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Riot - 1983 Born In America

ALBUM: Born In America
LABEL: Quality
SERIAL: Qus-1008
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 1989, Grand Slamm, SLAMCD 6 * 1999, Metal Blade, 3984-14234-2


LINEUP: Rhett Forrester - vocals * Mark Reale - guitars * Rick Ventura - guitars * Kip Lemming - bass * Sandy Slavin - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Born In America * 02 You Burn In Me * 03 Wings Of Fire * 04 Running From The Law * 05 Devil Woman * 06 Vigilante Killer * 07 Heavy Metal Machine * 08 Where Soldiers Rule * 09 Gunfighter * 10 Promised Land


Riot are yet another example of a band that fell victim to a catalogue of music industry shenanigans. Record labels, management and frustration all played their part. Despite all the setbacks they still achieved some level of success, most especially in Japan where they became superstars from the beginning. Sounding like Boston and Kiss colliding, Riot always had plenty of AOR melody on hand to counterbalance their harder rocking moments, placing them in the same terrain as Legs Diamond, Triumph and Y&T. Enter 1984 and work begins on the second album with Rhett Forrester on vocals, 1982's 'Restless Breed' having been the first. That particular album tended to merge a blues rock element with their established sound, alienating some of the fan base. 'Born In America' was designed to return to a more melodic and commercial hard AOR approach, while still touching on their harder side at times. Not one but two of their mascot baby seals adorn the cover, do we take this as a hopeful sign?

The Songs
The title track comes storming out of the gate with a surging riff, uptempo and very anthemic. The vocals are snarling at times, coupled with a semi chanted chorus very much in the melodic hard rock tradition, just enough AOR appeal peeping around the corners though, placing it alongside period Kiss. 'You Burn In Me' is another matter entirely, outright AOR of the highest calibre. Sounds like the boys ingested copious amounts of 80's Blue Oyster Cult before writing this one, and a Boston tablet for good measure. Melodies and harmonic guitars flowing stronger than the Gamtoos River in flood. Just a hint of keyboard sequencer sprinkled here and there, chalking up another AOR classic for 1984. How incredible was this year for the genre? A restrained intro belies the pacy rocker 'Wings Of Fire' becomes. Did Andy Parker slip into the wrong studio and accidentally lay down this galloping trademark UFO groove? Come to think of it, this is UFO and Y&T at a poker table in some seedy back room, Meniketti dealing and Moggy loving the cards he got. Galloping near metal verses give way to mountainous AOR choruses. Powerful stuff indeed. 'Runnning From The Law' slightly reprises the 'Restless Breed' sound, fusing Bad Company with Y&T. I'd place this at midtempo, even a Bonhamesque half time thud overlaid with boundless AOR melodies. Another winning cut, now setting the coffee meter to Mastertons French Roast!

Cliff Richard's chestnut 'Devil Woman' now gets dusted off for a cover version, a seemingly bizarre choice that can easily go South? Not a chance, Riot turn this into an AOR tour de force. A midtempo strut recalls Survivor, and again the harmonising calls Blue Oyster Cult back to the crease. I will confess I was amazed, having expected a disaster only to be confronted with another AOR classic. 'Vigilante Killer' and 'Heavy Metal Machine' both visit heavier territory as their titles suggest, but they suffer for it in the melody department. Fans of Riot's harder side may find value here but this isn't for me. 'Where Soldiers Rule' sets things right, yet another AOR feast of melody built on an Andy Parker gallop, he must have slipped into their studio a second time! I must stress how melodic this is, right down to the literally escalating chorus, building melodic AOR drama in the finest Triumph or Legs Diamond tradition. 'Gunfighter' is even better, 'No Guts No Glory' era Molly Hatchet with a sideorder of Boston and Kiss in evidence. A great hook, 4/4 backbeat and a beautifully simple tiered chorus all work to build a hard AOR workout that keeps me coming back for repeat plays. Album closer 'Promised Land' doesn't keep it's promise though, instead delivering a barren wasteland where strong hooks and melodies seem to be outlawed. No matter though, this can be forgiven considering the many highlights already encountered.

In Summary
'Born In America' fared marginally better than 'Restless Breed', but not enough to keep the band together. Mark Reale temporarily disbanded Riot, coming back with some lineup changes in 1988 with the pacy and racy 'Thundersteel' album. Depending on where you stand, 'Thundersteel' could be considered a melodic metal release or Boston on jet fuel, and probably deserves some exposure on these pages in the future. Riot could always be counted on for intense melody, crisply defined songs and great hooks. For those who enjoy some urgency and tend toward the harder end of AOR, 'Born In America' comes highly recommended listening.

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#1 | sabace on November 11 2012 20:20:49
I really like this record, not quite as good as restless breed but not far off! the band received a negative review in KERRANG mag at the time that halted their progress in the UK - Band never really recovered their momentum after that .
#2 | englandashes on November 11 2012 20:55:31
Excellent review Lee, to my embarrassment I didn't even know about this album, of course aware and even got the first 3, plus subsquent others, but for some unknown reason I off loaded my vinyl copy of Thundersteel, why?
#3 | Nick C on November 13 2012 10:43:58
I lost track of Riot after this album and I still sort of view it as their last proper album (which is really a load of nonsense).
I bought Thundersteel at the time it came out but didn't get on with it, in my mind (back then) it was too much of a departure from the classic hard rocking sound and I wasn't really interested in a speed metal/Judas Priest/Leatherwolf kind of crossover. But that's my loss as I listen to some of Thundersteel now and it just comes across as a classic metal groove.
I like Born in America but always thought the production had taken a step back ... although I think my CD sounds better than I remember the vinyl sounding. Have to give the both a spin side by side later.
#4 | tompa on November 14 2012 00:58:44
Never got used to not having Guy Speranza on vocals but if I approached this album like it's a whole new band I might appreciate this for what it is. Solid hard rock. Although it is 1983 and AOR is the Thing this is more like a 70's leftover. Anyway, unlucky band, deserved more.

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