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Tame But Still Has A Bit Of A Feral Streak - 76%

CHAIRTHROWER, August 19th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Metal Blade Records

Just like the coy "half-breed" prep school uniform wearing bumpkin on its cover, Riot's Restless Breed is an ambiguous and mysterious specimen indeed. While definitely not the New Yorker's studio highpoint, neither is it cause for merciless brow-beating or alternatively, outright leaps of joy (these are reserved for Riot's debut, 1977's Rock City). Besides, coming on the heels of the rapacious gem which is 1981's Fire Down Under, the poor schmoe representing the Rhett Forrester fronted and ten-tracked offering respectably reeled me in; this is before and after I heard the lackluster Bruce Springsteen evoking head-scratcher which is 1983's Born In America. That said, I happen to dig this release as it possesses its own unique chill-axed chutzpah and charm, the unexpected yet oddly fitting Eric Burdon and The Animals cover "When I Was Young" withstanding.

Now, Forrester's certainly no vocal magician like Guy Speranza, however still contributes largely to Restless Breed's snarky yet sympathetic flair on tracks like opener "Hard Lovin' Man", "C.I.A." and notably top highlight "Loanshark", where (please forgive me!) he even sounds like Bobby Liebling on Pentagram's wonky classic "Lazy Lady" with "Yeah, you know what I'm talking about baby!". Admittedly, this largely influences the fair to good impression I've of him. I especially dig a couple of his debonair overtures on "C.I.A.": "If they should hold me for ransom/ Honey, destroy my tapes as you leave." or how about "I stand around like a stallion/ think I'm too cool/ lot's of money and action/ I don't get fooled." Hence, the aforementioned languid chutzpah! As well, throughout this affair I'm oft reminded of Dio's over-the-top expenditures from tracks such as "L.A. Connection" and "Kill The King". This can only be a good thing (the humdrum topic of the former not withstanding!).

Guitarists Mark Reale and Rick Ventura for their part continue to shine, the former especially lead wise - check out his weather vane spinning chops on the first couple of tracks as well as "Loanshark" - while both supplying rude yet catchy revolving riffs beyond reproach; I especially dig the harder rocking fare for this reason. Bassist Kip Lemming - who on Fire Under Down replaced Jimmy Iommi (Tony's bro) - keeps things afloat with his girth-y, poking bass lines, the likes of which does a fine job of holding down the fort on "C.I.A." for instance. As for lighter fare such as the title track and cover Reale steadily, if not placidly, continues to provide a relaxed Pink Floyd-ish momentum which is nothing to shirk your whiskers at. Forrester, for his part, does a fine job of commanding the chorus to the former, whilst Reale's chill David Gilmour-esque solo - over the backdrop of a mellow "Wish You Were Here" clear guitar progression -, also evokes a distinct mid-70s Judas Priest Rocka Rolla (think "Winter Deceiver") vibe I'm quite fond of, notably when I'm in less of a razzle-dazzle, jangling mood. The same can almost be said about the latter, especially its swiftly deployed (and inducting) triplet guitar riff. The composed, genial leads to this last are also quite welcome, in spite of falling short of past sizzling barn-crashing glee such as "Desperation" and "Warrior".

On "Loanshark" Forrester upholds his sardonic wit with lines such as "I'm a loanshark, does your mother know I'm after you?" and "I'm a loanshark, I'll squeeze what I want from you". In regards to this last, I can't help but think of lemonade but I digress. Lemming's bass and drummer Sandy Slavin's hard-hitting beats continue to thump like a couple of brutalized speed bags. I'm surely hip to this mid-point track thanks to its inherent swing-boogie rhythm and snappy Iommi-ish lead fills/ slack yet trilling guitar solo. That said, I'm hurt by Restless Breed's severely despondent reception thus far.

Onwards, you've got a swarthy thumper of a hip shaker in the slightly whimsical "Loved By You", for which, granted, I can see why a few feathers have been ruffled. In any case, the snazzy Sabbath/ "The Wizard" and JP/ "Cheater" harmonica overtures are a nice touch. In fact, this honky tonk-ish embellishment has always been a hit with me, as it invariably garnishes said tracks with a fun hobo/ yegg, train-hopping atmosphere. Alternatively, I'm not thrilled by the bopping uber-80s sounding pop whimsy which is "Over To You"; suffice to say, even the lackadaisical Black Sabbath track by the same name supplants it. In fact, it's this particular non-sense which prevents Restless Breed from attaining the respectable, B grade, 80% mark. To a lesser extent, this can also be attributed to the slow waltzing yet ill-placed groove of "Showdown" despite somewhat chill crooning leads on Reale's behalf. A decidedly The Cult/ Sheryl Crow-ish "Dream Away" also fails to win prizes as it too feels and sounds like an ill-advised inclusion in spite of it's "Tokyo Rose" like heavier stomping twist. As well, perhaps this track would have worked better as an instrumental, what with an overblown Forrester rapidly losing steam. No offense but I much preferred his earlier, weightier fare.

