Riot (1976-1984, 1988-2012, 2013-present): a Power Metal band from New York, New York, USA.
ven though mainstream success in the US has never fully materialized, Riot has maintained a long career in the power metal style. Riot formed in 1975 in New York City, New York when Kon-Tiki guitarist Mark Reale (R.I.P. 2012) and drummer Peter Bitelli recruited Phil Feit for bass and vocalist Guy Speranza (R.I.P. 2003). This line up recorded a four-track demo for inclusion in a proposed compilation of new rock bands. While waiting for the project OK, they added Steve Costello on keyboards. The band didn't like the final compilation proposal but 'Fire-Sign Records' liked the band and subsequently signed them. Although both bassists are credited on the debut effort, second guitarist Louie Kouvaris joined, while Feit was replaced with Jimmy Iommi for the debut Rock City (1977).
Extensive touring failed to get them the attention they wanted, and in 1979 Rick Ventura replaced Kouvaris. By this time, however, they finally got some attention from imported copies of their debut floating around the UK. There was enough attention to warrant a follow-up in the form of Narita, an album that, even today, is considered a hard rock classic. The album was boosted by the a ct's new found fame in England on the back of the NWOBHM movement; Rick Ventura taking over on guitar duties after the release, while 'Capitol Records' would sign them soon after as well. The album would then gain them an appearance at the famed Donnington Festival in 1980. A live compilation of that festival was released shortly later.
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The following year, 'Capitol Records' was under extensive pressure from a fan petition to release their next effort, Fire Down Under (1981). 'Capitol' turned the record down calling it "commercially unacceptable", and thus put the band in contractual limbo; a contract 'Capitol' refused to release the band from. The fan petition in question was organized and financed by producers Arnell and Loeb to engage fans around the world. The fans responded, most especially in the UK, where the offices of 'EMI Records' (who published for 'Capitol' in the UK), saw pickets erected. It would be 'Elektra Records' who negotiated an agreement with 'Capitol' Vice President Rupert Perry. They were rewarded with the album sailing into the Billboard 200 chart.
1982 saw Iommi and Bitelli quit to be replaced by Kip Leming and Sandy Slavin, while Speranza was replaced by Rhett Forrester (ex-Rachel; R.I.P. 1994) when he decided melding his religious convictions with his role in the band conflicted.
A version of Eric Burden's When I Was Young was the star attraction on their next album, Restless Breed (1982). This album received mixed reviews over-all. One other album titled Born In America followed in 1984 but to no interest and the band went silent.
Most of the original line-up returned in 1986, but it wasn't long before that line-up collapsed, with Reale hiring a whole new band, now featuring Tony Moore (vocals), Don Van Stavern (bass) and Mark Edwards (drums), and a new record company, this time 'Epic/CBS', to release the acclaimed Thundersteel in 1988. The relationship with Edwards didn't last long, and part way through recording he was replaced with Bobby Jarzombek. Privilege Of Power (1989), Riot Live (1989; originally recorded in 1980), Riot In Japan 1991 (1991; a live Japan recording) and Nightbreaker (1993; now with Mike Flyntz (guitar), Pete Perez (bass) and Michael DiMeo (vocals)) failed to show their sound progressing with the times and Greatest Hits '78-'90 (1993; a compilation of their past glories) would be their last attempt to flog it. Forrester had a short-lived solo career before he mysteriously disappeared; it was later discovered he was killed in an attempted robbery of his home in 1994.
It wasn't long, however, until the group tried it again with a somewhat (but not much) altered formula on the album Brethren Of The Long House (1995) featuring the arrival of John Macaluso (ex-Malmsteen) on drums. Another compilation, titled Star Box, would follow in 1996. On Inishmore (1998 US release/1997 in Japan) they changed to 'Metal Blade', while Jarzombek returned to re-take the drums. Four more albums followed to date, Angel Eyes (1997), Shine On (live) (1998), Sons Of Society (1999) and Through The Storm (2002) with Bobby Rondinelli (ex-Blue Oyster Cult/ex-Rainbow/ex-Black Sabbath) taking over drums.
Guy Speranza would die of pancreatic cancer November 8, 2003.
In 2006, the band released Army of One, featuring Frank Gilchriest (ex-Virgin Steele/ex-Gothic Knights) on drums.
In 2008, it was announced that the classic Thundersteel-era line-up would reunite for a tour starting in June 2009 with high profile shows at the Sweden Rock and Metalway festivals, followed by a tour of Japan in the fall. A new studio album, tentatively scheduled for a late 2009 release, failed to materialize and on December 4, 2009 Tony Moore announced that he quit; he would rejoin two years later. In 2011 Immortal Soul was released.
Founding band member Mark Reale died of complications resulting from Crohn's Disease on January 25, 2012. A release of a new Riot compilation came as the last effort for the classic act for at the request of Mark's father, the name "Riot" was put to rest.
In 2013, the act returned now renamed as Riot V. Todd Michael Hall moved in replacing Moore.
In 2014, Nick Lee, a former student at the guitar classes run by Flyntz, joined as the new co-lead guitarist for the band, replacing deceased Reale. Frank Gilchriest rejoined the band as the substitute of Jarzombek, who had quit the band to focus on his activities with Fates Warning.
Unleash the Fire would arrive in 2014 under the band name of Riot V, except in Japan where the record label refused to use the "V" suffix because they did not recognize the name change for contractual reasons.
With the membership of Todd Michael Hall (vocals), Mike Flyntz (guitars), Nick Lee (guitars), Don Van Stavern (bass) and Frank Gilchriest (drums) and after two box sets and a live album Armor of Light (2018), Live at Keep It True Festival 2015 Live (2018), Archives Volume 1: 1976-1981 (2018) and Archives Volume 1: 1982-1983 (2019) would follow.
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Riot (in the 'Riot V' formation: Left to right: Frank Gilchriest, Nick Lee, Mike Flyntz, Don Van Stavern and Todd Michael Hall.
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