid paced heavy metal.

Mark Reale's (RIP) guitarwork has never sounded better than this album. There are quality compositions and both the lead and rhythm guitar's are well done. The bass is quite good and adds a decent body to the music. Particularly, the bass stands out on the slower songs, especially "Immortal Soul". Drums are excellent, and interestingly the drum work is spectacular on the faster paced songs.

I can't remember how long it's been since I've heard a classic band release a modern album that surpasses their classic material. Heathen and Iron Maiden tried, but Riot has released an album that conquers the near perfect Thundersteel.

Willing It Does Not Make It So - 70%

BotD, January 24th, 2012

This album has been getting rave reviews around the net and the score as of this writing equals that of the legendary Thundersteel. Can anyone really say with a straight face that this is on par with Thundersteel? In my opinion this album merely heralds a cessation of the general decline of this band as the last few have been fairly weak. I would likely recommend Nightbreaker through Inishmore (or Fire Down Under) for someone that wants to expand beyond the Tony Moore albums. Just because people want to see the successor to Privilege of Power does not mean that Immortal Soul fits the bill.

Lets start with the supposed catalyst for this return to form, Tony Moore. Tony Moore's vocals have not aged well at all. He doesn't hit the really high notes any more, but this is to be expected. Far more disappointing is how thin his voice sounds. Without the vigor of youth his voice takes on a reedy, slightly annoying characteristic. But metal is littered with plenty of mediocre singers that get by with great material. Sadly, Moore is not on top of his game here. Take for instance the homage to Johnny's Back from Thundersteel, Still Your Man. It cleverly manages to evoke the song with some similar melodies but in my mind it just brings to the fore how much better that song was. On Thundersteel, Moore could carry a song like Johnny's Back and that is, unfortunately, no longer the case.

As for the rest, it's really not that different from what they have been doing for the last few, barring a few exceptions I will get mention later. Crawling is a frank reminder of why this band should never write slow songs. Fall Before Me and Sins of the Father have some decent refrains that sound slightly obnoxious and repetitive when song by Tony Moore, but are otherwise good. The second half of the album is pretty innocuous in general and really cements my opinion that anyone that thinks this is new and exciting for Riot needs to listen to the last few albums. Still, throughout the album the leads and solos are mostly excellent, but this is Riot and they have never disappointed in this arena.

That leaves really two songs that are a cut above anything they have done in a decade. The opener is the blistering speed metal that you can't really mess up and Riot executes it well. Then there is Wings Are For Angels which really does sound like a lost Thundersteel cut. The chorus is the best on the album and draws from the same well as Flight of the Warrior or On Wings of Eagles. I would pay good money to use a time machine and have a young Tony Moore sing this song as that is really the only thing missing.

So again I must repeat that this is not Thundersteel 2 or anything approaching that. It is however their best album since Inishmore and that is coming from a fan of the DiMeo era.

"Immortal" Riot! - 94%

bayern, December 2nd, 2011

The dream Riot line-up is back together, and one would inevitably start dreaming of the coveted, finally worthy, follow-up to "Privilege of Power", to put an end to the mythical trilogy in the band's career, left unfinished early in the 90's due to Tommy Moore's untimely departure. While the others have kept themselves in a relatively good shape, releasing albums more or less regularly with Riot and other acts, Moore himself could raise some doubts, the man having taken a prolonged absence from the music scene eversince his leaving Riot, except for the one album he made with the heavy/power metal act Faith and Fire (also featuring the Riot guitarist Mike Flyntz) in 2006, although that band's laid-back style doesn't require (the band is still active) any striking vocal pyrotechnics.

Well, all fears should be left aside once the opening "Riot" hits, seeing Moore in a great shape handling all registers with dexterity last witnessed on the aforementioned "Privilege of Power". That same track is a smashing speedster, which will make some of you look for tissues and handkerchiefs, with nostalgic memories of the title-track from the grandiose "Thundersteel". One could hardly think of a better beginning for this effort, and later on there are quite a few numbers which reach that intensity: the very next galloping delight "Still Your Man"; the sweeping speed metal classic "Wings Are For Angels" with "echoes" of "Storming the Gates of Hell"; the fiery proto-thrasher "Sins of the Father"; the "eagle fly free" hymn "Insanity"; the uplifting power/speed metal closer "Echoes". The balance is seamlessly achieved with the other, more laid-back, side reflected in awesome heavy/power metal anthems, like "Crawling", "Immortal Soul", "Whiskey Man", and last, but not least, the very good ballad "Fall Before Me", which is not exactly "Runaway", but is still a compulsive listen all the way with the memorable chorus and the jumpy rhythm.

