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Riot V, formerly known as Riot until 2012, is an American heavy metal band founded in New York City in 1975 by guitarist Mark Reale. Reaching a peak in popularity in the early 80s, the band has continued a long-running successful career.
Riot has toured with AC/DC, Molly Hatchet, Sammy Hagar, Kiss, Vandenberg, Black Sabbath and Rush among others.
Riot's sound initially started out as straightforward heavy metal, but since their 1988 release Thundersteel their musical direction has been more along the lines of power metal.
In 2013, Riot V, a new iteration of the band, was launched by the surviving members, post the passing of founding member and band leader Mark Reale.
Early years (1975–1983)
Riot was formed in 1975 in New York City, New York when Kon-Tiki guitarist Mark Reale and drummer Peter Bitelli recruited bassist Phil Feit and vocalist Guy Speranza. The line up recorded a four-track demo, which they hoped would be included in a proposed compilation of new rock bands. While waiting for the project to get off the ground, they added Steve Costello on keyboards.
Reale took the various demos to New York based producers Billy Arnell and Steve Loeb, who also owned Greene Street Recording Studio and the independent label Fire-Sign Records. Arnell & Loeb turned down the compilation proposal but signed Riot. The band added second guitarist Louie Kouvaris, replaced Feit with Jimmy Iommi and recorded its debut album, Rock City. After a promising start and support slots with AC/DC and Molly Hatchet, the band were unable to maintain momentum, and were on the verge of breaking up for good by 1979.
In that year however, the new wave of British heavy metal broke mainstream, and the band came to the attention of influential DJ Neal Kay who spread the word about them in Britain. British fans bought imported copies of Rock City which was recorded and produced by Arnell and Loeb and released on their Fire Sign Records. Encouraged, Arnell & Loeb, now Riot's managers, recorded the band's new album Narita. In the course of recording, Kouvaris was replaced by roadie Rick Ventura .
Subsequent to a successful support of Sammy Hagar on his US Texas tour, Capitol Records offered Riot a worldwide deal for Narita, mostly to support Hagar. Capitol and Hagar needed a harder, younger edge to associate with him, so Riot was chosen if they agreed to support Hagar on his UK tour. Hagar and Riot had a successful tour, but Riot was dropped by Capitol as soon as they were finished promoting Hagar.
Arnell and Loeb spent the remaining Capitol Records advance, while retaining important indie FM radio promotions to promote the last Riot album. Arnell and Loeb put the album on as many radio stations around the country as possible, thus raising the radio profile enough to where Capitol picked up their option for another record, which led to Riot's biggest selling album, Fire Down Under.
When the record was completed some months later, Capitol turned the record down calling it "commercially unacceptable" which put the band in contractual limbo. Capitol refused to release the band from contract. A campaign was organized and financed by producers Arnell & Loeb, with fans around the world. Fans picketed the offices of EMI Records, especially in the U.K. Finally, Elektra Records reached an agreement with Capitol Vice President Rupert Perry and immediately released Fire Down Under, which then soared into the Billboard Top 100 chart.
Breakup, the "Reunion" & Mark's Passing (1983–2012)
Singer Guy Speranza (b. March 12, 1956 – d. November 8, 2003) had difficulty melding his religious convictions with his role in the band and was replaced by Rhett Forrester (b. September 22, 1956 – d. January 22, 1994) for the next album, Restless Breed (1982). Though a striking frontman, any hope of a major breakthrough was sunk by a combination of Forrester's erratic behaviour on the road, a changing of the guard at Elektra, and the 1983 success of Quiet Riot's single "Cum on Feel the Noize". The next album, Born in America, (1983) was self-financed by Steve Loeb and was released on Quality Records, an independent Canadian label. A note on the reverse of the album tried to explain away would-be fans' confusion between Riot and the now No. 1-selling Quiet Riot, but support melted away, leading to the band's disintegration.
Reale relocated to San Antonio, Texas, where he recruited former S.A.Slayer members Steve Cooper, Don Van Stavern, and Dave McClain (now with Machine Head) for a short-lived new band called Narita. By 1986, Reale and Van Stavern had made their way out to Los Angeles in an attempt to resurrect Riot along with former members Sandy Slavin and Rhett Forrester. Another vocalist that was tried out was Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin (Jag Panzer) who was dismissed after losing his voice on the second night of back-to-back gigs due to excess drinking. Eventually, Reale mended fences with producer Steve Loeb and moved back to New York. Drummer Mark Edwards (Steeler, Third Stage Alert) was recruited to complete the new rhythm section along with bassist Don Van Stavern, while Greene Street Studio manager Dave Harrington brought in Tony Moore (real name: Tony Morabito) for vocals. A new Riot was born. Loeb cut a four-track demo at his Greene Street Studio in Soho, NY and along with real estate maven turned rock manager Vince Perazzo brought the band to CBS Associated, who offered the band a worldwide deal. Edwards elected to leave the band as his own L.A.-based group Lion was getting signed to Scotti Brothers. He would be superseded by San Antonio, Texas native Bobby Jarzombek, formerly with Juggernaut, who cut the rest of the drum tracks for what would become the Thundersteel album, released in 1988. It was followed by the more experimental The Privilege of Power (1990), which saw the band augment their state-of-the-art heavy metal sound with horns, courtesy of the Brecker Brothers and Tower of Power. The album also featured a guest vocal appearance by Joe Lynn Turner of Rainbow fame. Second guitarist Mike Flyntz joined the ranks for the band's 1989 Thundersteel tour of Japan where Riot maintained their strongest subsequent following. Bassist Don Van Stavern would quit the band after the US leg of the The Privilege of Power tour and was replaced by fellow Texan Pete Perez (ex-Karion).
