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Riot – Thundersteel

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Last Updated on 11:12 by Nikos Nakos

In the annals of heavy metal history, certain albums stand out not only for their musical prowess but also for their ability to redefine a band’s trajectory. Among these, Riot’s sixth studio album “Thundersteel” holds a very special place. Released in March 24th ‘1988, coming back from a substantial period of inactivity in the mid-1980s, this album marked a significant turning point for the band, catapulting them into the realm of Heavy – power – speed metal legends.

“Thundersteel” emerged at a critical juncture for Riot. At that point, they didn’t get the support they wanted from their label, playing third bill in concerts or their tours etc, so the hits on morale were constant. After the “Born In America” Tour, where Riot were supporting Kiss, the band decided to go on hiatus for a while. Reale returned to Texas, where he formed Narita to jam with VanStavern, Dave McClain and the late Steve Cooper on vocals and briefly toured with Loudness.

The band faced challenges in maintaining relevance, but after taking some time to breathe and let things cool off a little bit, with lineup changes (with Mark Reale being the only remaining founding member) and shifting musical landscapes, a silver lining started to emerge for Riot again. With “Thundersteel”, Riot not only reinvented themselves but also left a new and indelible mark on the metal scene.

At the core of “Thundersteel” lies an uncompromising display of musical virtuosity and the vast creative productivity of Mark Reale. From the opening track, “Thundersteel,” the listener is immediately thrust into a whirlwind of frenetic guitar riffs, thunderous drums, and soaring vocals. Mark Reale’s guitar work is nothing short of breathtaking, showcasing both technical proficiency and raw emotion. Clearly Reale was ahead of his time, blending heavy and thrash metal with power metal and NWOBHM. Songs like “Fight or Fall” and “Sign of the Crimson Storm” exemplify Riot’s ability to seamlessly blend melody with aggression, creating anthems that resonate with fans to this day.

What truly sets “Thundersteel” apart is its sheer intensity and energy. The title track, with its relentless pace and catchy chorus, is a perfect encapsulation of this spirit. In fact, the title track “Thundersteel” was originally written by Mark Reale and Don Van Stavern for ‘Narita’. A demo released by Narita exists, with “Thundersteel” and two other tracks: “Liar” and “The Feeling Is Gone”. Each song on the album is imbued with a sense of urgency, driving forward with an unstoppable momentum that leaves the listener exhilarated and craving more. Of course, we shouldn’t set aside the fact that Tony Moore gave his best self to the vocals. He was studying operatic singing at the time, so he wasn’t that familiar with this kind of metal register. He worked on stretching his vocal range and tried to find is balance in the counter tenor register. Mark saw that and with his constant positive reinforcement and his tendency to make everyone shine, he urges Moore to keep on practicing; until he went into the studio and gave everything he had, apparently, judging by the final result.

Lyrically, “Thundersteel” explores themes of power, resilience, and triumph over adversity. Songs like “Flight of the Warrior” and “Johnny’s Back” are anthems of defiance, urging listeners to rise above challenges and seize their destiny. Meanwhile, tracks like “Bloodstreets” and “Buried Alive (Tell Tale Heart)” delve into darker territory, exploring the depths of human emotion and the struggle for redemption.

Beyond its musical and lyrical prowess, “Thundersteel” is also significant for its impact on the metal genre as a whole. At a time when metal was undergoing rapid evolution, Riot helped to define the sound of power metal, influencing countless bands that would follow in their wake. The album’s combination of speed, melody, and aggression set a new standard for what heavy metal could achieve, inspiring legions of fans and musicians alike.

In many ways, “Thundersteel” represents a triumph of perseverance and artistic vision. Despite facing numerous obstacles, Riot refused to compromise their artistic integrity, delivering an album that remains a high watermark in their storied career. From its iconic cover art to its unforgettable hooks, “Thundersteel” is a testament to the enduring power of metal music and the boundless creativity of those who create it.

In conclusion, Riot’s “Thundersteel” stands as a testament to the band’s resilience, musical prowess, and enduring legacy. With its uncompromising sound and fearless attitude, the album remains a landmark achievement in the realm of heavy metal. Decades after its release, “Thundersteel” continues to captivate listeners and inspire new generations of metalheads, solidifying its status as a true classic of the genre.

For those who’d like to allot some of your personal time to learn a few things about the Thundersteel era as spoken by past and present members of Riot, please do check the “Fight or Fall” documentary (part 3 especially) uploaded on The Metal Voice channel on YouTube; you’ll be amazed!

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