Mean Streets

Atomic Fire
rating icon 8.5 / 10

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

More than a decade has passed since RIOT founder Mark Reale's untimely passing. A lesser group of musicians might have baulked at the idea of upholding and defending such a mighty legacy, but from the release of 2014's "Unleash the Fire" onwards, RIOT V have made it plain that their commitment to the cause is absolute. The third album released under that slightly amended name, "Mean Streets" confirms that the New Yorkers are continuing to put Reale's musical philosophy at the heart of everything they do, and that means another colossal splurge of pure-bred melodic heavy metal, immaculately produced and played with rare passion and verve. It is, undoubtedly, what the band's former leader would have wanted.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of RIOT's formation, and "Mean Streets" is the perfect accompaniment to the celebrations. Discerning, long-time fans will point to the likes of "Fire Down Under", "Thundersteel" and "The Privilege Of Power" as records that define the band's identity and sound, and RIOT V are still proudly taking seats in the same ballpark here, but with more power and musical muscle than ever before. Led by the glorious pipes of Todd Michael Hall, the quintet's collective mastery of this stuff is evident from the get-go. At a time when mainstream media outlets are falling over themselves to redefine metal as some kind of boundary-less free-for-all, the power of an unapologetic and expertly executed heavy metal album should never be underestimated. Progress is cool, but nothing gets the blood pumping like the real thing, and "Mean Streets" is as real (and Reale) as it gets.

This is an album that oozes authority. Songs like fiery opener "Hail To The Warriors" and the aggressively catchy "Feel The Fire" take the explosive, ultra-melodic flair of the "Thundersteel" era and expand upon it with deft progressive touches, plenty of hard rock swagger and a crushing, cutting edge production that renders everything in timeless, tumultuous colors. "Love From Beyond The Grave" is a classic mid-paced flag-waver, with oh-so-NYC gang vocals and a particularly fine vocal from Todd Michael Hall; "High Noon" is an exhilarating, speed metal call-to-arms with a ferocious chorus hook and a euphoric, hell-for-leather solo section; the title track ties MAIDEN harmonies and lethal vocal lines to a pummeling, high velocity, post-SABBATH rumble. It's all joyous and entirely flawless.

Whether grinding commandingly in hard rock mode on the poignant "Open Road", flooring the accelerator on the lean and gritty "Mortal Eyes", or displaying refined technical chops on the breathless but nails-hard "No More", RIOT V are producing material and performances that spark with a vitality that bands of this vintage rarely achieve. "Mean Streets" is righteous, vibrant and exciting. The legacy continues with all guns blazing.

Author: Dom Lawson
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