Review Summary: Is AOR power metal a thing?
The Inishmore island rises from Ireland's Galway Bay with an impressive sight, with its great, sharp walls delineating the flatness of the higher ground, a desert of rock. From 1845 to 1852 the Great Famine struck Ireland, a desperate situation that caused mass emigration and disease, and many had no choice but to go away because of eviction and unemployment. The Galway Bay, and thus the Aran Islands where Inishmore resides, was one of the harder hit places. This is the scenario where Riot want to transport the listener.
Well, at least on paper. Because when "Angel Eyes" hits after the instrumental intro the Riot fan will feel more than at home and, truth be told, it doesn't actually feel like listening to a particular concept album about Ireland. However, and most importantly, it feels like listening to a tight album, the most accomplished with Mike DiMeo on vocals at the time of release. Inishmore
may not sound as interesting and folky as the title can lead to think, but it compensates through offering 52 minutes of hard rock infused power metal played by a band in harmony that flow with ease. The band's chemistry is accentuated with a balanced production and this time DiMeo finally sounds more secure behind the microphone.
Even though the rhythm section remains solid and hectic throughout the album and DiMeo is a hook machine, the real ear catcher is the twin assault of axemen Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz. The electric guitar in fact enriches the sound with uplifting melodies and at times steals the singing spot with singable solos that never delve into excessive flashiness. The best example has to be the album's final piece, the instrumental title track. The track is Introduced by the very brief "Inishmore (Forsaken Heart)", the only ballad of the album, carrying the words of a young man that discovers that his true love has sailed away from Inishmore due to the famine. When the title track starts there is no time to be sad. The guitars raise a charming tone of hope and close the album with the young man willing to wait on the hills of Galway forevermore. Quite weird the choice of leaving Riot's take on traditional song "Danny Boy" as a bonus for the Japanese market only. Together with the closing "Inishmore" duo, it's part of an "Irish Trilogy" clearly indicated in the tracklisting.
Truthfully the remaining material isn't much different from the previous two albums, but Inishmore
has the edge over them by sounding more spontaneous. It sounds like the band have finally come to understand how Mike DiMeo can work in the context of Riot. It isn't a huge step forward from The Brethren of the Long House
, but it's still another step in the right direction, and one that will provide entertainment to those who like their metal to be centered on melody.