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Your Fate is Sealed - 70%

Tanuki, March 3rd, 2019

Let's start with the blisteringly obvious; Riot's eleventh studio album needs to be painted on a van, or tattooed on my back. Preferably both. Riot's mascot Tior had been missing in action for nearly a decade, and the decision to bring him back for Sons of Society may lead some to assume this was intended as a "return-to-roots" album. Adding to this theory is the cultist garb; a rather obvious wink toward Riot's own cult following, it would appear. The opposing theory is of course Occam's Razor, and it states an album fronted by Mike DiMeo will sound like every other album fronted by Mike DiMeo.

I let this cat out of the bag in my last Riot review; most DiMeo albums sound similar; a piping-hot serving of acrobatic, power-tinged traditional metal with a procedural approach to songwriting and a talented yet conventional vocalist. There have, however, been a few unique selling points to differentiate each one. Brethren of the Longhouse had a centralized and cohesive theme, Inishmore had beautiful violins and harmonized vocals, Nightbreaker had... uh... And Sons of Society carries with it a streetwise, cocky self-assurance evocative of W.A.S.P., classic Mötley Crüe, and really classic Priest.

The sultry tempo of the bluesy, sun-soaked 'Cover Me' is straight from Rocka Rolla's playbook, complete with relaxed riffing patterns and a rewarding crescendo. The classic US glam metal comparison is slightly less overt, but finds some degree of relevance in most of the album's vigorously paced brawlers. 'Time to Bleed' and 'On the Wings of Life' wouldn't feel out of place in Inside the Electric Circus, while 'Bad Machine' - easily the most well-written song on offer here - is one hundred percent Shout at the Devil. The chorus is massive and anthemic, bursting with energy and profoundly elevated by the harmonized vocals of Tony Harnell, whom you may remember from the glam-come-AOR band TNT.

I'd wager this is all raising red flags. Before you say it, yes, Sons of Society sounds sanded down and oversimplified, and the bids for mainstream relevance are most unwelcome. Some nasty flanger effects somehow snuck into the production room when the title track was being finalized; not exactly sure what DiMeo's voice did to deserve that. In addition, there's some definitive 90's repetition blighting this album; 'Twist of Fate' is the worst offender here, refusing to leave the party and eventually falling asleep on your sofa. A disappointing number of times I found myself waiting impatiently for Reale's marvellous solo to break free from the manufactured "verse-prechorus-chorus-verse" ouroborus, not just in 'Twist of Fate', but 'Promises' and the title track as well.

At least the magnificent soloing always managed to percolate through the cheese, but I'm not comfortable with how frequently Sons of Society relies on this. Overall this is a significant step backwards from Inishmore and represents the first time in a very long while when Reale's songwriting failed to leave a lasting impression on me. That's not to say it's a bogus, filler-stuffed cop-out like Jugulator or Virtual XI, mind you. Frankly, after five studio albums throughout the 90's, I think I'm perfectly safe in saying Riot would never release an album like that. Not even in 2002. And if that does somehow happen, it definitely won't be called Through the Storm.

Tip of the hat for these guys! - 100%

Krodah, April 19th, 2004

For me this album easily ranks among the best in Riot discography.
I can't imagine any hard'n'heavy fan to be indifferent to such exceptional musicianship and songwriting.
The songs here vary from somewhat oriental intro piece, to pure heavy metal songs (On The Wings Of Life, Sons Of Society, Dragonfire, The Law, Time To Bleed, Promises), to songs a little on the hard rock edge (Twist Of Fate, Bad Machine, Cover Me, Queen, Somewhere). On top of all that, superb rhythm section consisting of bassist Pete Perez and drummer Bobby Jarzombek constantly keeps a subtle progressive edge to the album, as they did on previous albums. Don't get me wrong, there aren't any unnecessary odd-time signatures or similar prog antics, they instead create really interesting breaks, both melodically and rhythmically.
They are very well matched by Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz, one of the greatest guitar pairs heavy metal has ever seen, at least in my own humble opinion. Very rare one finds a guitar team in the purest sense of the word, which works together as a unity for the band and not for their self-indulgence. And they can really shred, if they want to...
For the vocalist Mike DiMeo, it's more than enough to say that he was supposed to sing on Deep Purple's "The Battle Rages On" album, but 25th anniversary of the band brought Ian Gillan back and Mike's been gracing Riot with his outstanding and powerful vocals ever since and this record is no exception. Truly ranks among the best hard'n'heavy vocals.

Too bad that this great band is constantly so unrecognized and underrated, if anyone deserved accolades, they are the ones! But still they manage to survive in the cruel music industry world and release such strong albums...
Shine on!