Riot – “Thundersteel” (1988)

Riot!  Well… kind of.  It’s not the Riot of Fire Down Under, let’s put it that way.  Only one member of that “classic” lineup remains in this incarnation of Riot; guitarist Mark Reale.  And this Riot sounds nothing like the Riot of old.  So why call it Riot?  I don’t know.  Marketing I guess.

So what usually happens when a band’s classic lineup gets gutted and the band’s name carries on to what is essentially a scab band?  Furthermore, what happens when an established band changes to a whole new sound?  Usually the results are disappointing or even awful, right?  But there are exceptions to every rule, and the exception here is Thundersteel!

Mark Reale joined up with three new guys and formed a band that became a speedy power metal tour de force.  While the Riot of old was a loose, straight forward hard rock/metal outfit, the new Riot was highly technical, tight, and even a bit progressive.

On Thundersteel, the glorious high vocals of new guy Tony Moore soar above the barrage of double-bass pounding and Reale’s quick riffing.  It’s really hard to believe that Reale was able to change his playing style so drastically for Thundersteel.  (He claims to have been influenced by bands such as S.A. Slayer, and was interested in neoclassical metal guitar at the time.)  His guitar work on Thundersteel is unrecognizable compared to his older stuff, although he is still very much a song-oriented guitarist, and not a flashy trickster.

Thundersteel often draws comparison to Judas Priest’s 1990 album, Painkiller.  Both albums are fierce, fast paced, and metal to the core, yet both are also extremely melodic and accessible.  This killer combination is like the holy grail to many a metal aficionado.  More than a few consider Painkiller to be an absolute masterpiece.  What of Thundersteel?  Though Thundersteel is not nearly as well-known as Painkiller, some think it is just as good or an even better album (I do).   Don’t forget that Thundersteel came out two years BEFORE Painkiller.  Two years people!

When I first heard Thundersteel I wish I had been wearing Pampers.  I lost a good pair of BVDs that day.  When the opening tune, Thundersteel, blasted out of my speakers it was a shock to my bowels.  This was Riot?  Shock turned to awe when killer tunes like Flight Of The Warrior speed-bagged my ball sack.  The best was yet to come.  Johnny’s Back made me vomit with excitement and Bloodstreets spanked my coolie red.  Raise your glasses people, Thundersteel deserves it.  My score: A

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3 thoughts on “Riot – “Thundersteel” (1988)

  1. Every era of Riot has some gems album-wise, but this one is still their Mt. Everest to me, gotta give props to “Buried Alive (Tell-Tale Heart)” as well, the riffs are a lot slower than most of the album, but still crush! It’s the slower tunes that put this head and shoulders above “Painkiller” and nearly every other traditional metal album from that era.

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