Steel Druhm is as happy as a pig in shite! You see, one of my all time favorite metal albums is Riot‘s Thundersteel. Although it was released way back in 1988, I still listen to it regularly and felt the burning need to write a Retro-spective Review of it a few months ago to spread the gospel. So masterful was that platter, Riot never even came close to equaling it with their later output. In fact, the immortal Thundersteel lineup only recorded one more album together (the very good Privilege of Power) and after that, things dropped off a lot. Now, twenty-three long years later, that powerhouse lineup has reunited to record a proper followup to their magnum opus. Naturally, I was skeptical they could re-bottle the might and magic and create something as brilliant, especially after so many years. Well, I was wrong to doubt, because Immortal Soul is the modern day version of Thundersteel and the best album of 2011 (so far). It has everything that made the Thundersteel sound so intoxicating. There’s speed, power, wailing vocals, blistering guitars, top-flight song writing, amazingly catchy melodies, choruses and smart lyrics. It’s a winner every way an album can be and its the record I’ve been praying for Riot to write since ’88. If you love the classic, traditional sounds of Judas Priest (think Painkiller), Iron Maiden and especially American acts like Jag Panzer and old Agent Steel, this will blow you away. If you, like me, loved Thundersteel, prepare to be stunned, stupefied and shellacked.
With the opening strains of “Riot,” its a trip back to the insanity of Thundersteel and it’s a thrashy tidal wave with searing, high-pitched vocals. When Tony Moore asks “what’s it gonna take to make you riot,” it’s pure metal heaven (Tony’s voice sounds utterly timeless and amazing)! The wild, shredding at 2:55 onward by Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz is priceless and air-guitar inducing to the nth degree. It’s the type of song that’ll make you remember why you listen to this stuff in the first place. From there, Immortal Soul never lets go of your throat as one barn burner after another flies by. “Still Your Man” is a sequel to “Johnny’s Back” off Thundersteel and includes self referential lyrics and guitar lines and it works wonderfully on its own and as a pleasant slice of steely nostalgia. “Wings Are for Angels” is a super catchy speed assault with a huge chorus, ripping fretboard gymnastics and great lyrics. “Fall Before Me” is a monster epic where Riot channels Manowar and the result is one of the best songs of the year. The title track is another hugely addicting hit with intelligent and fun lyrics you’ll be quoting often and a chorus you can’t shake. There isn’t an off moment or a trace of filler to be found. Every song will win you over and make you bask in their metallic perfection.
Besides the songs themselves (more on that later), the big surprise is how well Tony’s voice has held up over the years. I didn’t expect him to be capable of the wails and upper register histrionics he excelled at back in the day. However, he pulls it off with style all over Immortal Soul. When paired with the nimble and exciting guitar segments Reale and Flyntz crafted, the Riot sound is reborn and back to kick all the ass that needs kicking. Adding significantly to the aural mayhem is some great drumming from seasoned vet Bobby Jarzombek (Fates Warning, Arch/Matheos, Halford, Iced Earth). This is a tightly played, raucous and raging metal album like they don’t make anymore and it screams TRUE all the way to the end.
No matter how skilled the musicians are, without great songs they can’t get anywhere. Immortal Soul is an enormous triumph because they managed to write eleven great songs (and a cool instrumental). On the very first listen, five of them stood out enough to require immediate replay and by the third listen, all were having the same effect. This is one of the best pure metal albums to come along in years and it tickles me to no end it’s Riot that pulled it off.
Thundersteel is a timeless classic and now, it finally has a rightful heir to it’s Iron Throne. Immortal Soul is old school metal glory, all day, all night. Buy it, live it, love it. All hail Riot, the Kings have returned to reclaim Rock City, finally!