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Riot V “Mean Streets” Album Review by Scott Douglas

RIOT Band Members

I’m going to say something possibly controversial. For the last 36 years Riot/Riot V has been a better band than… Iron Maiden. There’s just a couple of reasons why Iron Maiden still sells out arenas, and Riot V really never have. 

Before we get to the differences we should talk about how they are more similar than you might think. Riot was formed in New York City, our nation’s most important city, in 1975. Iron Maiden was formed in London, England’s most important city, in 1975. Both bands have released 17 studio albums. Both bands have mascots! Lol! Now we’ve come to the fork in the road. Timing and Marketing. 

Derek Riggs, the Iron Maiden artist, came up with mascot Eddie (The Head). He’s instantly recognizable the world over and is almost as much a part of the Iron Maiden brand and legacy as the music and musicians. Riot came up with… Tior: the axe-wielding half-human/half-baby seal. What? The early art was so sophomoric and absurd I have to believe that had something to do with their lack of popularity. Those of us of a certain age remember when music was only in physical form. You had to go to the record store. There were no listening or sample stations. You went into the store with limited funds. You picked up a copy of Killers with Eddie on the cover holding a bloody hatchet and thought, “Cool!” You picked up a copy of Narita with a weird human-seal sumo with an axe… pinched your face… and put it back. You bought the Iron Maiden. Little did you know that Riot’s music, buried behind that goofy album art, was fantastic. 

To be fair Iron Maiden obviously had insanely good music for the entirety of the 80’s, which gained them unstoppable momentum and fan loyalty. And once Bruce Dickenson came on board, they had their “it” man whose charisma has been so important to the Iron Maiden brand. Riot/Riot V simply have not had those intangibles. But they have always had great music.

 I argue that with 1988’s fantastic Thundersteel, coming out the same year as Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, they found their true sound and have been the better overall band since. Maiden have had great albums since, particularly Brave New World (2000) and Dance of Death (2003), but they spent a lot of time experimenting and largely lost what made them great and for the last 15 years have veered off into writing long, repetitive, progressive (boring) songs. Riot V, on the other hand, have been steadily pumping out highly energetic, exciting albums full of fist-in-the-air anthems that the mighty Maiden were once known for. 

Mean Streets is Riot V’s newest offering, and it does not disappoint. Hail to the Warriors starts out with an instantly catchy power metal anthem. Fist-in-the-air indeed! “I raise my fist to the heavens!” The soaring clean vocals of Todd Michael Hall are perfect. He seems to hit his notes with ease and adds a plaintive affect at times that adds emotion to the sound. 

Feel the Fire and Love Beyond the Grave are very typical, and typically great, mid-tempo rockers. These songs let Hall’s vocal melodies take top billing while the rhythm section supports the effort. 

High Noon is an absolutely romping power metal force! These guys are as good as anyone ripping off speedy anthems. They remind me of Jag Panzer a lot in this regard. Interesting note: Harry ‘The Tyrant’ Conklin was vocalist for Riot briefly in the mid-80s. 

Before This Time is a brief departure from what I think is Riot V’s strength, but they pick things right back up with Higher, which is full of great guitar and vocal melodies carrying the tune at a very quick pace. Great guitar is a signature of Riot V. Mike Flyntz is not a household name, nor is he even well known in Heavy Metal circles. This is a shame because his chops are outstanding. Honestly, with this new iteration of Riot V he’s the true axe-wielder, not the goofy Tior

That said, Tior on the Mean Streets cover is pretty cool. He’s riding a bad-to-the-bone motorcycle with his seal wife on the back along with a bunch of other seal-man bikers. Who knows what heroics they’re up to, but I’m sure it will be glorious.

Mortal Eyes, Lost Dreams, Lean Into It and No More finish this outstanding album up the right way. Heavy pounding riffs, great songwriting, epic solos, feelings of glory and fist-raising. Everything is on-point. Unlike Iron Maiden, Riot V know where their strength lies, don’t try to reinvent their wheel, and kill it on their 17th album. 

Scott’s Score – 8.75/10

RIOT Album Covers 1

Track Listing:

01. Hail To The Warriors
02. Feel The Fire
03. Love Beyond The Grave
04. High Noon
05. Before This Time
06. Higher
07. Mean Streets
08. Open Road
09. Mortal Eyes
10. Lost Dreams
11. Lean Into It
12. No More

RIOT (V) are:
Todd Michael Hall | vocals
Mike Flyntz | guitars
Nick Lee | guitars
Don Van Stavern | bass
Frank Gilchriest | drums

RIOT (V) online:

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