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The Privilege of Being Deafened by Thunder - 97%

bayern, June 9th, 2017

“Thundersteel” had such a seismic impact on the scene that Mark Reale (R.I.P.) and Co. really had to try hard to sound relevant after it. And they did, on all counts, on the album reviewed here, only that vestiges of this mythical “thunderstorm” were still in the air not giving too many chances for other sounds to break through. Which is sad cause the guys did a great job virtually producing the most logical follow-up to their magnum opus (all these years), and arguably the second finest chapter in their discography.

It was 1990, new musical tastes were looming on the horizon, things had to start changing more or less, and our “rebels” had decided to add several film and news samples to their hard-hitting power/speed metal formula… and that’s pretty much it in terms of difference from the preceding offering excluding a couple of friendlier heavy rockers. Tony Moore is as outstanding as ever behind the mike his glass-shattering siren beating everyone from Rob Halford to Bruce Dickinson, and beyond; and Reale shoots some of his most inspired guitar pyrotechnics into the aether. In other words, there’s literally nothing to complain about here… except for those non-music additives which are especially annoying at the beginning. I remember I couldn’t fast them forward on the cassette recorder since there was no actual pause between them and the superseding songs so I had to experience them in all their irritating buzz, more or less.

Anyway, once “On Your Knees” begins everything will be forgiven the guys unleashing speed metal hell worthy of Helloween and Angel Dust the keyboard applications a slightly debatable condiment. “Metal Soldiers” is exactly what the title suggests, the definitive heavy metal hymn, a sing-alonger second to none with a huge hit potential. Mentioning hits, one simply can’t get enough of them here as “Killers” is another MTV candidate, a bit kitschier and poppier with some saxophone tunes springing up, but effective and memorable nonetheless. The speed metal fury from the start becomes a fading memory, and “Runaway” doesn’t help much along the aggression scale, but again one has to forgive the guys for producing one of the ten best ballads in metal history, an absolute stunner both vocal and music-wise, and arguably the band’s most famous number. A beastly vortex gets stirred mid-way as the headbangers’ prayers are answered as 7.5-min of the finest speed metal this side of later-period Helstar has been stirred on “Dance of Death” (more of a “dance of fury”, if you ask me), a symphony of riffs, leads and thunderous rhythm-sections with Moore towering above this smattering display of musical genius that even goes beyond the heroic ferocity of its predecessor.

No slouching on the next “Storming the Gates of Hell” which is a more immediate speedster with raging guitars bordering on thrash tearing the air with the greatest chorus on the album handsomely provided. Tiring, tiring stuff for both the listener and the musicians the former not sure anymore as to which effort is better, “Thundersteel” or that one, but comes “Maryannne”, the ultimate ode to all Maryannes and Marias around the world, and the scales dangerously tip towards the less privileged recording as this is a most tantalizing crowd pleaser with the sing-along chorus and the infectious riffage. Many fans must have left their beloved for the Maria or the Marianne next door (including me), but what can you do… the magic of music which continues to ensnare the fan in its seductive charm with “Little Miss Death”, “a deathly” cut on all counts, not far from the previous “seducer”, another probable radio hit with an edgier power metal-ish vibe. Once the MTV and Grammy juries have been bedazzled, the band go back to their passion, speed metal that is, and “Black Leather and Glittering Steel” is a moshing headbanging delight all throughout its over 7-min, spitting fire and steel with no mercy, another testimony that this opus can’t possibly rank any lower than the Lightning... sorry, Thunder. And we also have to add the closing instrumental “Racing with the Devil on a Spanish Highway” which is… yes, correct, Al Di Meola cover, keeping the listener occupied for another 7.5-min (the guys like this number) who will gaze in wonder at the flashy guitar and bass pyrotechnics, also marvelling at the guys’ ability to sustain this high level of musicianship for nearly an hour.

Yes, it’s a long album, but there’s never a single boring moment on it. I deliberately omitted the voice and the news samples, save for the first one, but even with their presence this opus remains nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s amazing to observe how the guys literally re-invented themselves after taking a lengthy 5-year break, spending this hiatus wisely, appearing revitalized and inspired, and at the very right time as US power/speed metal was gasping for air with most of the outfits either gone (Savage Grace, Griffin, Omen) or shifted towards thrash (Helstar, Nasty Savage, Laaz Rockit). Reale saw himself the unsung hero of the movement, on future instalments as well although he couldn’t keep Moore for a few more spells. He did manage to keep the other axeman, Mike Flyntz, though, who wasn’t around for “Thundersteel”, but remained a permanent member, and even succeeded in bringing Moore back in 2010 as the two guys had a short collaboration under the name Faith & Fire (one album, “Accelerator”, in 2006).

