Riot V may sound like a strange name, but for those unaware, the band is the next evolution of stalwart American metal veterans Riot, a band that began in the ’80s as a quality metal outfit and evolved over time into a quality power metal outfit. Decades later, and after having seen dozens of members pass through the band, along with multiple tragedies, Riot V emerged in 2012 after the death of founder Mark Reale. 2014’s excellent Unleash the Fire was one of the year’s top releases, and Armor of Light is the band’s follow-up.
There are not be any founding members left in Riot V. Guitarist Mike Flyntz is the longest-tenured, having been in the band since 1989, although main songwriter and bassist Don Van Stavern was part of the classic Thundersteel lineup. However, the band’s spirit remains unchanged, and their mix of power and traditional metal is as infectious as ever. In what is definitely a Riot rarity, the same lineup as Unleash the Fire is present here, and the extra few years working together shows in the chemistry on display throughout.
The majority of tracks on Armor of Light are up-tempo blasts of power metal. “Victory” kicks off the album in high-charging fashion, and like all the other similar songs here it features soaring vocals, catchy choruses, and exemplary guitar work. That song, along with the closer “Raining Fire,” are album highlights.
Several songs do trend closer to traditional metal, and Riot V shine on these cuts as well. “Caught in the Witches Eye” is a stellar number, with a lumbering riff and singalong chorus, while “Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign” runs with a classic gallop. As far as songwriting goes, it’s hard to find a misstep anywhere on Armor of Light.
Power metal is often derided as a heavy metal sub-genre, but I don’t have any issues myself with the style’s exuberance, flamboyance, or at times cheesy subject matter. The only thing that irritates me, and is alive and well on Armor of Light, is the incessant (and incessantly loud) kick drum. The prevailing thought among power metal drummers seems to be double-kick all the time in every song, but it takes away from the other musicians. The stellar Bobby Jarzombek (Fates Warning, Halford) used to play for Riot: having a drummer of his caliber back in the fold would do wonders for an otherwise excellent album.
Kick drum misgivings aside, Armor of Light is an excellent helping of traditional power metal, with great singing, infectious songwriting, and outstanding musicianship. Riot V have been around for so long, and in so many incarnations, that the experience shines through in spades. While the power metal label may turn off listeners, give this one a chance: you might like what you hear.
(released April 27, 2018 on Nuclear Blast)
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Watch Riot V – “Heart Of A Lion” Video