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Breaking the Night Apart. - 95%

hells_unicorn, January 19th, 2007

Riot is, by default, an underrated and underappreciated band. They’ve overseen 30 years of evolution in the metal genre and have weathered every storm and backlash visited upon metal with such a stalwart vigor that it would make even such true metal acts as Manowar and Virgin Steele humble in their presence. They were at the forefront of the NWOBHM, despite being from New York, and beat both Rainbow and Judas Priest for the prize of composing the first double bass driven speed metal song. But their true power would not be tested until the time in which metal was on the verge of a massive decline, the grunge dominated 1990s.

1994 was the last frail gasp for metal in America, at least in the musical sense. Aside from Dio. Black Sabbath, MegaDeth, and a few others everybody was jumping on the groove bandwagon or diving back into the underground to explore the darker side of music in the Death Metal scene. By contrast, Riot would recruit a new vocalist and pump out a metal classic that rivaled the high octane comeback album “Thundersteel”.

“Nightbreaker” is an unapologetic hold over from the glory days of the 80s traditional metal scene, it has a good sense of variety to it but it doesn’t seek innovation at the cost of quality. You have heavy rock tracks such as “Soldier” and “Medicine Man” which scream early 80s Judas Priest. There is a good collection of slower riff monsters such as “Magic Maker” and “Babylon” that sound like the glory days of acts such as Accept and the Scorpions. Mid-tempo crushers such as “Burn” and “Outlaw” have some interesting surprises to it, the latter having an extended acoustic jam followed by a Van Halen inspired set of riffs, the former going in a Deep Purple/Rainbow direction and highlighting an excellent job by the drummer.

Things get a bit more experimental with “A whiter shade of pale”, which has an anthem-like atmosphere and actually may have been the source of inspiration for Freedom Call’s “The Wanderer” off the Crystal Empire album. “In your eyes” is a somber sounding love ballad with the stereotypical electric piano verses followed by a hard edged chorus, it’s a bit cliché, but it’s still good. The bonus track “Faded Hero” is a sort of epic ballad that has some interesting twists and turns, definitely a highlight of the album.

However, despite the large collection of great songs so far, Riot’s true strength is found in its faster songs. You’ve got a great cooker with an infectiously catchy chorus in “Destiny”, and an equally aggressive yet more politically charged lyrically driven fast track in “Silent Scream”. But the best one of the bunch is the title track, it’s got all of the attributes of the best tracks off of Thundersteel, yet Mike DiMeo’s vocal interpretation is a bit more varied in the range department, while Tony Moore’s vocals tended to stay up in the stratosphere.

In conclusion, this is an album that refused to conform to its time and like the other releases that followed it is consistent in its delivery. If you are cut from the traditional metal fold, this album is definitely a lost treasure worth seeking out. Fans of Power Metal who liked Thundersteel are also encouraged to pick this one up, as are fans of Gamma Ray, Freedom Call, Primal Fear, Iron Savior, Firewind and Falconer. Its production quality is a bit dated and the spirit of the 80s is heavily present, but it is definitely worth the price

Another Very Strong Release From This Metal Powerh - 80%

gunnarvl, April 19th, 2006

It is a pleasure reviewing Riot CD's as one knows the material is going to be very strong due to the bands consistant output of high quality, carefully written music. "Nightbreaker" is no exception. This CD was released in 1994 everywhere except the USA. That is a shame and American metalheads have been deprived of a good one.

The CD boasts possibly the most powerful drum mix I have ever heard. The production quality is utterly amazing; strong, pounding drums, but not compromising the guitar sound at all which is usually the case with huge drum mixes.

"Soldier" gets things going in an uptempo Riot kind of way. The song contains good lyrics and fine singing by Mike DiMeo who's voice soars through this one. "Destiny" is another good song, if perhaps a bit too "happy" sounding for my taste. The band included a fine version of Deep Purple's "Burn" on this CD as well. The title track "Nightbreaker" ranks up there as one of Riots best songs. It is power metal defined. "Medicine Man", "Magic Maker", "I'm On The Run" and "Babylon" are slower but still powerful, showing a more bluesy oriented side of Riot. The band has re-recorded one of their most popular songs from the 1980's, "Outlaw", and the new recording does the song justice, although honestly I prefer the newer speed dominated Riot songs of the late 80's and 90's. My other favorite track on the CD is "Silent Scream". This features a great chorus and ranks up their with Riots best work. If there is a weak spot on the CD is is the ballad "In Your Eyes". While it's well written and well performed, it sounds out of place here. If Riot is going to do a ballad, it would serve them better to make it a power ballad in the vein of old Uli Roth-style Scorpions, ala "In Trance".

Don't let this mild bit of constructive criticism detract you from adding this to your CD collection. Riots "Nightbreaker" is a superior release by a band that has everything: chops, song writing ability, talent, integrity and power. They have been a secret for too long in America. Let's hope they are not a secret much longer. Buy, and you will enjoy.

Underrated and Overlooked - 89%

lonerider, August 19th, 2005

“Nightbreaker” was Riot’s first album with present vocalist Mike Dimeo, and this change did not only affect the vocals, but induced some changes in the songwriting department as well. Gone were Tony Moore’s high-pitched screams, which had contributed their fair share in making 1988’s “Thundersteel” a true classic and one of the best Speed Metal albums to ever emerge from the American scene. Dimeo’s approach to singing is indeed quite different from Moore’s, as he relies much more on mid-ranged vocals that have a certain Hard Rock flavor to them and wouldn’t be totally out of place in a Deep Purple cover band. (Maybe Riot thought likewise when they decided to put a cover of Purple’s “Burn” on the album.)

Probably realizing that piercing shrieks don’t suit Dimeo’s voice very well, Riot boss Mark Reale adjusted his songwriting and wrote a couple of songs that have a definite Hard Rock feel to them. But fear not, oh worshippers of “Thundersteel”: there are still plenty of Speed Metal cuts on “Nightbreaker” that will put you in a spine-wrecking headbanging frenzy, particularly “Silent Scream,” which only slows down for its memorable chorus, and the title song. The latter is also the true standout track of the album and, in my humble opinion, is very reminiscent of and every bit as good as the title track on “Thundersteel.” “Soldier,” kicking the record off in due fashion, is textbook up-tempo Power Metal – despite its slightly goofy lyrics that sound as if they were taken from an Army or Navy commercial (“Join now – Uncle Sam wants you!”) –, and “Babylon” with its insinuations of German Speed Metal would be quite at home on an Edguy or Gamma Ray album.

Luckily, the more Hard Rock-flavored songs on “Nightbreaker” are equally heavy and kick plenty of arse as well, particularly “Magic Maker,” which features a riff in the chorus that is an absolute monster and will have you demolishing your immediate surroundings before you know it! “Burn,” the Deep Purple cover mentioned before, is extremely well executed and has plenty of breathtaking guitar solos impressively demonstrating why Mark Reale is considered a master of his craft. “Outlaw,” a remake of a song which originally appeared on 1981’s “Fire Down Under,” rounds off the album in convincing fashion.

All in all, “Nightbreaker” brings us ten balls-out Metal scorchers that make me wonder why it hardly ever gets mentioned alongside the band’s many other excellent releases. (Let’s better not speak about the throw-away ballad “In Your Eyes,” which is the only serious flaw to be found here.) Complemented by a crystal clear production, “Nightbreaker” is an overlooked gem that has kept me interested ever since I bought it about ten years ago. Just give it a chance and I bet you won’t regret it!

Choicest cuts: “Nightbreaker,” “Magic Maker,” “Silent Scream,” and “Burn”