“Immortal Soul” (2011) was the third and last so far instalment with Moore behind the mike, and almost reached the high levels from the late-80’s; it’s astonishing to see how much a good singer can elevate everything including the audience’s interest... With Reale’s untimely passing in 2012 the band got badly crippled, but they voted to continue led by Flyntz who is determined to carry the Riot legacy onward only under a slightly modified moniker (Riot V); all the way to the attainment of the most privileged status on the metal pantheon that not many mortal souls have been graced with.

Arguably Riot's Best - 97%

Fandraxx, May 28th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1990, 12" vinyl, Epic Records

The second album after Riot’s stellar 1988 comeback album “Thundersteel”, “The Privilege of Power” is often written off as a version of “Thundersteel”, just with some flashy horns thrown into the mix. However, “The Privilege of Power” is actually a very different album. While both contain the remarkable riffs from the late Mark Reale, Steel was a very power metal-esque album, while Privilege is a clear dabble into the progressive metal scene.

Privilege’s shift in style from its predecessor is clear at the start of nearly each and every track. Nearly every song, exceptions being “Runaway”, “Black Leather and Glittering Steel” and “Racing with the Devil on a Spanish Highway”, has a spoken word or opening commercial-sounding tune. “Dance of Death” starts with eastern style Japanese music, where as “On Your Knees” starts with spoken word from radio hosts and news anchors. To even further cement the new style, most songs are about real-world issues or events. “Killer”, which is easily the best example of this, is about a serial killer who murdered his family. Power metal still does manage to creep into the album, in the forms of “Storming the Gates of Hell” and “Metal Soldiers”. Yet, it’s very subdued, especially compared to how power metal Steel is considered.

This entire album is a raw display of talent. Some of Reale’s best work sits in these tracks. His last contribution for Riot as the sole guitarist, it feels as if Reale knew he would have someone joining him soon. Each riff is scattered with hooks at exactly the right points, and the solos are so powerful, in both speed and complexity, they practically make your fingers go numb just listening to them. It sound like he's trying to go out with a bang, even if he didn't really need too.

Now, that doesn’t mean the other musicians aren’t worth mentioning. Moore’s clean shrieks of power return. He doesn’t miss a beat, his high’s sound flawless; the rarer low’s just as good. With a smaller catalog, it wouldn’t be difficult to make an argument that this is his best studio performance. Stavern doesn’t slack either, creating a great base for the entire album. His lines are complex, whether he sticks with Reale’s riff, or creates his own flare. Jarzombek, simply, plays his ass off. Each track has a flurry of savagery from behind the kit. He’s brilliant the entire way through, proving his mettle with every strike.

Most of the entire album is fast; songs like “Dance of Death” and “Storming the Gates of Hell’ blister with the intensity of speed metal. Speed and shredding isn’t all this album has, though, “Maryanne” and “Runaway” both slow the pace, showing a softer side. “Maryanne” shows this in spades, mainly due to its inclusion of acoustic guitar.

Most of the gripes towards this album seem to be aimed at the horns that appear on many of the songs. It’s an unexpected twist; something that’s not usually seen in a typical metal release. The horns aren’t overly oppressive in each song, mainly showcasing in the beginning, or after the solo, of each song. Their played well, obviously due to a professional band in the form of Tower of Power and Randy Becker playing them.

“The Privilege of Power” is a release that has something to offer nearly every metal fan. From diverse lyrical themes; including topics of a murderous killer to a street-living urchin, masterful playing of each instrument and both fast paced and slower songs, it’s hard not to appreciate what’s on display here. With this release, Riot showed they weren’t through after their comeback. The line-up of this release started to split in 1990, not reforming until over twenty years later. But, this album was the stamp on Riot’s collection that left us wanting more from them.

Thundersteel, with Horns - 90%

BotD, March 12th, 2008

While it is nice to see the Thundersteel album receiving all the recognition it is due, I find it unfortunate that the rest of the Riot catalogue goes unappreciated as at least this album and Fire Down Under are unmitigated classics as well. This album especially I would expect to garner more praise as it features all of the same qualities that made Thundersteel among the best albums ever. You still have Tony Moore shrieking, Mark Reale blazing and the top-notch songwriting that truly made Thundersteel more than the sum of the very talented musicians performing it.

Now two things could intrude upon this album’s greatness: the spoken interludes and the brass section. Like all spoken interludes, what is mildly entertaining the first few times, quickly loses its charm after that. This only phenomenon progresses even more quickly here because the parts don’t constitute a story or even a coherent theme and a couple are quite lengthy.

The brass section is a more novel and ambitious idea, but I think ultimately adds very little to the music. It certainly detracts nothing and at a few parts I would notice its absence, but much like Metallica’s S&M, it rarely feels integral to the music. Instead it sounds as though they wrote the songs and just threw the brass in later.

