Before one can burn the night, one must first own the night. That’s exactly what Riot City set out to do on their rip roaring retro 80s metal debut. Properly done, retro metal is synonymous with unbridled enthusiasm, fun, and a middle finger to all authority everywhere. It should overflow like a latrine at a 4-day metal festival with in-your-face riffs, pounding drums, and vocals higher than Colorado post-2014. Nuance, subtly and restraint all must be forsaken and expunged and animal spirits embraced. Riot City know these truisms and live them as they rock hard and ride free like the 80s never ended. Imagine cult act Cities crossbred with Helstar, Jag Panzer and Agent Steel and you’ll be in the right place at exactly the right time. The 80s were the Golden Age of metal. A Pax Romana if you will, and Riot City aim to bring that glorious era back. Don’t question it, just get your high tops and spiked bracelets on, and follow your tour guide, Lord Protector Steel. He knows the way.
The opening salvo of this time war, “Warrior of Time,” is exactly the kind of munition to fire in the face of modernity. It screams old school attitude and reeks of 1985. It’s speedy without becoming speed metal, and merges NWoBHM influences with early American power metal for a knuckle dusting, hard rocking anthem to slam beers and heads to. Vocalist Cale Savy howls like a banshee at a discount colonoscopy clinic, trying to outdo the feats of metal wailers past and present and in the process, enters the Great Hall of Vocal Heroes. His courageous caterwauling is given formidable support by his and Roldan Reimer’s authentic 80s riff-palate. They borrow from everyone from Dokken to Judas Priest as they shove their fret-boards straight through your metal heart. Powerful but accessible, catchy but aggressive – this is the steely template the band uses for the rest of Burn the Night‘s concise 37 minutes. The title track especially rips it up and burns it down, resulting in another head knocking metal anthem, and that old timey gang-shout chorus makes an old codger like me smile.
Other saucy chestnuts await as the album screams for vengeance in the night. “In the Dark” opens with soothing 80s acoustics that instantly reminded me of Obsession‘s “For the Love of Money” before Savy begins his mega-dramatic, ever so briefly restrained delivery. This quickly devolves into air-raid screaming in a way metal fans should appreciate and salute. The bullet-ridden, burning war wagon soon flies of the cliffs of fury for a throwback winner Enforcer would kill White Wizzard with a Tokyo Blade to have penned. So much power, so much might, all in a 5-minute dose of chromed-coated medicine that should be prescribed to the filthy masses. “The Hunter” is another steel-toe boot to the eye socket with urgent, speedy riffs propelling Savy to vocal histrionics unheard since the earliest days of Helstar‘s James Rivera. Raging, rampaging and running amok, this is what metal is all about. The musical choices here are shrewd, allowing a few moody, muted moments to creep in, thereby causing the frenetic segments to feel more manic. Throw in slick, high-level solos and harmonies and you’re left with a potent metal bomb.
There are no bad cuts, though “Livin’ Fast” leaves slightly less lasting trauma. The only real knock is that we’ve heard all this before many, many times. That doesn’t matter much to me personally when the 80s style is executed so well, but it is a retread of all things old and well trodden. The star of this show is undoubtedly Mr. Savy. The man has an otherworldly ability to deliver the bulk of his lines in full “Painkiller” mode, and yet never become annoying or tedious. He can sing quite well when he wishes and uses his cleaner delivery adroitly to accent his Halford on helium screeching. The man was born to sing metal, that’s for sure. He and Roldan Reimer excel at crafting energizing riffs and classic metal harmonies, their solos are wild and woolly, and everything they do captures the feel of the 80s perfectly. Chad Vallier turns in a first-rate performance on the kit, pounding with power, glory and enough technical chops to keep this beast on track. This is a talented crew and they know their chosen genre inside and out.
Burn the Night puts the fun in metal and the metal up your ass. The band clearly loves this era of metal, and play it with a ton of heart, letting the chips fall where they may. If you love the 80s metal sound, this will blow your speakers. Even if you hate throwback metal, I wager you’ll still end up grudgingly liking it. Retro is the gift we give ourselves, and Riot City is in a giving mood. Partake of this offering and join them in burning the night. The night had it coming and it would do the same to you if it got half a chance. Long live classic metal and death to those who deny the existence thereof.