RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

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RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by My Awesome Timothy on Mon Aug 27, 2018 2:38 am

Amazing album, thanks Angelic Warlord for a great review!!!

Riot V - Armor Of Light

Musical Style: Power Metal Produced By: Chris Collier
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2018 Artist Website: Riot V
Tracks: 12 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 55:30
Riot V - Armor Of Light

Every hard music enthusiast knows the Riot legacy is large and legendary.  That legacy is inescapable when factoring the New York based power metal acts longevity, which traces to the mid-seventies, peaked in the early eighties and continues to this day.  As with any band surviving such an extended span, Riot has faced its share of adversity, including roster turnover and passing of key members such as vocalists Guy Speranza and Rhett Forrester, whom combined to front its first five studio albums.  It was the tragic loss of founding member and guitarist Mark Reale in 2012, however, which led to the groups latest incarnation, Riot V, with the ‘V’ added to its moniker when re-launching a year later to represent the fact this is its fifth era, or more specifically to honor the number of vocalists to grace its lineup.

Enter that fifth vocalist in question, Todd Michael Hall, with whom this review is concerned.  Beginning his Riot V tenor in 2013 after replacing departed fourth vocalist Tony Moore, Michael Hall initially fronted the groups 2014 Steamhammer Records comeback effort Unleash The Fire followed by its spring of 2018 Nuclear Blast sixteenth album Armor Of Light.  If the Armor Of Light title is not enough to get your attention then the albums liner notes will, as Michael Hall openly thanks ‘God for everything’ while also stating ‘may the Lord Jesus Christ bless you and keep you’.  Of the albums twelve tracks, Hall contributes lyrics to eight, many of which openly reflect his faith.  One reviewer that suggested ‘there appears to be a veiled evangelistic bent running through (Riot V) these days’ had the right idea!

In terms of specifics, Michael Hall brings a high end and classic tenor vocal style perfectly suited for the classic US power metal meets traditional heavy metal sound instinctive to Riot V.  If I were to invite comparison, he walks a fine line between the soaring range of Rey Parra (Sacred Warrior) and emotional vestiges not unlike David Taylor (Jacobs Dream) but when lowering his register he can also reflect upon Steve Walsh (Kansas).  If other ‘high pitched’ vocalists such as Vett Roberts (Recon), Norm “Ski” Kiersznowski (Faith Factor), Eli Prinsen (The Sacrificed) and Lance King is your cup of tea, then I can see Riot V and Armor Of Light being right up your alley.

Before moving on to the individual song breakdown portion to the review, I would first like to thank the reader who not only brought Armor Of Light to my attention but sent a CD copy as well.

It is the Michael Hall lyrically penned cuts in which this review is going to focus, beginning with showcase track “Messiah”.  What we have is a keyed up and frenetic four minutes somewhat akin to Sacred Warrior’s “Children Of The Light” (off Rebellion), with needed ingredients in the form of non-stop  double kick drum, soaring ‘Messiah, save us from the flames’ falsettos for the refrain and dual harmony leads gracing things instrumentally.  Lyrically, this one is self-explanatory:

Birthed when lightning struck the sky
Offspring of a sacred line
His arrival marks the battle
Soldiers by his side

His coming was long foretold
In the ancient texts of old
He will free us from the darkness
Brings us into Light

Albums title track tempers initiative in comparison (even if slightly) in upholding some European power metal vestiges.  The double bass penchant maintains itself, with a big Theocracy style melody leading the way alongside tons of imposing grace and class and the neo-classical guitar aspects to match.  As you might have guessed, spiritual warfare is the subject at hand:

Deep in the depths of all our yearning hearts
There’s a fire to behold
Put on your helmet and take up your shield
Wrap yourself in a breastplate of gold

Free yourself
You won’t fear the dark of night
When you ride
In the armor of light

“End Of The World” evens things out with its melodic power metal traces, as tightly woven guitar harmonies and elegant vocal melodies trade off with occasional heightened outbursts of the Riot V rollicking rhythm section.  The smooth sophistication at hand speaks of Theater Of War era Jacobs Dream.  Some light End Times themes permeate lyrics:

