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Fire Down Under
(Rock Candy Records)

If you look closer at the early history of Heavy Metal, you'll soon find out that the NWOBHM in the early 1980s had a huge impact on the international Hard and Heavy Rock scene. All over Europe bands came to light that either started anew or improved their style. Of course the wave swept over the great ocean as well and had its influence on American Hard Rock. It took just a few years until the Speed Metal wave started over there with acts like EXCITER and METALLICA in 1983. But there was Metal before that in America. In New York, we had a semi-successful Hard Rock band named RIOT, who was around since 1975. The band centred around guitar player Mark Reale and singer Guy Speranza and released two albums, “Rock City” and “Narita” already in the 1970s. In 1981, they recorded a third album that was a huge step forward for the band. “Fire Down Under” was harder and faster than its predecessors. RIOT gained a lot of power with this album that showed a blooming band that had the incredible ability to compose a bunch of very diversified songs. Thus, “Fire Down Under” was more than a sheer Heavy Metal album. Instead it showed RIOT as a band that successfully walked the edge between ambitious Hard Rock and early US Metal. On the one hand there were songs like the early Power Metal anthem 'Swords And Tequila', that became a real band classic, or even two proto Speed Metal songs. The title track 'Fire Down Under' and 'Run For Your Life' anticipated the energy that other bands showed only two years later. And 'Altar Of The King' even had some hints on Epic Metal that was to come, embedded in a mid tempo Power Metal track that stands any test of time. On the other hand, we find a lot of songs that were still anchored in classic Hard Rock. Yet these songs are very classy and take any stand against the Metal songs of the album. The bluesy 'Feel The Same' is a kind of hard rockin' ballad, ' Don't Bring Me Down' was a rather typical up tempo Hard Rocker with style. The grooving opener of the B-side, 'Don't Hold Back', is an as underrated highlight of the album as 'No Lies', a fantastic Hard Rock song with a Southern Rock feeling. Yet, be these songs already great to fantastic, they are all overshadowed by a song that a good band only writes once in their existence. For RIOT, this song is 'Outlaw', a perfect heavy Rocker with a more than memorable guitar figure, kept in mid tempo and a chorus that makes this one a real ear worm. Despite the fact that RIOT are still around (nowadays as RIOT V after the passing of Mark Reale), they never recorded an album that was as fantastic as “Fire Down Under”, although “Thundersteel” in 1988 was quite close. Even the final 'Flashbacks', a strange instrumental with guitars and samples, is not a real flaw, but a song that cools the listener down before he or she turns the album around again. Over the last 20 years, “Fire Down Under” was re-released a couple of times by various labels, mainly in remastered versions, sometimes with two or even four bonus tracks. But with the recent reissue on Rock Candy Records, the album sees its ultimate edition as far as bonus tracks are concerned. We find the usual two extra tunes 'Misty Morning Rain' and 'You're All I Needed Tonight', two not that exciting harder Rock songs that were recorded after the release of the album and showed RIOT a lot more back to the roots. Both songs are harder Rock songs with a touch of LED ZEPPELIN, especially the latter one. From the same sessions, there are two more pretty uninspired Hard Rock songs, 'One Step Closer' and 'Struck By Lightning' that is a kind of strange encounter with early TANK, without being good. And to make this edition an ultimate one, we have both songs from the only single taken from “Fire Down Under”. The album's ubersong 'Outlaw' was chosen back then in 1981, remixed and edited for the single. On the flipside, there was a live recording of 'Rock City', the title track of the first RIOT album. In case you still haven't got 'Fire Down Under' or you're looking for really fine, ultimate CD issues, this one is for you, since the disc comes with a 16 page booklet full of rare photos and a long essay on the story behind the album. Check out to find out more about the band or visit the very busy and dedicated label behind this release:

Thomas Meyer

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