And this time... "Fire Down Under", Riot's third studio album, released on February 9, 1981.
We have written and talked many times during our show about the "pendulum" in the global music market, moving over the years between the two sides of the ocean. Between England and the US exporting and importing influences and musical trends from side to side. So our recommendation today, is a great album by an American band, that could easily be at the forefront of the new wave of British heavy metal in the UK, or in short (NWOBHM).
This is an album, that in our humble opinion, every Metalist must have in his album library, if only to understand in depth the development of the Metal genre and to acknowledge the fact that the American continent was also a part of it.
This amazing album is a School for Heavy Metal. It features great riffs and songs, including one "mega-riff" that would be "borrowed" by "Accept" a year later in the song "Flash Rockin 'Man" and later on would be "borrowed" again by "Iron Maiden" In the song "2 Minutes To Midnight". Can't believe it? Watch and listen to the video:
So for those unfamiliar, "Riot" is an American Heavy Metal band formed in New York in 1975, by guitarist Mark Reale and drummer Peter Bitelli. The two added bassist Phil Feit and singer Guy Speranza, to complete the band's initial line-up.
They recorded a demo that included four songs and that was enough to get the attention of the private label "Fire Sign Records", who immediately signed them on a recording contract.
The band released their first album "Rock City" as early as 1977, but the album failed comercialy and the band thought of breaking up. But then something wonderful happened !!! The NWOBHM was rising in the UK and sent tsunami waves that reached as far as the other side of the ocean, managed to breathe fresh air into the band and cause them to release their second album "Narita", which was released in 1979.
The reviewd album is the band's third and probably also the most successful for "Riot", which has gone through several incarnations since then and is called today "Riot V". To date, the band has released 16 studio albums, the most recent of which is "Armor of Light" from 2018.
It's amazing to think that "Capitol" record company refused to release this album, because it was "too heavy" (and we are talking about the year 1981 in the US). Eventually, after much pressure from fans and the band's management, "Capitol" gave up the rights to "Electra" and the album was eventually released.
On this album, the band continues with the line that started with their first two albums "Rock City" and "Narita", only this time they found the ultimate combination of perfect writing, cohesive and tight playing and accessible production, that will make this album the band's most successful.
There are no weak songs here. This album flows wonderfully throughout and sounds fresh and relevant even today.
The opening song "Swords and Tequila" invented the mighty mega-riff which as we mentioned will be "borrowed" by "Accept" and later by "Iron Maiden". A dynamic song with a sweeping rhythm and catchy chorus. "Fire Down Under" boosts the rhythm with a huge burst of energy on the verge of Speed Metal. The song features amazing guitar work and frantic solo exchanges by the duo Mark Reale and Rick Ventura. "Feel the Same" puts us in a dark atmosphere with a riff that corresponds with Doom Metal, and a solo that in part reminded us of the work of Uli Jon Roth in his time with "Scorpions". "Outlaw" is one of the most bouncy and fun on the album, with a riff so simple and catchy that immediately makes you jump out of your chair and shake your head. Here, too, the solos in part reminded us of the "Scorpions" of the 1970s and early 1980s. "Don't Bring Me Down" seals the first side of the album with another fast song on the verge of Speed Metal, until the bluesy solo where the rhythem get slower. "Don't Hold Back" opens the other side of the vinyl with another amazing riff and excellent work by the rhythm section and especially by bassist Kip Leming. The epic track "Altar of the King" opens with a quiet instrumental intro that reminded us of "Rainbow". Guy Speranza, who co-wrote 8 of the ten songs on the album, is a powerful and tremndos singer. He is inspiring and it is clear that he gives everyhing he has. "No Lies" opens quietly with arppegio chords, and later develops with a riff that is very reminiscent of "Paranoid" by "Black Sabbath's", but still manages to excite and innovate. "Run for Your Life" takes us back to the Speed Metal Punk-Rock erea, with a distinct "Iron Maiden" riff from the Paul Di'Anno era. The album ends up with an interesting otro called "Flashbacks", consisting of feedback, part from live shows and interviews, presented on a bed of "Van Hellenic" solo guitar which later develops into a rhythmic and cool instrumental piece that ends in a fade out and leaves us with a taste of more of this wonderful thing called "Riot".
The album cover includes, as with most of the band's albums, a p[icture of a seal, that has become the bands "mascot".
This album is one of the few American responses to NWOBHM which in some ways is ahead of its time in relation to the development of the genre on the other side of the ocean. It's an excellent album that is important for any "metalhead" to recognize, if only to acknowledge the existence of an excellent American alternative to the revolution that will emerge in Britain shortly thereafter.