Just like you, I want to hold on
To all the things that soon will be gone
My heart is hanging low from the sense of loss
Desperate times call us to act
Separate the wheat from the chaff
The salient things must rise and the rest be tossed

“Ready To Shine” explores the mid-tempo but with guitar rhythms with a Blind Guardian like feel (as found in its graceful verse sections) and backing vocals pointing towards Queen (noting the lithe refrain).  A corresponding dramatic semblance rises to the forefront in a song that speaks of the salvation experience:

Then one day I raised my eyes
A new door came to light
Found the strength to walk through
Into a new life
Yeah, into a new life

Finally, I realized
The power’s inside
My fears are left behind
I’m ready to shine

Lush, full and warmly tinctured, “Set The World Alight” takes a more melodic heading than some songs here, or at the very least does not present with quite the same guitar driven focus.  Of course, accept this as observation as opposed to critique in that its finesse filled polish and galloping mentality allows it to separate at the same time. Lesson learned is turning loss into gain:

Suddenly I feel a flood of energy
I awaken to new light
I’ll turn my loss into someone else’s gain
And set my mind to a new fight

Rise, gather all my strength and rise
From the wreckage
Watch, while I set the world alight

My favorite might be “Heart Of A Lion”, which as its title suggests is a metal tribute to Richard The Lion Hearted.  With its Impellitteri bent to rhythm guitars, the song scorches through its honed verses - He could have lived his life. Using stone walls as a shield. But Richard preferred the glory. Found out on the battlefield - and gallantly driven refrain: Born the son of a king. His passion was undying. A relentless warrior. With the heart of a lion.  This is epic Medieval battle metal at its finest.

Of the album remaining six cuts, ”Victory” amalgamates a catchy chorus with plenty of Iron Maiden influenced rhythms and “Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign” a heightened bass focus not unlike Barren Cross’ “In The Eye Of The Fire” (off Atomic Arena).  Hearkening back to the groups hard rock roots are “Burn The Daylight”, playing up albums most immediately recognizable melody, and “Caught In The Witches Eye”, with a bluesy metal focus not unlike that of Red Sea.  “San Antonio” further plays up the bluesy elements but in a more traditional form.  “Finally, “Raining Fire” closes things as an all out speed meets power metal barnburner.

Production, as one might imagine from a group of Riot V’s pedigree, proves a strength with drums forwardly placed in the mix and plenty of separation to allow individual instruments to stand out.  As for cover art, it features the signature Riot V mascot (better known as ‘Johnny’), which with a seal head affixed to a muscular Conan the Barbarian style body, looks like the type of creature typical to a Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.  The cover art to the as noted Unleash The Fire even goes so far as to portray ‘Johnny’ with a metal arm not unlike that of the Winter Soldier.  Where do they come up with this stuff?

Musically, Armor Of Light is what I always expected The Sacrificed to sound like or what Jacobs Dream will have to stretch to become (again) - or more specifically it sets the high standard for any potential future album from Sacred Warrior to feature Rey Parra.  Lyrically, it by no means is a Christian album and Riot V is not a Christian band, so I want to head off any misconceptions in this regard either way.  That said, Riot V does include a believing vocalist in Todd Michael Hall, whom because of imprinting his faith on several tracks, makes Armor Of Light certain to be of interest to those following the Christian hard music scene.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Victory” (4:40), “End Of The World” (5:10), “Messiah” (4:20), “Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign” (4:41), “Burn The Daylight” (4:48), “Heart Of A Lion” (3:52), “Armor Of Light” (4:36), “Set The World Alight” (4:52), “San Antonio” (3:50), “Caught In The Witches Eye” (4:56), “Ready To Shine” (5:01), “Raining Fire” (4:45)

Musicians
Todd Michael Hall - Lead Vocals
Mike Flyntz - Guitars
Nick Lee - Guitars
Don Van Stavern - Bass
Frank Gilchriest - Drums

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=n3OI7vaFA5M

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pZkUCklg5Bs
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by metaldude on Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:44 am

I picked this up when it released. It's a solid album.
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by MikeInFla on Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:27 am

Had no idea. So Riot is a Christian band now? Heard the two songs posted above and they were much better than I expected. In fact I thought this was a completely different band until I saw the Riot mascot on the album cover.
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by My Awesome Timothy on Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:47 am

MikeInFla wrote:Had no idea. So Riot is a Christian band now? Heard the two songs posted above and they were much better than I expected. In fact I thought this was a completely different band until I saw the Riot mascot on the album cover.

