Album Review: Riot V- Mean Streets

Aaron ConnMusic, ReviewsLeave a Comment

Riot V Mean Streets

Riot V Mean StreetsAlmost a decade after their 2014 debut,  Riot V are back with a brand new studio album. The album, Mean Streets, is the band’s first album since 2018’s Armor Of Light. As to be expected, Mean Streets is another heavy offering from the seal mascotting headbangers, filled with catchy and melodic tunes.

Riot V’s story starts in the mid 1970s in New York. Formed as Riot by guitarist Mark Reale, Riot would become a cult favorite hard rock band. In their first tenure, the band released hard rock classics such as Narita and Fire Down Under. After a brief hiatus, Reale would revive Riot in the late 1980s as a heavy metal band with the release of Thundersteel. Until his death in 2012, Reale was the lone consistent member of the band. Despite his passing, longtime members and friends Mike Flynz (guitar) and Donnie Van Stavern (bass) decided to continue the band as Riot V. Along with Flynz and Stavern, Riot V consists of Todd Michael Hall (vocals), Nick Lee (guitar) and Frank Gilchriest (drums). For the last decade, Riot V have been paying tribute to the music of Mark Reale. While Mean Streets is the third studio album released under the Riot V name, it’s 17th Riot album overall.

The album opens with the thunderous “Hail to the Warriors,” an anthemic styled metal tune. Right off the bat, the band are firing on all cylinders. With melodic guitar riffs and a breakneck playing speed, the band are not holding back.  Musically, the song sounds similar to that of the band’s work on Thundersteel and The Privilege of Power. Vocally, Todd Michael Hall is already screaming like a banshee, as he calls for listeners to raise their fists and hail to the titular warriors.

With Riot V being a tribute the music of Mark Reale, the albums released under the moniker have paid homage to all things connected to Riot and Reale’s tastes. For the most part, Riot V pick up where Reale left off: heavy metal music in the style of Thundersteel and/or bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Look no further than “Feel the Fire” and “Love Beyond the Grave” for the evidence. Both songs have strong Priest and Maiden-esque elements to them. The former has a riff similar to the Priest deep cut “Grinder” while the latter has some Rob Halford-like vocals from Hall.

Riot V Promo

Riot V. From L to R: Mike Flynz, Donnie Van Stavern, Todd Michael Hall, Frank Gilchriest and Nick Lee. Photo courtesy of Atomic Fire Records.

Mean Streets also leaves room for some good ol’ throwbacks to Riot’s past. Take the the lead single, “High Noon,” for example: it’s an impressively heavy tune with lyrics that feature wild west/western themes, giving shades of Riot classics such as “Outlaw” and “Gunfighter.” The title track  is a sequel to not only “Johnny’s Back” from Thundersteel but “Still Your Man” from 2011’s Immortal Soul. Whereas “Still Your Man” was more about remembering old times, “Mean Streets” sees the protagonist going back home. “Mean streets, take me back again” sings Hall. “To the place where I became a man.” The band also seem to pay homage to the Mike DiMeo era on “Higher,” which features some splendid vocal harmonies and high octane guitar work.

If one were looking for some old school Riot material, there’s a good amount of it during the last third of the album. The fast paced “Mortal Eyes” has a guitar riff similar to that of the Riot classic “Road Racin’.” With mentions in the lyrics of the year 1979, it seems this was done intentionally. Further homages can be found on “Lean Into It,” which features a riff similar to Riot’s other driving themed tune “Overdrive.” Listening to the sheen of the chorus, Todd Michael Hall’s vocals are similar to that of the late Guy Speranza’s: they soar into the mix, giving the song a heavy yet melodic feel.

Speaking of melodic metal, this is where Mean Streets excels. Of the album’s twelve tracks, “Before This Time” might be the best example of this. Musically, it has the feel of a song from Thundersteel yet it’s reserved and relaxed. Come the chorus, the vocal harmonies are sensational, with a glow and aura of an Iron Maiden chorus. With it’s NWOBHM qualities and it’s throwback to late 80’s Riot, “Before This Time” might be the strongest song from the album.

Mean Streets is another impressive effort from Riot V. Whether it’s better than Unleash the Fire and/or Armor of Light shouldn’t have to matter: since their formation after the tragic death of Mark Reale, Riot V have done their founder proud in flying the Riot flag high. If there’s any doubt in any longtime Riot fans that the band can continue without Reale, those doubts can be laid to rest with these three albums. If you’re a Riot fan new or old, give Mean Streets a listen.

Rating: 7/10

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Aaron ConnAlbum Review: Riot V- Mean Streets