Riot V - Mean Streets

Riot V – Mean Streets (Album Review)

Riot V 2024 band

Originating in New York City, the band Riot has a long, interesting history. Starting out all the way back in 1975, their 1977 debut LP Rock City was a straight-ahead Heavy Metal offering that would not only garner local attention, but eventually create a buzz overseas in the UK. Interestingly enough, this album also featured Bassist Phil Feit before he would go onto join up with Billy Idol and play on hits such as “Hot in the City” and “White Wedding.”  

Just one of the many tidbits of compelling details that encompass the Riot saga, the band also spent some of their early years opening for acts like AC/DC and Sammy Hagar. Leading into the ’80s, Riot dealt with their share of conflicts with record labels, but eventually released the highly successful Fire Down Under in 1981. Seeming like everything was going in the right direction, then Lead Vocalist Guy Speranza opted to leave the music business, thus ushering in Rhett Forrester’s entry for Restless Breed in 1982 and Born in America in 1983. At this point moving forward optimistically, due to more issues, Riot were all but done by 1984. However, this would not be the final time anyone heard of the band; because founding Guitarist Mark Reale would revisit Riot with a new lineup, this time featuring Tony Moore on vocals as they moved forward with 1988’s more Power Metal Thundersteel, and 1990’s The Privilege of Power. From here, Mike DiMeo settled in as their voice from 1993’s Nightbreaker into 2006’s Army of None, before Tony Moore returned to appear on 2011’s Immortal Soul.

A lot of details to absorb, along this timeline, tragically, Rhett Forrester passed in 1994, Guy Speranza in 2003, before the band’s leader Mark Reale passed away in early 2012. At this point leaving Riot at the end of their road, surprisingly the legacy still continues. Reformed as Riot V in 2013, the torch of Riot’s history was carried on by Bassist Don Van Stavern (a member of the original band since 1986) and Guitarist Mike Flyntz (a part of the original band since 1989). Joining them was former Virgin Steele Drummer Frank Gilchriest (a member of Riot since 2003), Guitarist Nick Lee, and Vocalist Todd Michael Hall. A formidable lineup, the new Riot first put out the electrifying Unleash the Fire in 2014, followed by Armor of Light in 2018. Obviously sounding a bit different than Riot, if anything, these two albums encapsulated the spirit of the original Riot in a way that is a fitting homage to their past.

All these factors brought into play, now Riot V return in 2024 with their brand-new album Mean Streets. Due out on May 10th through Atomic Fire Records, the album not only features the same lineup as heard on both Unleash the Fire and Armor of Light, but also continues the story of their adopted mascot the Mighty Tior as the feature artwork. Tior, a half-human, half-seal hybrid is a head-scratcher, but nonetheless forever associated with Riot… so why not keep the beloved creature alive as well? Anyway, you get to enjoy Tior once more, this time shown as part of a motorcycle gang of his own species, and guess what… he has a lady friend riding along with him! Really quite amusing, beyond this Mean Streets itself is packed full of blistering Heavy Metal music that will surely grab your attention.

Twelve songs in total, the album takes a similar approach as both 2014 and 2018’s works, but arguably with a bit of a more traditional Rock-n-Roll vibe mixed in. With this you get a combination of strong, heavy guitar riffs, powerful singing from Todd Michael Hall, all matched with top-notch songwriting. It would be one thing to say Riot V are staying true to Riot’s past, or even to the tradition of Heavy Metal in general, but these guys seem to know how to write some really good songs too!

Truly the biggest selling point here, if you have not heard either of Riot V’s previous albums, and are apprehensive of a Riot continuation, let your guard down, because you will be pleasantly surprised with what you find. With one rocking Heavy Metal track after another on Mean Streets, some bold standouts include the shot in the arm of an opener, “Hail to the Warriors,” the title-track, and “Love Beyond the Grave.” Joining these are a list of other truly classic Heavy Metal tunes as heard on “High Noon” or “Mortal Eyes,” among others.

So, if you are a fan of Riot and have followed them through the winds of change over the last 5 decades, it is highly recommended to check out Riot V. As mentioned, featuring some long-tenure members of the original band, as well as the really great vocals of Todd Michael Hall, this is Heavy Metal of the highest order. That is why Cryptic Rock praises their efforts of keeping Riot (and Tior) alive, giving Mean Streets 4 out of 5 stars.  

Riot V - Mean Streets
Riot V – Mean Streets / Atomic Fire Records (2024)

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