(TheBRHM.com) New York-based act Riot V is a band that I discovered after delving into the act’s days as Riot and discovering Thundersteel. Released in 1988, Thundersteel would’ve made for a tremendous topic for our “Greatest Debut Albums” segment because of how strong of an album it is from start to finish.
To achieve that level of consistency and quality throughout the album is a true talent and a feat. An album can still be great and worth recommending even with some lulls in the action or a track or two that brings it down. This one isn’t the case.
Riot really brought it with Thundersteel and the band had roughly 13 years of experience at this point—12 if you don’t count the break or hiatus in 1985. Even if you, primary lyricist and guitarist, the late Mark Reale was still busy performing and had written the titular track while with the band S.A Slayer.
Thundersteel is a significant album in that it makes Riot V fully embracing its speed metal strengths while strengthening U.S power metal. It had joined the league of speedier U.S bands in power metal such as Jag Panzer, Attacker, Lizzy Borden, and Helstar.
What Tracks Slammed on ‘Thundersteel’?
Oh! What didn’t slam is a better question! We’re working nine tracks and a 46-minute runtime here and that would usually point to longer tracks that either slow or mid-tempo. The first guess is correct, these are longer songs—or rather, longer than accepted by modern mainstream music where three minutes is really pushing it and the sweet spot is around the two-minute mark.
No, the shortest song here is the title track, folks. Looking at the track listing, “Thundersteel”, “Fight or Fall”, “Sign of the Crimson Storm”, “Flight of the Warrior”, and On the Wings of Angels” all slam and that’s just the whole A-side.
Listen, after sitting out a year and having last dropped an album in 1983, Riot V returned and they weren’t here to d**k around. They had a high-energy, slightly aggressive approach here. The follow-up would feature more aggression but Mark Reale and the boys had the right approach here because this album really established its direction going forward and became what the band is known for releasing.
As for what slammed on the B-side, “Johnny’s Back” and “Run for Your Life” are the only ones. It should be noted that this is a different “Run for Your Life” than the one from Fire Down Under. This one has more bite to it but both tracks are great, side A-worthy tracks that help in holding down the B-side.
The other two tracks “Bloodstreets” and “Buried Alive (Tell Tale Heart)” didn’t slam but “Bloodstreets” slaps…hard. Slower-paced and more dramatic, lyrically it keeps up the theme and spirit of Thundersteel while giving us the story of an aged former “King of the Neighborhood” who laments about being forgotten and the changes around him but still fights for his home.
It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album hands down.
The Standout Tracks
This is difficult because the whole album is great that there are no weak songs. The weakest track—or rather the one that didn’t slam or slap as hard—was the closer “Buried Alive”. We’ll go for a power triple pack and start with “Thundersteel” which I’ll revisit for the “Strength of the Opener”.
The second standout was “Johnny’s Back” which—if you piece them together—comes off as a prequel to our third standout “Bloodstreets”. If you’re wondering where the story began, I’d go with Fire Down Under…but that’s only because I love that album as well. Regardless, these two songs have a bit of street smartness in the lead character paired with an anthem and a hard ballad.
That’s the beauty of “Bloodstreets”, it comes off like a ballad without sounding like one and that gets two big thumbs up from me! I’d go as far as to say that Riot V should do a concept album with a few remakes of classic tunes to tell the whole story.
Normally we’d have a section for songs that bring the album down. None of the songs do that here but “Buried Alive” is a slower track that bring the heaviness. It’s actually closer to “Bloodstreets” but it just has a different vibe from the rest of the album’s tracks. It probably could’ve swapped out spots with “Bloodstreets”.
Strength of the Opener: “Thundersteel”
If there was a hall of fame for opening tracks, “Thundersteel” would have to go in eventually. Of course, that would rely on the voting board knowing about Riot V. It opens the album with speed and excitement and wouldn’t you know it: the song comes off as the album advertises from the cover!
Mind you, it’s a cool albeit kind of low-quality—it’s the coloring and lack of shadows and shades—cover but the music as a whole doesn’t reflect the cover. That’s not unusual, sometimes you just get your hands on some primo artwork and run with it as the cover.
However, Thundersteel might lead you to believe this is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure from the cover whereas only the title track and perhaps “Sign of the Crimson Storm” fit the cover. On that note, there are like two or three different stories told on side A where you could say that you have two 2-parters and a standalone—”On Wings of Eagles”.
All of that aside, the opener is damn powerful and worth several listens. It really primes you for what turns out to be an excellent album and just about the perfect 80s U.S power metal album.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.