Mike Reale has seldom sounded so inspired; his performance is simply amazing: soulful, lyrical, melodic, aggressive, chuggy, funky, you name it. His gorgeous leads alone can easily throw half the musicians from the Shrapnel catalogue out of the window on any rainy day. Moore is almost as convincing as he was back in the good old days, although it's obvious that his delivery would not be as adventurous, and he would not risk his voice too often in the very high parametres; at least not until his vocal bravado from the old days comes back fully. So, does this so hotly anticipated album fulfill the expectations? By all means, and goes even beyond that. Not only does it sound like the most logical continuation to "Privilege of Power", but it also gives such a huge breath of fresh air to the classic heavy/power metal scene, that it makes all the recent newcomers (Enforcer, Sabaton, Portrait, etc.) sound like mere apprentices.

Since the other veterans (Iron Maiden keep repeating their over-ambitious progressive infatuations to very mixed impressions; Judas Priest are in such a creative cul-de-sac since Halford's return, that even a conceptual work built around the trendy at present Mayan prophecies would not help them much at the moment; and Scorpions said firm "no" to heavy metal with their more recent albums) were not able to restore the "father of all metal genres" to its glorious status from the past, here come one of the "underdogs" of the old scene to do that in flying colours.

This is the good old heavy/power/speed metal, plain and simple, done exactly the way we all love it, and will continue to love it. So let's turn up the volume, let's try to hold those tears of nostalgy for the times when we were a "restless breed", let's raise the pints high, and let our sons and daughters hear what once made our days brighter than an August sun. Cheers!

The rioting spirit of metal reforged! - 97%

hells_unicorn, November 14th, 2011

Historically speaking, Riot is a very curious phenomenon, in almost equal significance as that of Manilla Road, though perhaps a bit more accessible musically. Their birth in the 1970s as more of a mainline hard rock act with a few proto-speed metal elements made them a curious foil to the likes of Judas Priest and Motorhead, both of which dabbled in a similar musical aesthetic, though vocally they were a bit more ahead of their time. Particularly of note is that Riot inadvertently stumbled into the now commonly emulated style of power/speed metal about 1 year before the two aforementioned bands, and Rainbow did. But the Riot that most tend to know is a very different beast than it's earlier incarnation, in much the same respect that Judas Priest was after "Painkiller" when comparing them to their own late 70s works.

The Riot of today is, to put it simply, the Riot of "Thundersteel", a wicked yet irresistibly catchy mixture of orthodox 80s heavy metal and high speeding fury. With the exception of Michael Flyntz, who joined the band for the near equally vicious follow up to their 1988 classic "The Privilege Of Power", this is actually the exact same line up, together and cutting heads like it's 1992 and the band had never gone through any further personnel changes. The only noteworthy update is a greater production clarity that comes with improved digital recording equipment, which mercifully avoids all of the compressed excesses of many mainline acts in this day and age. This is an album that could have been put together in the early 1990s, and for all intents and purposes, should have been.

Amid the solid mixture of melodic anthems and blistering riff monsters that make up "Immortal Soul" is an ingenious level of sophistication and nuance that is reflective of the band's age and experience, yet much more consistent with their younger days than the recent offerings out of Priest and Maiden. With the powerful mid-tempo cruisers that are "Fall Before Me" and "Insanity" is a familiar set of elongated, harmonized lead guitar sections that rest in a comfortable middle ground between the singing restraint of "Somewhere In Time" and the elaborate virtuosity of "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Pts. 1 & 2". It's on the songs where Mark Reale shows his ability to be a melodic player as well as a shredder, and where Tony Moore shows that he can sing with a restrained, tuneful character rather than simply soaring in the Halford stratosphere all day.

