Monday, April 27, 2015

"Thunder And Steel Down Under"-A Tribute To Riot

Skol Records

It's another fine Metal Monday so check this one out my friends and fellow metalheads. It's way past the point of being long-overdue, but Skol Record's "Thunder And Steel Down Under" is the first ever Riot tribute album. The fact that it has taken so long to put one together is wrong on so many levels, the least of which is A) how universal Riot's form of U.S. power metal is and then (as heard on this limited edition CD) B) how easily it lends itself to being covered. Thankfully this 14-track compilation not only addresses this gross negligence, but it does so in grand fashion and with the exact kind of style and grace befitting of such a classic band as Riot! And speaking of classics, "Thunder And Steel Down Under" features more than a few golden gems from Riot's amazing back catalog and they are given the royal treatment by many a great band that has already been featured here on Heavy Metal Time Machine! We're talking about the likes of Crystal Viper, Night Demon, October 31 and Rocka Rollas  (to name just a few) and here on the limited-edition "Thunder And Steel Down Under" these four bands join up with ten other great artists in order to pay homage to one of heavy metal's true unsung heroes! Obviously not all tribute albums are created equally and compilations in general can be so hit or miss. We all know this to be a sad fact of life. But again, we are talking about Riot and if any band has a back catalog that is perfectly suited for covering it would be this one. And it should go without saying, but on "Thunder And Steel Down Under" the list of bands that Skol Records assembled for this project is impressive. Besides those mentioned we have Savage Master, Attacker, Dexter Ward and Axel Rudi Pel (again just to name a few!) and it all adds up to one album that was so damn-near perfect that I had to stop and ponder the fact on more than one occasion! So, without further adieu let's jump right into this Riot tribute album! Produced by the one and only Bart Gabriel (Sacred Steel, Crystal Viper, Jack Starr's Burning Starr), "Thunder And Steel Down Under" is indeed a rare specimen in that it offers a tribute album that is actually worthy of the band of which it covers! Crazy right? Well, as strange as that sounds its the truth. We start things off with Ferdy Doernberg's brief instrumental take on "Soldier" before we are bowled over by Axel Rudi Pell's version of "Warrior". So far so good right? It only gets better friends as "Fire Down Under" sounds great in Attacker's hands! Already we see how right Riot's music can sound in the hands of those who share a true love and appreciation for the band and their remarkable brand of traditional and power metal! It should be noted at this point that income from the sale of this special album will be given to Sir Tony Reale (father of the late Riot guitarist and founding member, Mark Reale) so we're talking about great metal music for a great cause! It's win-win time all around! But anyway, Walpyrgus is up next with "Outlaw" and if you haven't figured it out for yourself by now let me just say again how well-suited this band is in regards to being covered! Wow. Riot is really something in regards to their back catalog and how many killer songs they have and it's a treat to hear how easily it transforms into straight-ahead metal and heavy power metal/thrash! When we are talking about Riot we are talking about the kind of traditional heavy metal  band that should be huge! Their form of power metal is absolutely slamming and yet it's so well-written and constructed that it can be turned on it's head and still sound fantastic! Few bands can stake that kind of claim, but then again Riot is in a league of their own. All of which begs the question why it hasn't happened sooner? Why has it taken so long for this classic American band to get a tribute album all their own? I wish I knew. Anyway, Savage Master is on board now with "Swords And Tequila" and it's at this point that we hear one of the only so-so tracks on the compilation. It's not that Savage Master is bad or anything. In truth I happen to love the band and their debut album received high marks for all of us here at Heavy Metal Time Machine. Even so I will admit that their cover of "Swords And Tequila" sounds coldly hollow when compared to the original. And that's a shame as "Swords And Tequila"is an absolute classic in it's own right. But hey, they can't all be winners right? From Savage Master we turn to  the neoclassical style of Angelo Perlepes' Mystery. I enjoyed their cover of "Sign Of The Crimson Storm" as it has a Dio flair to it. Next up is October 31 and they take on "Loanshark". Now the guys in October 31st are no strangers when it comes to cover songs so finding them on a Riot tribute album isn't all that surprising. What is surprising though is how little their cover of "Loanshark" sounds like the original. It's more of a punk thrash take on Riot and depending upon whether you are a fan of October 31or not you will either love it or hate it. I like it quite a bit as it is different in a good way and it offers a unique perspective of the music of Riot. From there we are served up one choice cover after another from band's here in the U.S. and bands from over in Europe. To save a bit of time and space the remainder of this tribute album looks something like this:

Alpha Tiger- "Flight Of The Warrior" (A solid cover that is a nice mix of flash and fury)
Stallion-"Rock City" (Good even if it can't touch the originals appeal)
Rocka Rollas-"Riot" (Nothing fancy or anything it's just the Rocka Rollas doing their thing)
Evil United-"Altar Of The King" (A Straight down the middle of the road shooter that hits it's target dead on)
Night Demon-"Road Racin'" (One of my favorite Riot numbers done by one of my favorite new bands)
Dexter Ward-"Running From The Law" (Totally kicking cover choice done right)

Crystal Viper feat. Todd Michael Hall-"Thundersteel" (A nice way to end this tribute)

As they are all really good covers there is no reason to get too technical about each track. Still, highlights for me (band-wise) would have to be: Rocka Rollas, Evil united, Night Demon and Dexter Ward. Especially Night Demon. Their cover selection has always been a guilty pleasure of mine so having one of my new favorites cover one of my old favorites was simply cool. And that's really what this tribute album is all about
when you get down to it! "Thunder And Steel Down Under" is all about a great group of bands and artists (both new and not so new) coming together to celebrate one of metal's finest bands and the life of one of it's finest members (Mark Reale). If the actual music isn't enough to sway you though then consider the fact that this compilation comes packed with a nice booklet with notes from each band. Consider it a little bonus if you will. In the end "Thunder And Steel Down Under" makes up for a great deal of lost time. It addresses a  gaping hole that previously existed and it honors not only Riot, but the bands that Riot influenced. As it is limited to a mere 1,000 copies I would definitely recommend that you not wait too long to buy this fantastic CD. It's worth every penny and it's for a good cause. What more could a Riot fan ask for?

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Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this information Steel.

12:36 AM  

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