Although New York power band Riot has consistently released albums the past 3 1/2 decades, the lineup that produced Thundersteel in 1988 and its 1990 follow-up The Privilege of Power is largely regarded as the best. It’s also the same lineup that’s produced the forthcoming Immortal Soul.
And that means a pair of San Antonians are finally back in the fold.
Drummer Bobby Jarzombek and fellow San Antonian and bassist Don Van Stavern have returned, as has longtime multi-octave vocalist Tony Moore. They join guitarist/founder Mark Reale and additional guitarist Mike Flyntz in unleashing an album of massive proportions. Army of One was Riot’s previous effort in 2006. But of the current lineup, only Reale and Flyntz played on it. So forgive me for calling this a comeback.
Immortal Soul, which harkens back to the Thundersteel era, will be released in the U.S. and Canada on Nov. 22. That’s a long wait considering Europeans will be able to buy it on Halloween, and those in Germany, Australia and Switzerland can get it tomorrow. The album came out yesterday in Scandinavia and last week in Japan. But the wait is well worth it.
The tune “Still Your Man” and its references to Johnny from Thundersteel‘s “Johnny’s Back” can be heard at the band’s website here, while the making of track No. 4 “Wings Are For Angels” can be viewed here. That song reportedly was played live on June 2, 2009, at the now-defunct Scout Bar, when Jarzombek and Van Stavern played a homecoming concert that consisted mainly of songs from Thundersteel. It’s the only concert Jarzombek — also the drummer for Fates Warning, Halford, and Sebastian Bach’s solo band — has played in his hometown in 10 years.
Riot’s staple of Jarzombek’s double-bass pounding and Moore’s vocals that soar just when you think he can’t get any higher are littered throughout Immortal Soul. They are especially evident on the album’s best tune “Riot.” Moore meets the challenge of keeping up with Jarzombek’s drums when he sings, “What’s it gonna take . . . to make you Riot?” Moore then exceeds that challenge with a howling, “What’s it going to taaaake” for added emphasis before Reale and Flyntz answer with splitting dual guitars. Riot fans will be more than pleased to hear Moore singing as he did two decades earlier, as hard as that may be to believe.
The band was about to embark on a European tour with Hammerfall, but a routine dental checkup on Moore uncovered a need for oral surgery, canceling the trek. However, Riot and Hammerfall are two of the 40 bands scheduled to take part in the second annual 70000 Tons of Metal cruise from Miami to Grand Cayman Islands in January. The SAMME will once again provide exclusive coverage of the voyage similar to this past January (see links below). I spoke briefly to Jarzombek on Oct. 12 at the Judas Priest concert. He expressed confidence that Moore would be OK by cruise time (view our interview from February here).
“To me, the close collaboration with each of our vocalists has always been the decisive aspect in any Riot release,” Reale says in a press release. “That’s why it was absolutely inspiring for me at the studio that Tony directly took up many of my ideas and translated them brilliantly. Or contributed his own suggestions, from which our songs benefited greatly. He’s simply the perfect Riot frontman!”
Other highlights include the aforementioned “Wings Are For Angels,” where Moore sings, “They called me a fool for my choice of career” in a lyric many metalheads likely can relate to.
“Sins Of The Father” and “Whiskey Man” are thirst-quenchers for fans who have been wondering when, or if, this faction of Riot was going to be heard from again.
“Immortal Soul is a special record for me because in all the years that I’ve been playing and recording various projects, I’ve never been completely involved in any other CD from the very first day of writing to the very last day of mixing,” Jarzombek says in the press release. “I’m looking forward to the live shows and including some new Immortal Soul songs into the set along with the Riot classics!”
The sequencing of tracks feels a bit odd, as the double-bass, up-tempo songs dominate the first half of the disc. The album’s second half begins with the 59-second instrumental “Majestica” that would have been more appropriate for the disc’s intro. Instead, it segues into the mellower title track, which is song No. 8. The final two tunes of the 12-track disc, “Believe” and “Echoes,” are steady rockers that may have been best served somewhere in the middle to make the disc flow more smoothly.
Immortal Soul marks a triumphant return for a band that has been churning out music since 1977 and performed at the inaugural 1980 Monsters of Rock Castle Donington festival in the U.K. with Rainbow, Saxon, Scorpions and Judas Priest (read my recent interview with Saxon singer Biff Byford addressing that concert here).
Concludes Van Stavern: “Immortal Soul picks up where Thundersteel left off, 20 years later! It has the same intensity, creativeness and passion that we put into our music. It’s another ball-buster, and I can’t wait to unleash it on the masses.”
It might even be good enough to make you Riot. Just don’t say you weren’t warned when you get in trouble.
(Track listing: Still Your Man, Riot, Crawling, Wings Are For Angels, Sins Of The Father, Fall Before Me, Majestica, Immortal Soul, Insanity, Whiskey Man, Believe, Echoes)
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