Review Summary: Three different cover artworks could not help Nightbreaker to feel more inspired.
At this point of his career, Mark Reale must have started to really understand the meaning of the "history repeats itself" dictum. After all, Riot's post-The Privilege of Power
situation was not that different from the post-Fire Down Under
one. Yet again the band lost its vocalist, and again the band changed its sound after it. Ironically, even the style changes are somewhat similar to those occurred for Restless Breed
, which was released about 10 years prior. If Restless Breed
abruptly stopped Fire Down Under
's heavy metal grit to resort to a much tamer hard rock, Nightbreaker
did virtually the same to The Privilege of Power
's hectic and complex sound, making the listener wonder -again- if the band was actually Riot.
However, this time the changes are easier to digest. While going back to a simpler songwriting, Nightbreaker
does not sacrifice entirely the band's identity. The album feels like a melting pot of all the different facets of the band's catalogue, bringing to the listener a compilation of straightforward, accessible heavy metal pieces with power metal tendencies. A place where the cover of Deep Purple's "Burn", now heavier, doesn't feel completely out of place. Same goes for the cover of Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale", and even for the re-recording of Riot's own classic "Outlaw" (even though the added intro is definitely too long and not needed). Anyway, there are some problems.
The vocals are a bit of a mixed bag. Mike DiMeo is a solid vocalist, Ritchie Blackmore himself wanted him to join Deep Purple before entering Riot's crew, but was denied by the rest of the band for the reunion with Ian Gillian. Blackmore's wish is understandable while listening to Nightbreaker
, especially in "Burn". But, this is Riot. Perhaps due to an unavoidable confrontation with Tony Moore, the band's previous vocalist, it comes off as hard to say he was the best replacement with conviction. Luckily things got better with time, but this album possibly remains the man's weakest (which does not mean bad!) performance under the Riot name. Particularly frustrating in this aspect is the re-recording of "Outlaw", where the delivery feels a bit tired and the initial "yeah..." comes off as almost comical.
The inedit material is enjoyable and not devoid of earworm tracks, "Destiny" and "Silent Scream" above all the others. There is also not much to say against the instrumentation, everyone adds his own contribution equally and it is a pleasant surprise to notice how the bass playing is an highlight in more than one spot with the sustaining of a roaring, warm sound easily perceivable especially as soon as "Burn" starts playing. That is also the problem, though. There is not that much to say about Nightbreaker
. Not only one quarter of the album is made of covers, but the rest is simply not that interesting and often heard before, from Riot or from other artists. For example, while "Magic Maker" is screaming for Judas Priest, "Silent Scream" recalls Twilight Time
era Stratovarius. It sure is catchy, vocally and instrumentally, but it is legit to ask a bit more from Riot, especially through the lenses of past albums.
Even after that kind of talk, Nightbreaker
is really not a bad album, any heavy metal fan should gain some enjoyment from tracks like "Destiny", "Silent Scream" and "Black Mountain Woman". The over-the-top energy was lost yet again, but with such a different vocalist a transitional album was due to let Reale realize which direction he should have followed. Mike DiMeo would in fact turn out to be the band's longest standing vocalist, his last Riot album being Army of One
in 2006. As it is, Nightbreaker
was the beginning of Riot's new era, with the band constantly marching in a metallic limbo between hard rock and power metal. Lastly, It is highly recommended to search for the comprehensive 2015 reissue of the album, because it initially got released first in Japan (1993), then in Europe and then in America each time with a different tracklist, with a few different tracks.