Riot - Thundersteel
Riot were formed by guitarist Mark Reale way back in 1975. Since then the New York City based band have released a not inconsiderable 13 albums. Many of them highly regarded by fans and critics alike. Why then do the vast majority of Metal listeners remain unaware of them?
Starting out as a pretty traditional Heavy Metal band they released three albums with singer Guy Speranza who left after 1981's Fire Down Under. He was replaced by Rhett Forrester for a couple of records before the group's disbanding due to lack of commercial success in the mid 80's.
But Reale wasn't ready to give up the Metal way of life and had pieced the band back together again by 1988. This time they were fronted by unknown singer Tony Moore. The first fruits of the bands reformation were contained in the undisputed classic Thundersteel.
I had continuously been told by my flatmate that Thundersteel was essential listening but it had failed to reach my CD player until towards the end of 2008. Once attaining its destination I can honestly say there hasn't been a week gone by where one or all of its tracks hasn't been blasting out of my speakers.
The title track Thundersteel is a statement of intent for the rest of the album. It begins with a blistering riff and as soon as the frantic drum beat kicks in it's almost powerful enough to strip the paint from your walls. Tony Moore's obvious quality shines through instantly as his piercing falsetto screams will bring goose-bumps to anyone searching for a hit of pure, traditional metal singing. Also the guitar solo at just after two minutes will have you on your knees begging for more. And don't worry there will be plenty of that kind of playing to come.
The album often gets compared to the mighty Painkiller by Judas Priest and it's not hard to see why. They both contain sterling production which no doubt inspired and informed many other bands work. The records share a similar take no prisoners attitude and also came at a critical time in the bands careers (Remember, Priest were still recovering from the fallout over Turbo when they unleashed the Painkiller on an unsuspecting public)
The other obvious comparison is that both bands feature a vocalist on top of their game. Moore extorts that same kind of fury, skill and passion that Halford managed to tap into three years later.
One thing that Thundersteel is arguably better at providing than Painkiller is variety. Each track, while unbending in will and united in spirit is markedly different in theme and execution. 

Compare the second track Fight Or Fall to the fourth, Flight Of The Warrior. The latter displays a tough, streetwise attitude with gang backing vocals not too dissimilar to thrash bands like Anthrax. Flight Of The Warrior on the other hand is untainted Fantasy Metal with a heaven sent chorus that will no doubt send fists thrusting skywards with every listen. It actually comes as no surprise to find out that Hammerfall covered this particular track on their recent Masterpeices covers album. The opening riff will actually have you checking to make sure you didn't put Legacy Of Kings in your stereo by mistake.
Despite the complete perfection of the title track, it's actually later song on the record which is my personal favourite.
Straight from the drum and bass intro you just know that Johnny's Back is going to be special. The rhythm section of bassist Don Van Stavern and drummer Bobby Jarzombek really excel in laying down a tight groove for Reale's palm muted riff. Once Moore vocals join in, the pace of the song changes to a gallop courtesy of some excellent bass pedal work from Jarzombek.
The lyrics share similarities with The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy as our protagonist Johnny returns to his old stomping ground to reclaim his throne as king of the streets. The way Moore delivers lines like "Tell the boys to step aside, tell the girls to form a line" and "Wanna fight? Lets get it on, Need a love? Then I'm the one" ensures that they are full of the boastful attitude needed to convey the songs intent. And the way he hits the high notes on the chorus and also on the second last line of each verse is nothing short of magical.
There is also a marked poignancy in the tough guy lyrics as they lament on the fact that no matter how much you enjoyed your teenage years "Nothing stays the same for ever".
The next track Bloodstreets is the albums semi-ballad and starts off with a picked acoustic guitar part backed by a flute. This track continues the theme of growing older and not dealing with changes from the last track. But unlike Johnny's Back the narrator of this song knows that despite him never giving up "These streets are getting colder. tomorrow seems so far away" And yet again it contains another fantastic chorus, its amazing that the one band can create so many memorable anthems on the same album.
The second last song Run For Your Life is perhaps the weakest number on offer when taken in the context of the album. But even at that it's very well executed, straight ahead rocker that fits well into its surroundings.
The album ends with an almost nine minute epic based on the works of legendary horror writer Edgar Allan Poe. Buried Alive (Tell Tale Heart) starts off with an atmospheric spoken word prayer and some of Poe's prose. The arpeggiated chords and melodic solo work fizzles out to be replaced by a tolling bell before a crunching mid paced riff begins around the three minute mark. It's a perfect album closer which again offers a little something different to the proceeding tracks The unsettling screams of "C'mon, Let me out" as the track fades away leave the listener with a foreboding chill.
This is quite simply one of the best Metal albums ever released; you owe it to yourself to track it down. Alas, this line-up only produced one more record The Privilege of Power. This was rather more experimental than its predecessor and even went as far as to include a horn section. For my money it sadly doesn't come close to matching Thundersteel's all consuming power.
On a happier note, for those travelling to Sweden Rock 2009, the Thundersteel line-up will be reuniting for what's certain to be a very special show. I'll be sure to see you there.

Written by Stuart
Thursday, February 26, 2009
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Stuart: 9/10

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Rating: 9.5/10
The most underrated metal album ever, ahead of its time and virtually every song a classic... · Read more ·

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Review by Craig (Member) - Friday, February 27, 2009
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Comments: 134
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The most underrated metal album ever, ahead of its time and virtually every song a classic.

Rating: 9.5/10

Posted by Craig
Friday, February 27, 2009

Comment by Steen (Staff) - Friday, February 27, 2009
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Comments: 518
Sounds like I have missed something special. Ordered it today and can't wait to hear it.

Posted by Steen (Staff)
Friday, February 27, 2009

Comment by Steen (Staff) - Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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Got the album yesterday and it sounds absolutely brilliant. What a great feeling to make such a discovery.

Posted by Steen (Staff)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Comment by Stuart (Staff) - Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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Comments: 116
And thats why you should always trust me ;)

Seriously though, its a briliant album. I've been listening to the follow up Privilige of Power quite a bit too. Its much better than I first thought but the massive interludes and the horn section do let it down a bit.

Posted by Stuart (Staff)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review by Stuart

Released by
CBS - 1988

1. Thundersteel
2. Fight or Fall
3. Sign of the Crimson Storm
4. Flight of the Warrior
5. On Wings of Eagles
6. Johnny's Back
7. Bloodstreets
8. Run for Your Life
9. Buried Alive (Tell Tale Heart)

Power/Heavy Metal

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