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Album Review : Riot Act – ‘Closer To The Flame’*

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Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM

Much loved in the UK following their appearance at the inaugural Monsters Of Rock and opening for Saxon on their ‘Denim and Leather’ tour, Riot are a band with a frustratingly chequered history that should have instead seen them a major league act.

Despite shows with the likes of Sammy Hagar, Rush, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult and AC/DC amongst others, they were plagued by bad decisions and record label issues that saw them having to stop and start several times.

Whilst their fortunes have been mixed, what can’t be denied them is the strength of material and it’s this and the focus that has seen the band continue to be on the road.

A key part of the band’s success was guitarist Rick Ventura, his distinctive playing rooted as much in the tradition of classic English hard rock acts as in the burgeoning metal scene of the late seventies and early
eighties.

Along with fellow former Riot rhythm player Lou Kouvaris, the guitarist formed Riot Act, a new outfit that sought to bring the passion and excitement of those early days back to screaming life.

Joining them on vocals Don Chaffin brought a formidable CV and the band was completed by Paul Ranieri on bass and drummer Claudio Galinski, both renowned musicians in their own right.

Sadly Kouvaris passed away due to Coronavirus in 2020 but the band were committed to keep the legacy alive, stamping their own imprint onto the scene.

Debut album ‘Closer To The Flame’ certainly is soaked in the feel of 80’s, big riffs, even bigger vocals, thundering percussion and muscular melodies abound in a way that’s bound to appeal to fans of the era.

The punchy title track, along with ‘49ER’ and ‘Straight For Your Heart’ are full of classic American hard rock moves, Ventura shredding with style as Chaffin impresses with a mighty set of pipes.

Ranieri and Galinski both shine on the swinging ‘Overdrive’, their work shot through with a dirty, funky edge that sees the propulsive riffing complimented by their feel and some great vocal harmonies.

The foot comes off the gas for the Stonesy ballad ‘Almost There’ and it’s a real highlight of the album. Full of soul, it’s something that Aerosmith would have written at their peak. There’s the sound of 70’s staple the cowbell in the tough and jagged ‘Stand Or Fall’ and both the epic ‘Warrior’ and ‘Angelina’ capture that irresistible Riot sound.

The album closes with the fearsome ‘Right Between The Eyes’ which mixes elements of Angus Young riffs, Saxon’s meat and potatoes metal and some Robert Plant style vocals by Chaffin before closer ‘Rock Love And Roll’ brings things to a close with a bruising rocker that feels like a victory lap, the band knowing they’ve achieved exactly what they wanted.

In addition to the album comes a second disc of re-recorded Riot classics from their commercial peak, put down in the studio before Kouvaris passed away.

It’s a fascinating exercise and a good bonus, both for those who remember solid gold bangers like ‘Swords and Tequila’ and ‘Altar of the King’ from their huge ‘Fire Down Under’ album, classy Southern Rocker ‘Outlaw’ from the same release and the full blooded ‘Road Racin’’ from the ‘Narita’ breakthrough.

It’s always a risk to stack classics up against new material but Riot Act certainly don’t lack confidence and the strength of the new songs and the band itself manage to walk that line well, stamping their own identity whilst paying due respect to the heritage.

With an 80’s style production that has more warmth than modern bite sometimes, ‘Closer To The Flame’
captures those heady days and promises a lot more to come.

Kicking hard and with a class all their own, Riot Act certainly don’t hold back.

CD1 ‘Closer To The Flame’
1. Closer To The Flame 2. Wanted 3. Straight For Your Heart 4. Smoking Gun 5. Almost There 6. Stand Or Fall 7. Love Come Round 8. Angelina 9. Right Between The Eyes 10. Rock Love And Roll

CD2 Classic Riot songs (re-recorded)
1. Rock City 2. 49er 3. Swords And Tequila 4. Overdrive 5. No Lies 6. Tokyo Rose 7. Warrior 8. Don’t Hold Back 9. White Rock 10. Outlaw 11. Road Racing 12. Altar Of The King

RIOT ACT Rick Ventura – Guitar Don Chaffin – Vocals Paul Ranieri – Bass Claudio Galinski -Drums https://facebook.com/riotactbandofficial

https://instagram.com/riotactband

https://youtube.com/riotactbandofficial

Riot Act signs with Global Rock Records! http://www.globalrockrecords.com/press/riotact_301121.html

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