Riot V: Armor Of Light (Nuclear Blast)
It was back in 1975 when Mark Reale started the band Riot. The band, from New York City bubbled under for several years, getting major publicity with 1983’s Fire Down Under, which was well received in the metal scene. The legendary Neal Kaye had long championed the band after their debut release Rock City struggled to make its mark. The NWOBHM played a large part in enhancing the band’s popularity but they couldn’t sustain it and drifted into multiple line up changes, whilst continuing to make solid if unspectacular heavy metal. Sadly, Reale passed away in 2012 and the name Riot was retired. However, the remaining members of the band reformed under the moniker Riot V and in 2014 the first Riot album without Reale, Unleash The Fire, was released. Armor Of Light is album number 16, and the second without Reale.
The original Riot sound was traditional heavy metal, but Riot V favour the power metal approach. Armory Of Light is a blistering 55 minutes of all-out power metal, with just about everything that you could want. The duelling guitar work of Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee is spectacular, the rapid-fire drumming of Frank Gilchrist thunderously heavy, supported by rampaging bass lines of longest serving member Don Van Stavern and up front the air raid siren style of Todd Michael Hall who can really hold a note or two. Messiah, Heart Of A Lion and closing track Raining Fire are all fine examples of the quality, the blend of Bruce Dickinson and Eric Adams working far better than it has any right to. This is pure power metal at its finest, verging on thrash at times but always driving forward at top speed. Despite their quite disturbing journey, with several former members no longer with us, Riot V demonstrate here that when it comes to quality, there is no substitute for experience. 8/10
Seven Sisters: The Cauldron And The Cross (Dissonance Productions)
In all the maelstrom of genres and sub-genres, we sometimes forget the good old heavy metal itself. The traditional British sound that emerged in the 1970s, following Sabbath, Priest, Saxon and Maiden via the NWOBHM route. Such is the intricacy of so much of what we hear these days that when a band does stick to the old school path, it tends to sound somewhat dated. Seven Sisters, who hail unsurprisingly from London, stick faithfully to the classic heavy metal sound. The Cauldron And The Cross, their follow-up to 2016’s self-titled debut, is crammed full of solid if unspectacular tracks following themes of fantasy, mythology and glory.
The centre piece is the measured Oathbreaker, an epic tale which allows guitarists Graeme Farmer and Kyle McNeill to express themselves whilst McNeill’s vocals cope comfortably with the undulating journey. Otherwise, it’s all heads down flying V style heavy metal and at times, this is just what one wants. A Land In Darkness has a magnificent Di’Anno Maiden era flavour, right down to the visceral spikey punk edged riffs. This won’t win any awards but it’s the metal equivalent of comfort food; sometimes that is just what the doctor orders. 7/10
Desolation Angels: King (Dissonance Records)
“Old warriors never die. They just wait for the perfect moment to storm the walls all over again!” So, reads the press release for the third release from another band who made a ripple back in the 1980s. A heavy metal blitzkrieg which apparently will national neck-brace manufacture tenfold. Well, given that neck-braces are no longer medically recommended that desire may be commercially disastrous but the music, whilst keeping one foot doggedly in 1986, is pleasingly retro and contemporary at the same time. Vocalist Paul Taylor can hold a note, whilst the guitar work of Keith Sharp and Robin Brancher is particularly impressive.
Another Turn Of The Screw motors along, opener Doomsday immediately grabs the interest and Your Blackened Heart has a delicious groove that screams Hard Rock Hell second stage joy all day long. The band may be closer the reaper than when their debut hit the shelves in 1986, but there is plenty of life in this beast. They have a cluster of gigs across the UK this year and I’d be getting right down there if they decide to cross the border. Top quality metal. 8/10
Michael Schinkel’s Eternal Flame: Smoke On The Mountain (Rock Of Angels Records)
It was back in 2002 that the second Eternal Flame album King Of The King was released. 16 years later and the band, now entitled Michael Schinkel’s Eternal Flame has finally delivered album number three. 53 minutes of polished hard rock which has shades of Michael Schenker and Rainbow throughout. With several guest musicians including vocalists Mark Boals and Göran Edman, the core of the band consists Schinkel on vocals and all guitars, Thomas Keller on bass and backing vocals, drummer Michael Hencky and keyboardist Helmut Kohlpaintner. Schinkel’s guitar work is superb throughout, with the instrumental final track Close To The End displaying his blues skills with a soulful display.
However, many tracks here, much like Schenker’s recent output are just a little bland and bloated. The inevitable ballad You Can Save Me is awful, marring the reasonable tracks which precede it whilst Whatcha Gonna Do has shades of the big brass misogynistic American hard rock of the 1980s, full of an arrogant, bullish swagger which isn’t impressive. Got A Rock N’Roll Fever is pure Rainbow, and if Graham Bonnett strolled in to take part you wouldn’t be surprised. In other parts it is solid, with decent, if rather routine hard rock blasting out. Overall, not a huge amount to get enthused about but by no means the worst I’ve heard this year. 6/10