Nevertheless, those junkies out there who want speed and aggression need not fret at the prospect of another collection of half-hearted mid-tempo rockers in the mold of "Through The Storm". This is equally possessed of the goodies that were on full display circa 1988, spearheaded by a havoc driven opener titled after the album, which rivals the famed title song that first introduced us to the Tony Moore era of the band. Likewise, "Still Your Man" (bringing back another familiar character named Johnny), "Wings Are For Angels", "Sins Of The Father" and the closer "Echoes" bring the frenetic guitar work, soaring banshee wails and double bass driven drumming with a vengeance, leaving all but nothing to be desired in its wake.

It might be a hex to get my hopes up too much, but what the world of American heavy metal needs right now is a good 2 or 3 albums of this same caliber out of this band to help get things back on track. This is the original power metal, forged in the late 70s and not yet married to either the soft keyboard aesthetic of the Euro scene, nor the nastier aspects that eventually morphed it into the more extreme sub-genres. Sometimes the way to go forward is to get back to basics, and Mark Reale and the rest of this New York born colossus make no secret of where they come from. Recommended to anybody who likes metal, no exceptions.

Another raving Riot review - 93%

Empyreal, November 7th, 2011

I’m not too familiar with the works of old 80s stalwarts and legends Riot, having only heard a few albums, but this is just fucking AWESOME. Melodic metal by way of the gods. Reunited with their classic Thundersteel singer Tony Moore, the band put out a whole album of excellent intricate, classy and melodic heavy metal that I just can’t stop playing. It just got into my head and wouldn’t leave. Argh! But onto the review.

Riot’s hard rock roots are always in evidence here, but leavened with a healthy dose of pumped up metal, complete with dazzling leads and super-hooky choruses. The lyrics are great – witty, well written and intelligent, and Tony Moore delivers them with the wide-eyed enthusiasm that can only be described as a pure love for metal. The attention to melodic detail is really amazing, and every song utilizes a combination of rhythmic hooks and vocal lines that sync up into the catchiest tunes you’ll hear all year.

One thing I really like about this is Tony Moore himself, and although I’ve already said a little about him, let me elaborate – his vocals on this album are grade-A amazing. He doesn’t sound like he’s 20 anymore and his voice isn’t as sleek as it used to be, but he works with what he has and varies a lot between high pitched shrieks and a more relaxed mid-range that just rules. There’s just a really innocent, peppy way he sings the vocal lines on here that just works, and you can tell he really put his whole self into this performance. Not that the rest of the band didn’t, though – one reason this is so awesome is that it sounds on fire with passion. Not really a quantifiable criteria, as different things will sound passionate to different people, but really I think it’s hard to argue with the sheer iron will of Immortal Soul.

Pretty much every song is a standout on this thing, from the high speed opener “Riot” to the anthem “Still Your Man” and the Egyptian-style riffs of “Crawling.” “Wings Are For Angels” blows the speakers with its careening tempo and screaming chorus. “Whiskey Man” is a clear winner of a song with its bluesy guitar lines and down-to-Earth hooks, and the title track rules too, with cool lyrics and a hypnotic, syncopated groove. “Insanity” possibly has my favorite lyrics on the whole album. But it’s “Fall Before Me” that really comes out as the greatest track on offer, with its huge, emotive chorus and slow-burning patriotic marching feel. Just a really great song.

Really I don’t have a whole lot left to say about Immortal Soul besides ‘BUY IT!’ The band is on fire and the album is chock full of some of the best metal you’ll hear all year. It’s really rare that a band this old comes out with an album that hits this hard, but Riot have done what many people considered highly unlikely at best. And we love them all the more for it. Go hear this album; it’s worth your time if you like any kind of melodic metal. One of the year’s standouts.

Originally written for

The Art of Rioting - 97%

GuntherTheUndying, November 3rd, 2011

"Immortal Soul" is a milestone of all sorts; it is a sophisticated effort based on the time and patience of Riot, not just a wonderful collection of masterful tunes. The album marks five years since "Army of One" and is the group's fourteenth full-length record overall, but that’s not all! It is also Tony Moore's first appearance on a Riot album since "Privilege of Power" which was released eighteen years prior to the "Immortal Soul" reunion, and let's not forget the biggest achievement of all: Mark Reale had an image of what would become one of heavy metal's greatest all-time leaders thirty-six years before this monumental accomplishment. "Immortal Soul" simply represents everything that rules about Riot from its explosive opener to the final thrills of the concluding "Echoes," and it even has the girth to compete against Riot's seminal "Thundersteel" and the classic "Privilege of Power" as well.