Not a Christian band, just a similar situation to the likes of Wytch Hazel with a Christian singer and a person who writes a lot of the lyrics.
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Temple of Blood on Mon Aug 27, 2018 12:17 pm

This vocalist is the most-skilled singer around these days but I don't care for their current music much.  That previous album was so generic and uninspired.

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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Black Rider on Mon Aug 27, 2018 6:51 pm

I could get behind the singer but the music feels like they're going through the motions now. Not what Mark would've wanted.
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Superjuice on Tue Aug 28, 2018 3:20 pm

So I sampled the album after seeing the mixed opinions here and it sounds pretty awesome to me at first run through.  I'm all over this one.  High pitched vocals over uptempo rhythms.  It's like Screaming Symphony w/ double bass - a style that's great for the gym.
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Kerrick on Tue Aug 28, 2018 3:44 pm

My Awesome Timothy wrote:
MikeInFla wrote:Had no idea. So Riot is a Christian band now? Heard the two songs posted above and they were much better than I expected. In fact I thought this was a completely different band until I saw the Riot mascot on the album cover.

Not a Christian band, just a similar situation to the likes of Wytch Hazel with a Christian singer and a person who writes a lot of the lyrics.

I'm not too familiar with them.  Has there been themes of Christianity throughout their albums or just this recent one(s)?

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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by MikeInFla on Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:11 am

Kerrick wrote:
My Awesome Timothy wrote:
MikeInFla wrote:Had no idea. So Riot is a Christian band now? Heard the two songs posted above and they were much better than I expected. In fact I thought this was a completely different band until I saw the Riot mascot on the album cover.

Not a Christian band, just a similar situation to the likes of Wytch Hazel with a Christian singer and a person who writes a lot of the lyrics.

I'm not too familiar with them.  Has there been themes of Christianity throughout their albums or just this recent one(s)?
I believe it is only this new album. They were pretty standard heavy Metal in the 80's. I thought this was an entirely different band until I saw the mascot on the cover



They have a documentary and all of it is on YouTube but I haven't watched it yet. Here is a preview

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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Staybrite on Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:17 pm

Kerrick wrote:
My Awesome Timothy wrote:
MikeInFla wrote:Had no idea. So Riot is a Christian band now? Heard the two songs posted above and they were much better than I expected. In fact I thought this was a completely different band until I saw the Riot mascot on the album cover.

Not a Christian band, just a similar situation to the likes of Wytch Hazel with a Christian singer and a person who writes a lot of the lyrics.

I'm not too familiar with them.  Has there been themes of Christianity throughout their albums or just this recent one(s)?

They have had a lot of line-up changes Mark Reale was the only consistent member until he passed away in 2012 (at this point they don't have any original members).  I have 4 or 5 of their older albums and none of it could be considered Christian lyrically with any real certainty.  So it is likely just the new vocalist/lyric writer that is bringing anything faith-based (at least lyrically) to the band.
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Kerrick on Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:35 pm

Gotcha, thanks Mike and Gary.  I listened to one song from the new album and it sounded pretty decent.

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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Temple of Blood on Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:39 pm

  I have 4 or 5 of their older albums and none of it could be considered Christian lyrically with any real certainty.  So it is likely just the new vocalist/lyric writer that is bringing anything faith-based (at least lyrically) to the band.

Check out their song called "Storming the Gates of Hell".

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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Sabbatharian on Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:01 pm

Not much of a fan, though I really like "Thundersteel." Some of their early stuff is ok, like "Fire Down Under"...
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Re: RIOT V ~ Armor Of Light

Post by Staybrite on Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:29 pm

Temple of Blood wrote:
  I have 4 or 5 of their older albums and none of it could be considered Christian lyrically with any real certainty.  So it is likely just the new vocalist/lyric writer that is bringing anything faith-based (at least lyrically) to the band.

Check out their song called "Storming the Gates of Hell".

Will do.  Thumbs up
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