Why, oh why, have I not paid more attention to this band in the past? RIOT are one of the oldest Metal bands around, with their origins harkening back to the late seventies. After twelve studio releases, I was wondering if they still had the fire (down under?) for another satisfying release in the vein of 1988’s “Thundersteel”. Thankfully, the New Yorkers didn’t let me down, producing an excellent record with both melody and punch.
Yes, “punch” does indeed imply that “Army Of One” is a decently heavy record. Let’s not mince any words: Mark Reale, Mike DiMeo and company aren’t getting any younger, and as a result, I was wondering if the album would pack as much bite as that damned poodle (that poodle is a seal, you biologist! - Alex) that seems to permeate the majority of their album covers. However, I was pleasantly surprised once the title track kicked into gear just a few seconds into the album, starting things off with a cacophony of Reale’s chugging guitar, as well as some lightning-quick double-bass drumming courtesy of VIRGIN STEELE’s Frank Gilchrist. What a way to kick you in the ass on your first listen.
As far as the overall sound goes, “Army Of One” seems to be evenly split between quick, heavy Power Metal and mid-tempo Classic Rock. Mike DiMeo ensures that the transition between the two genres (which sometimes occurs midsong - see “One More Alibi” for details!) is seamless, thanks to his versatile vocals which complement both styles quite nicely. I liked both styles on the record equally; kudos to Reale for writing songs that have both heavy, pounding verses and sunny, calm choruses, because it works pretty damn well.
Speaking of Reale, he hasn’t lost a single bit of his talent over the years. He proves on the solos of tracks like “Shine” and the title track that he can still shred with the best of ‘em, yet the chorus to “One More Alibi” and even the acoustic rhythm guitar in the instrumental “Stained Mirror” show that he has absolutely no qualms about toning down his sound if he thinks it fits. He was great on previous RIOT classics like “Born In America”, and he’s still great on “Army Of One”, he is without a doubt one of Metal’s most underrated guitarists, and his searing yet emotional four-minute solo on “Stained Mirror” only proves it.
2006 marks thirty years of RIOT (though their debut “Rock City” was released in 1977, Reale had formed the band a full year prior). It’s nice to see them still going strong and delivering quality releases such as “Army Of One”. Fans of the band should have no doubts about whether RIOT are still relevant; they are (and they’re still heavy, too)! Melodic Metal fans, pick this one up posthaste.
(Online December 17, 2006)