I'm trying not to carelessly gush over this, but it is awesome; there is no denying that. The prime factor with this album has been the complete reunion of Riot's Thundersteel-era lineup, marking the return of vocalist Tony Moore, bassist Don Van Stavern, and drummer Bobby Jarzombek alongside Reale and longtime shredder Mike Flyntz. You know that feeling when you get together with a bunch of old friends and suddenly all the good times and jokes come rushing in like a flooded river, almost like there was never a prolonged period of inactivity in the first place? Yea, that's "Immortal Soul" in a nutshell. The fire, fury and electricity of "Thundersteel" and "Privilege of Power" immediately open the record with a dazzling display of kinetic speed metal that bites and gnarls like a rabid wolf. The sheer energy throughout "Riot" heaves phenomenal riffs and performances all around the table; Tony Moore sounds natural and pristine, Reale and Flyntz shred in a melodic maze of stellar guitar work, and Van Stavern and Jarzombek blaze by the steel inferno faster than the speed of light.

Thankfully, the blistering power and complete dominance shown by the album's opener both live on a number of the tracks and course throughout the magical journey of metallic might that is "Immortal Soul." There are breaks between the periodic cuts that directly remind this listener of "Thundersteel," or sometimes other seminal Riot offerings which often appear in a rocking stage of traditional metal; "Crawling" or the title track , for example, add a different shade of strength, but overall the mid-tempo songs are sensationally written and performed on a majestic level. "Insanity" and the zapping "Whiskey Man" strut into Riot's multiple masks with an edge of perfection; it's almost scary how good they are no matter what they do. Riot never runs low on excellent guitar work, and Moore sounds fantastic, arguably his best vocal performance ever.

So, the legacy of the Thundersteel-era lineup lives on within "Immortal Soul," almost like Moore and the other dudes never left at all. But the album emerged through those years of absence with a force often undetected in the work of metal's veterans, who usually end up dropping sluggish, irrelevant material; Riot lives only to defy the norm. These guys have truly created a special release, and I really can't recommend it enough. "Immortal Soul" is a masterpiece thirty-six years in the making, and it will undeniably go down as one of Riot's finest albums and one of the best reunions the metal world has ever known. Johnny is back, and with a burning vengeance!

This review was written for:

What's it gonna take to make you RIOT!? - 90%

Metal_Detector, November 3rd, 2011

Among the endless onslaught of spectacular releases in the year 1988, an already well-traveled American hard rock band named Riot suddenly unleashed upon the world the unstoppable speed metal feast that was Thundersteel. Combining furious riffing, fast-as-light soloing, and Tony Moore's over the top, Halford-defying vocal performance, this masterpiece has been considered one of the very finest in the entire genre since its release. Its 1990 followup The Privilege of Power featured similarly superb songwriting but was largely botched by overlong, superfluous intros. This lineup disbanded and Riot went back to playing its old, bluesy style again. Ever since, however, many fans have wanted to see this group get back together and produce more music in a speed metal vein. Well, in 2011, that exact scenario has happened and Immortal Soul is the spectacular product.

Those expecting a dead on Thundersteel Mk. II shouldn't. Though there are a few balls out speed romps, Immortal Soul is also full of songs that take the mid-paced route, but that doesn't harm Riot's effectiveness to deliver simple, unforgettable melodies and choruses in the slightest. Tony Moore's commanding lead vocals certainly don't hurt a bit; he manages to give off this cool, slick charisma while throwing powerful high notes into the stratosphere. Sounding even better with layered background parts, Immortal Soul just might capture Moore at his best. The riffs are no slouch, either, no matter what the speed with which they are played. Just check the title track, "Echoes" or the classic throwback "Still Your Man" (Johnny's back, anyone?) for tunes that kill without kicking into maximum overdrive.

