Albums: Army of One and Through the Storm
Reviewed By: Todd Naevestad
There’s something to be said about the old becoming new again. Videogames are getting HD re-releases. Childhood movies are getting remakes. And weird 90’s fashion is coming back in vogue. Music is much the same with classic stars coming back into the spotlight and old sounds returning to popularity. This is where Riot steps in, bringing back the memorable sounds of 80’s rock and hair metal. Their inspirations are obvious but do they “Rock You Like A Hurricane?” Or should we go our “Separate Ways?”
Even before talking about the music, it’s worth talking about these albums and the band behind them. These are remasters of albums from 2002 and 2006, so if you’re a Riot fan, you’ve probably already heard them and drawn your own conclusions. And for those of you who listened to them back in the late 70’s early 80’s when they first got started, there’s been a lot of member changes and adjusting so they might not be the same band you liked back in the day. So the real question for us becomes, do they carry the 80’s rock with them into today in a way that makes them still relevant?
Immediately you can hear Riot’s inspirations. Their guitar work feels like Black Sabbath or Motörhead. They’ve got ballads reminiscent of Poison, background vocals like Boston, and a lead singer who could do Lynyrd Skynyrd and Aerosmith equal well. Their sound covers a gamut of classic rock, all done equally well. Across both albums tracks switch styles between each song and it never feels jarring or unnatural. None of this is to say that they’re just a glorified cover band. They definitely have their own style. They simply take from the greats and use it to make new and exciting works. Somehow they make modern rock sound classic.
What sells the show is the talent they display. The guitar work is top notch, fading in and out of the spotlight as the song needs. Their solos are rock solid and the kind of thing I would expect to see in Guitar Hero, they’re that much fun to listen to and, I imagine, to play. The vocalist is killer, going from classic power ballads to rocking hair metal with ease. His is the kind of voice that is really easy to listen to and gets you into that head banging mood, waist-length hair or not. Everything encases that classic music nostalgia with masterful effect.
And that’s kind of my main issue with their album. It really is all I love about the 80’s music scene, but as I listen to it more, it starts to obscure behind all the memories I have of other music and artists. I’ll hear a song start and think about a Led Zeppelin song I like, or something from Def Leppard or The Scorpions. It’s hard to recognize what really sets Riot apart from all these other bands. Part of this is not their fault. They’re fighting the unending weight of nostalgia and that’s a losing effort for everyone. That said, Riot’s unique sound is hard to identify. Even in the instrumental works that the albums offer, you realize that the vocals are what set it apart. The tracks sound like fine 80’s style white noise on their own and it really is the lyrics that make them different. There are songs that Riot owns, that are unquestionably their creations, but others feel like retreading the same paths others have made, and made better.
I really do enjoy these two albums, remasters or not. Riot makes the old new again and brings the spotlight back onto a band that maybe didn’t get enough love in their time. I love rocking out to each track, but at the back of my mind there is a part of me that says “You could just listen to the old stuff.” It’s an unfair criticism but one I can’t shake. I can’t really choose which album I like better, each one has a similar offering in the tracks offered and you can’t go wrong with either; or get both and avoid the choice all together. If you’re a better music fan than I am, you’ll love this with a white hot passion. To those of us with a long standing love for that style, well, Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Rating 4 out of 5
Recommended Bands: Steel Panther, Hardcore Superstar, Crazy Lixx