Great Metal Albums of 1988: Riot- Thundersteel

In most cases, bands who try to be all things to all people on an album, usually fail on all accounts. People like putting things into nice little pigeon holes and if they can’t then it’s ignored. However, in the case of Riot’s “Thundersteel” album, they did that very thing successfully. The band intentionally took parts of everything metal had to offer in the 1980s, put it all together on one album and the result was a smashing album.

Riot took a long break in the mid 1980s. “Thundersteel” was their first album since the 1983 “Born in America” album and maybe that worked to their advantage when recording the album. The reason for the band’s five year inactivity isn’t known but Riot was one band that always seemed to be one album away from achieving superstardom, which always seemed to allude them. So, it can be speculated that since Riot had no label put on them, there was no pressure on them to sound a certain way.

What Riot did was pay attention to what was going on in the metal world and take all the best pieces of everything and put it on the album. The album kicks off with a very thrash metal sounding title track which definitely gets the blood pumping and lets you know that in no uncertain terms, Riot are back. An example of doing things right on the album comes in the form of the second track, “Fight or Fall.” Unlike some bands who might stick a ballad after the thrash metal, (yes, fools) “Fight or Fall” is a very strong power metal song and I do emphasize the power.

Next comes not only the best song on the album and proof that Riot knew exactly what they were doing, “Sign of the Crimson Storm.” Not only is it the best song on the album, it’s my second favourite Riot song of all time. Number one goes to “Swords and Tequila” from the “Fire Down Under” album. On this track, Riot successfully combine power and progressive metal. You get power chords and melodic parts together and Tony Moore’s soaring vocals add the right kind of spice to it.

You get speed metal on “Flight of the Warrior” only slowing down for the choruses. The rhythm section is spot on here and shows you can have a bit of fantasy with some speed and that speed carries on with “On Wings of Eagles.” The chorus isn’t as melodic as its predecessor but it doesn’t have to be as the drums and guitar riffs totally beat you to death. Then we come to the hidden gem, “Johnny’s Back.” A groovy bass line starts it off and then Riot show why they are considered by many as a power metal band. There’s power galore in this tune from start to finish and a very interesting guitar solo from Mark Reale.

After six songs, one might be wondering if Riot incorporate everything, where’s the token ballad? Well, the closest they come is on the very soft acoustic intro on “Bloodstreets.” However, that intro is short lived as things go into early Judas Priest territory and I think Riot would have made Priest proud on this one. They stick to that formula with penultimate track, “Run For Your Life.” In fact, Tony Moore’s vocals are very similar to Rob Halford’s on this one. “Thundersteel” closes with a very progressive “Buried Alive (Tell Tale Heart)” which is the longest track at over eight minutes. It starts with a funeral and then some more spoken words backed up by a cool lead guitar riff. All right, if I haven’t done so in the past, I will add Mark Reale to my list of great under appreciated guitarists. The song goes way out there in the progressive concept world. It’s a take on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” and Riot put a good metal spin on it, making it the perfect closer.

Track Listing:

  1. Thundersteel
  2. Fight or Fall
  3. Sign of the Crimson Storm
  4. Flight of the Warrior
  5. On Wings of Eagles
  6. Johnny’s Back
  7. Bloodstreets
  8. Run For Your Life
  9. Buried Alive (Tell Tale Heart)


Tony Moore- vocals

Mark Reale- guitar

Don Van Stavern- bass

Bobby Jarzombek- drums

And because I didn’t put this one on the post when I posted about the “Fire Down Under” album, I’m including it now.

In Riot’s case, maybe the five year layoff was a good thing because they came back with a blinder of an album in “Thundersteel.” While it still didn’t propel the band to superstardom, it’s still a great album.

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4 Responses to “Great Metal Albums of 1988: Riot- Thundersteel”

  1. I’m not super familiar with Riot but I have heard this album more than once at a friend’s house and yeah, it’s everything you said about it. I always love hearing it, and I agree that Sign Of The Crimson Storm is an amazing song and the highlight of the record. The “US power metal” sound is one I didn’t catch on to much when it was around and I’ve had to go back retrospectively to explore it, and this album is one of the highlights.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I bought this but it was to metal. I preferred Riot with Guy and Rhett at the mic….Fire Down Under and Restless Breed are such great albums.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Too metal? I didn’t think there was such a thing. You’re right, those early albums were great ones.


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