Oh yeah, the band still proves it still can put the pedal to the metal, too. Immortal Soul comes blitzing out of the starting gate with the band's eponymous song, a tactic that can feel cheesy and forced if executed improperly. This, however, is perfect. The song goes for the throat with blinding velocity, practically screaming, "Riot's fucking back and we're not taking shit from anyone." What's it gonna take to make you riot, Moore screams/asks? Well, this is what the fuck it takes to make me riot. "Fall Before Me" pursues a more developed approach, astonishing with its highly catchy, emotive chorus. Straightforward rockers like "Wings Are for Angels" and "Sins of the Father" lay contemporary melodic metal bands to waste, and this is a squad that's been taking no prisoners for 35 years. The jubilant "Insanity" gives off a Euro power vibe with its soaring major harmonies.

On the lighter front, "Whiskey Man" provides some amusing bluesy variation without distracting from the rest of the work. Speaking of distractions, don't let that overly computerized, gaudy cover art dissuade you; Immortal Soul is an instant classic in the making. There's not a single loser among these eleven anthems, even though it feels as if one could be omitted to ease the flow and cut down on the length of the album. Then again, I was raised on a 'ten tracks, no more' mindset for albums of this nature, so I could be biased. Nonetheless, Riot's latest is a must for anyone starved for quality American power or speed metal, and it goes without saying that fans of the band (especially of the Moore era) must hear this right away. I can only hope this lineup keeps producing even more great music for us to feast upon.


Johnny's still your man. Riot's still your band. - 78%

autothrall, October 31st, 2011

New York legends Riot have always been a damned consistent band regardless of who was steering at the helm, but I have to admit a partiality to the years of Tony Moore's vocals, in which Mark Reale developed a more potent, power metal style to support all of that shrieking and wailing. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of their older works like Fire Down Under and Restless Breed, and I'm even into some of their calmer melodic speed/trad stuff throughout the past decade (Inishmore, Sons of Society, etc), but Thundersteel? Come on...Thundersteel. That was fucking awesome, and naturally I have always privately pined for a return to that epic crusade of air raid overtures which is one of the finest USPM records I own.

Well, with Moore now firmly in the fold for the 14th full-length Immortal Soul, I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that this would finally be the case, and Riot themselves seem well aware of such expectations, so the album is decidedly self-referential. "Riot" is no "Thundersteel", but it's a great use of the band's namesake to fuel a faster paced assortment of melodic speed licks and a chorus that seems so obvious that you wonder why they hadn't written it before. Reale and his six-string ally Mike Flyntz are on fire throughout, providing not only a skilled lead segment but lots of flighty fast-picking through the verses, and it's arguably the most 'power metal' that the veterans have felt in a very long time. "Still Your Man" resurrects the character of Johnny to create a spiritual successor anthem to "Johnny's Back" from Thundersteel, and there are lots of other pieces like "Sins of the Father" and "Believe" which just explode out of the speakers, ready made to thrill power metal aficionados on both sides of the pond.

But it's not all speed and bluster, for Riot still include a lot of their bluesy, hard-rock based fare like "Whiskey Man" and the groovier title track. There are no real power ballads here, which I am thankful for; about the closest you'll get is the intro to "Crawling", but in general the album favors its more lethal, fast paced content to the slower, rocking exceptions. Is Moore in such a fine shape as he was in the late 80s? Often, his vocals here are so shrill and piercing that they seem to lose their definition, and his lines are not so memorable as a Thundersteel or Privilege of Power, but at least he still has the range to probably shatter glass, and some of these songs are such spectacles of lightning that you'll hardly have time to concern yourself that he's a fraction rusty. As for skin basher Jarzombek...he's Jarzombek, and gives nothing less than his best, even if this is far from his most experimental and technical outlet.

With stock, clean production aesthetics, lots of glossy anthems and impeccable musicians that breathe this material reflexively as it if were air, this album easily blazes past its predecessors Army of One and Through the Storm in quality. I wouldn't deem it flawless, as a few of the songs are clearly a lot more fun than others and Moore feels a little shaky, and I really don't care for the lyrics. But one thing can be certain: Riot still matters. 36 years deep in career, most bands only WISH they could sound like this, but Mark Reale lives it. Just compare this to the newer Judas Priest abominations of the past year. Or Iron Maiden's latest, forgettable fare. Exactly.