Thankfully Rick, Kip, Mark and Sydney save the day with the 2.5 minute twanger "Violent Crimes", which also sees Rhett belligerently redeeming himself at the last minute, thus ending Restless Breed on a high note and deserving of its still commendable score. Now that I've fulfilled my earnest mission of somewhat revamping Riot's fourth full-length, I can backtrack a little in order to refuel my base Tior yearnings with the rockarollin' riff fest which is Fire Down Under. Bombs away!

Tired breed - 22%

Felix 1666, December 31st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, High Vaultage Records (Remastered)

Since more than 30 years, "Narita", Riot's second full-length, belongs to my most favourite works in terms of very early metal, because it has a very special charm. Furthermore, I knew that the title track of "Fire Down Under" is among the first speed metal songs that shook the world. And due to whatever reason, already the title of "Restless Breed" and its crude yet atmospheric artwork made me curious. I expected another dose of down-to-earth metal.

Forget it. "Restless Breed" is stumbling down a slippery road that meanders between rock and hard rock. It does not take long until the first words of the opener ("Come on boys... Oooh, are you ready to rock?") make clear that Riot did not intend to record another metal album. Rhett Forrester (R.I.P.), definitely a good singer, but not the right one for a metal band, could not adequately replace cult siren Guy Speranza (R.I.P.). His stupid laughter during "C.I.A.", the emotional whimpering at the beginning of the title track and, to put it more generally, his melodic mainstream approach does not show any signs of metallic passion. No doubt, don't get me wrong: actually a good singer with a vigorous and flexible voice, but I don't think that heavy metal should has ever been his playground.

Yet the entire group is regrettably out of order. To combine a terribly polished cover version ("When I Was Young") with the comparatively heavy - yet expressionless - "Lone Shark" does not make much sense at all. The latter song (and the same goes for the album closer) appears as a sedative injection for their old fans, but this half-baked tune just causes even more trouble. However, the worst is yet to come. Try to enjoy the harmonica solo of the bluesy and overlong "Loved by You", if it is possible for you. My joy of listening was rather small, to say the least. And things don't get better as "Restless Breed" progresses. Harmless lines, designed for the American radio stations, deliver shallow entertainment. The comatose "Showdown", for instance, is highly recommended for people with sleep disturbances.

In its best moments, the album presents fairly acceptable rock sounds, but these moments are rare. The only piece which has a certain fascination is the title track. Despite its kitschy beginning, it develops a shady atmosphere. Its chorus achieves a pretty good level in view of its memorable, melodic yet impulsive design and the entire song grows constantly stronger. Well done, but naturally not enough to push the album on an average level. By the way, needless to say that the production is fully aligned with the musical content. From this follows that the sound avoids any edges and corners. Don't hurt the sensitive ears of the American housewives!

Long story short, "Restless Breed" attacks with the vehemence of a senile ant. All songs go down the drain with the exception of the lonely title track. The album is among these miserable attempts of previously more or less successful bands that "want to take the next step", or, to say it more honestly, that intend to make money at the expense of their musical and personal integrity. It's simply a shame.

Not Bad. - 77%

hells_unicorn, February 11th, 2007

This is one of many older CDs that I managed to pick up used vis-avis the internet with the intent both of gaining a historical perspective on some of my favorite bands and also to see if I could uncover any great songs from the vast amount of forgotten albums. Although it is a fairly decent early rock/metal album, it pales in comparison to the musical relevance and overall entertainment factor to the last 3 full length albums, to speak nothing for the amazing 1980 live album.

The principle problem with this release is a lack of aggressiveness and speed, mixed with an at times ridiculous vocal performance on the part of Rhett Forester, who is actually quite an accomplished singer. Essentially this is the era where Riot decided to tone down the speed and focus on expanding their audience to include the droves that were going to see Glam oriented outfits that had sprung up in the LA scene.

We still have some top notch metal influenced speed tracks on here. “Violent Crimes” has the same fire and fury as such classic speed tracks like “Warrior” and “Narita”, but at times Forester just goes a bit overboard with the vocal rants, which is further amplified with having too much echo effect on it. “When I was young” has a solid galloping line to the verses and a much more polished vocal performance. Who ever said that James Hetfield was the first to write galloping guitar lines that rocked hard obviously never heard of Riot.

Among the better rock tracks on here is the gloomy quasi-ballad title track, definitely one of the better voice performances on here, not to mention a lyrical approach more befitting this style of music. “Loanshark” has some wicked drum and bass work, although the vocal performance once again crosses over into sounding absurd at a few parts. “Hard Loving Man” borrows its riff from the classic opening track of the last album “Swords and Tequilla”, qualifying it as another ancestor to Maiden’s “Two Minutes to Midnight”, although the vocal delivery on this one suffers a bit due to some overdone character acting on the part of Forester.

To fans of Riot not familiar with the early 80s stuff after Guy Speranza left the band, this album is a mix of decent speed and middle of the road rock. Although it’s by no means an awful release, it is definitely something that should be shopped for at a somewhat reduced price, preferably $9 or less. If you liked what you heard on “Rock City”, this one has some remnants of it, although it doesn’t carry the same pioneering status that that album did.