Review Summary: Too conservative to be Queensryche, too progressive to be Priest
Never heard this in cd format or vinyl. I bought it from an old record store in England, the original tape. Why? I guess it was the funny comic-like front cover. I have read about Riot, as an old hardcore, pure heavy metal band but never actually listened to their records. After all what could they offer me, since I have listened to almost every classic heavy metal band. Right? Wrong. This is a traditional heavy metal album with some peculiar twists in the scenario.
First of all, let me say that Privilege of Power is not exactly a concept album but seems like it’s trying to be one. The lyrics are about social injustice, poverty and revolution through a heavy metal perspective. Meaning that it along with the “the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” lines you have to put up with the metal army preparing the revolution. The songs have a looooose lyrical connection but the whole album, lyrically and musically appears to be interconnected. Ok neg me for this, I can’t quite explain it.
The album can be divided in two parts, the British traditional heavy metal side and the more commercial American hard rock side. By reading the credits I assume that Mark Reale is responsible for the commercial touches on this album. A wonderful guitarist, shines with his performance but not with his solo compositions. Let me catch you off guard, starting with the turn offs the album, which are is the damn commercial slow songs! Like Runaway, which is your typical ballad and it sucks, at least until the solo. Instead of your twin guitar priest solo, you get a very American melodic hard rock shred that had my eyebrows raised. That saves the song from being an utter and complete disaster of a song. Maryanne is exactly the same, without the good solo: A complete disaster. The last Reale song, Little Miss Death is forgettable.
On the other hand, there is classic stuff here and needless to say i sometimes got it all mixed up and thought that Judas Priest is playing. Which is not a bad thing in my book, stealing from the best is not a sin (after sin). Especially some riffs sound overly familiar, like Metal Soldiers which could be b-side for Stained Glass or Hell Bent for Leather. As for Black Leather and Glittering Steel, if you can excuse the hilarious title, you will listen to an over the top metal thunder. It is poor man’s Painkiller.
But it is the little extras that really lift this album from an average status to the “must listen if you are a die-hard metalhead” category. The use of keyboards gives a modern edge to some tracks like On your knees. Actually it sounds like horns are blown and it works very well, quite an eye-opener. Fast forward to Killer, a Priest meets Aerosmith/RunDMC meets Dog Eat Dog kind of heavy metal. You have to listen to it, the guys are seriously underestimated, this is heavy metal rapping in its first form. The highlight, enjoy you must.
How could I surpass Dance of Death and Storming the Gates of Hell? Well anyone that did his time with Maiden, Priest, Saxon and stuff is not expecting a Chinese tune opening a speed metal classic like DoD. It rips in high speed and the solo is a masterpiece. What it lacks in originality (hey it’s the nineties already!) it complements in rawness and power. Storming the gates of Hell starts again with the horns, which is pretty epic. Thumbs up for the Helloween-like solo. In the middle part of the album, Riot are on fire.
This is a far from mediocre album from Riot. It has its moments, but it is also far away from being a masterpiece. I think that a high 3 is a decent rating, awarding Privilege of Power for its weirdness, a trait rarely found in metal albums.