RIOT V - Armor Of Light
Release date April 27/18 (Nuclear Blast)
This is Riot’s second release since the 2012 death of founder/leader/guitarist Marke Reale. They are now called Riot V, presumably as they feel this is the fifth iteration of the band since its founding in 1975, and as there are no original members of Riot left.
Fans of Riot’s previous releases (at least since their 1988 change to power metal on Thundersteel) won’t be disappointed with this effort. Lead guitarist Mike Flyntz (in Riot since 1989) has learned his lessons well and has the melodic Mark Reale guitar sound down pat. New vocalist Todd Michael Hall has a clean power metal vocal style that sounds like a cross between Bruce Dickenson and Kai Hansen (Helloween/Gamma Ray). The music is well written by main songwriter and bassist Don Van Stavern (who first joined in 1986), and it is well performed, and catchy. Album highlights include “Messiah”, “Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign” and “Ready to Shine”.
There are a couple of relatively small problems though. The lyrics are sometimes jarringly bald and bad. The words to “Heart of a Lion” sound like Hall is singing them directly from a Wikipedia history page on Richard II. And the stereotypical power/speed metal double-time drumming is out of place on some songs (“Victory” and “Armor of Light” for example), which would have benefited if it didn’t sound like the drums were trying to outpace the rest of the band, being fast for speed’s sake alone. And while the guitar and vocals are produced at a high level, some of Frank Gilchriest’s drums are over-produced to the point where it sounds like no humans were involved, except for the programmer of the drum machine.
Minor irritants aside, this is a release that fans of Riot and power metal generally will enjoy.