However, despite the failed attempts at trying something new and different, Riot still knows how to kick copious amounts of ass. Privilege of Power showcases the same awesome variety of Thundersteel, with the raging fast cuts the band is known for interspersed with mid-paced stuff like Metal Soldiers and semi-ballads Runaway and Marianne. And just like in Thundersteel, they manage to do all of these styles very well. Yes, neither ballad tops Bloodstreets of the last album, but I woudn’t claim they were any less of a member of the select few excellent metal ballads. Of the many covers Riot has done and of the experimental elements on this album, the final cut is among the best. Taking what ostensibly reminds me of a jazz song (I have never heard the original) and turning it into top quality metal requires a rarely seen brilliance and Riot has it.

If you came away from Thundersteel wanting more, then Privilege of Power is waiting to give you just that.

Not A Privilege - 75%

PowerMetalGuardian, June 16th, 2003

Before the Japanese invasion of Riot, there were the Tony Moore years of Riot. While not having the power that Thundersteel had, this album isn't really to bad. I have two major opinions on it. One it is fucking kick ass speed metal. The other, the brass section on this album ruins this album.

Unlike Thundersteel this album has a lot of intro's before the songs are actually played. They're not musical intro's rather noises and speaking which gives effect to the song -sure you've seen many bands do this before. However, Riot doesn't get it done right on this album. We open up with On Your Knees, sounds of people walking, tv turning on (With the A Team theme song being the first channel). Then more noise; this is a great way to get into the song. Even when the riff kicks in there is people talking. This is the reason why it doesn't work! Two minutes into the song and it is still the intro. Metal Soldiers has the same kind of intro, noise, people talking, etc. It's ok, but it lasts for almost two minutes, which really isn't necessary. At least later on in the album they get what I am talking about. Songs like Little Miss Death and Maryanne have shorter of these intros.

Musically, this album kicks ass. The riffs are fast amd heavy, the drum beats are off the wall, this is the speed metal band Riot. Most of these songs have awsome riffs that are very similar to Judas Priest. Everything works togther except the brass (aka the horns: trumpets, baritones, trombones, etc.). First of all I don't think a brass section belongs in metal. It takes away a lot of the glamour and power that metal gives us. Instead of headbanging I want to swing dance! Thankfully there are some songs without the annoying brass section. Songs like Metal Soldiers gives us Thundersteel Riot, the Riot that kicked ass. If they took the brass out this album would be my favorite Riot album of all time.

This album has a lot to offer! Fast riffs, most excellent vocals for only being the second album Tony Moore has with Riot. Besides the brass section and the rather long intros, this album is a must for speed metal freaks! Songs to check out are: Metal Soldiers, Black Leather and Glittering Steel, and Killer.

A horn section?? Ambitious and well done album. - 91%

UltraBoris, August 13th, 2002

This is the second album with Tony Moore on vocals, but this one isn't nearly as much of an overt Painkiller clone. There is a great variety in songwriting here, and overall the mood is more similar to "Fire Down Under" than other Riot albums. Nonetheless, this album is almost as good as its predecessor.

What may be a bit unnerving is that there are little interludes between each song. I think there's some sort of theme going through the album, with snippets of nuclear bomb testing, Vietnam war references, and also a Green Bay Packers game. Some of the lyrics deal with oppression by the government, and I think that is the subtle theme being driven at here, though it's more overt in the interludes than the actual songs.

We start with "On Your Knees", which builds up with some flashy guitar riff and - yes, a horn section. And it totally fucking works!! The song is completely well done, and soon turns into blazing speed metal. "Metal Soldiers" is more anthemic and sing-along-ish. "Runaway" is a very well-done ballad, where Tony Moore proves he can actually sing, and not just shriek his balls off.

Then, the fourth song, is the real highlight of the album. "Killer" brings back the horns, and uses them as a full complement to the lead guitar. Again, it works. It works absolutely brilliantly - Tony Moore and the other dude that does vocals whose name I can't remember right now trade off parts, and they both sound very good. A real winner of a song.

Then, it's back to speed metal with "Dance of Death" - probably the fastest, shriekiest, most Painkilleresque song on here. Of course it's a winner. Fast shrieky speed metal cannot possibly lose. "Storming the Gates of Hell" is not quite as fast, and "Maryanne" another ballad with a great chorus and nice riffs, both are pretty nice 80s metal songs - Tony Moore convincingly plays both characters in the song, one male and one female. Quite possibly the shriekest vocals ever put on record, and oh yes it works so well.

Then, "Little Miss Death" has more cool riffs, and "Black Leather and Glittering Steel" is one more burst of speed metal, with an awesome guitar solo that just has to be heard to be believed. Flashy as fuck, that solo probably would make Malmsteen shit himself.

The last song is "Racing with the Devil on a Spanish Highway" which (I think) is an Al DiMeola cover. It's a bit trippy, kinda jazzish song but nonetheless the riffs are there. Again, the album has some great variety to it. The interludes may take a bit getting used to, but overall this album totally owns.