In 1992, vocalist Tony Moore left the group over disagreements with manager/producer Steve Loeb. Reale recruited newcomer Mike DiMeo, who had played with Howard Stern sidekick Stuttering John Melendez in a local band named Josie Sang, with a view toward making a more hard rock oriented solo album. Eventually, those plans were dropped and the proposed solo effort turned into another Riot album, 1993's Nightbreaker, which featured a remake of the Fire Down Under classic 'Outlaw' as well as covers of Deep Purple's 'Burn' and 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' by Procol Harum. The following LP, the Native American-themed Brethren of the Long House (1996), which saw John Macaluso (TNT, Powermad) briefly take over for Bobby Jarzombek on drums, would mark the final collaboration with long-time associate Steve Loeb who stepped down from the production chair in 1995. All told, Loeb produced or co-produced 13 Riot albums in his 19-year association with Reale and the different configurations of Riot. For the rest of the decade Riot would maintain a remarkably steady line-up for the first time in its history, resulting in a steady output of high quality albums, i.e. Inishmore (1998), Shine On live (1998), and Sons of Society (1999). Jarzombek left again in late 1999, this time to join former Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford in his new venture Halford. Pat McGrath (Prototype, Killing Culture) filled in for Jarzombek on the following European tour before being replaced by veteran skinsman Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult) with whom the band recorded Through the Storm (2002).
In 2006, Riot returned with yet another album, Army of One, featuring new addition Frank Gilchriest (Virgin Steele, Gothic Knights) on drums. It would mark the swan song with vocalist Mike DiMeo who had earlier announced his departure in order to concentrate on his work with retro rockers The Lizards after a 12-year run with Riot. DiMeo was succeeded by noted New York area singer Mike Tirelli (Burning Starr, Holy Mother, Messiah's Kiss) whose Riot live debut came in early 2005 at the band's Atarfe Vega Rock Festival appearance in Granada, Spain.
Mike Tirelli took over as lead singer for most of 2005 and began touring in the states with the band. Riot with Tirelli also made an appearance in Japan both in 2006 and 2007 after being gone for more than 7 years and then ending there touring in 2007 after an extensive tour through Spain.
In 2008, it was announced that the classic Thundersteel-era line-up would reunite for a tour, starting in June 2009 with high profile shows at the Sweden Rock and Metalway festivals, followed by a tour of Japan in the fall. A new studio album, tentatively scheduled for a late 2009 release, failed to materialize and on December 4, 2009 Tony Moore announced that he was no longer a member of Riot.
Nothing further was heard from the band for most of 2010 until on September 28, 2010 it was reported that Tony Moore had rejoined the band, with a new album set for release sometime in 2011.
On August 12, 2011 it was reported that final mixing was underway for the band's new album, titled Immortal Soul, which was released first in Japan on October 18 by Marquee Inc., Japan's Avalon label. It would be released in Germany on October 28 and in Europe on October 31 and in November in North America, on the SPV label with only 12 tracks. Riot was to open for HammerFall on their forthcoming "European Outbreak 2011" tour, with October and November dates confirmed, but this tour was canceled due to Tony Moore having emergency tooth repair.
Then founding band member Mark Reale died of complications resulting from Crohn's Disease on January 25, 2012 before he could appear at a few East Coast shows and the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise ship with his band RIOT featuring the "Thundersteel" lineup who performed the shows without him. Mark Reale was 56. This resulted in the release of a new Riot compilation, and at the request of Mark's father, the name "Riot" was put to rest. Some former members of the "Thundersteel" era lineup began work putting together a new band in the same vein.
Second Reunion under Riot V (2013–)
Later, they officially re-launched the band as "Riot V", named after featuring Todd Michael Hall as the fifth official singer, replacing Moore. Van Stavern revealed that Moore had not anymore hoped to continue the activity with the band because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
In 2014, Nick Lee, one of the former students at the guitar classes run by Flyntz, joined as the new co-lead guitarist for the band, replacing deceased Reale, and Frank Gilchriest rejoined the band as the substitute of Jarzombek, who had virtually quit the band to focus on his activities with Fates Warning.
Their new album "Unleash The Fire" was released in Japan, under the name Riot, in August 2014. This is the band's first release since the death of Mark Reale.
Todd Michael Hall said about the "V" letter: "The official name for the band is Riot V, but we do have this confusion with the Japanese release versus the European release. I was told that the Japanese record label considered the release to be a continuation of the previous contract with "Riot", so they did not want to use the V".
Mike Flyntz – guitar (1989–2012, 2013–present)
Don Van Stavern – bass (1986–1990, 2008–2012, 2013–present)
Todd Michael Hall – lead vocals (2013–present)
Nick Lee – guitar (2014–present)
Frank Gilchriest – drums (2003–2007, 2014–present)
Guy Speranza – lead vocals (1975–1981; died 2003)
Rhett Forrester – lead vocals (1981–1984, 1986; died 1994)
Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin – lead vocals (1986)
Tony Moore – lead vocals (1986–1992, 2008–2009, 2010–2012)
Mike DiMeo – lead vocals (1992–2004)
Mike Tirelli – lead vocals (2005–2007)
Mark Reale – guitar (1975–1984, 1986–2012; died 2012)
L.A. Kouvaris – guitar (1976–1978)
Rick Ventura – guitar (1978–1984)
Phil Feit – bass (1975–1976, 1979–1980)
Jimmy Iommi – bass (1976–1980)
Kip Leming – bass (1980–1984)
Pete Perez – bass (1990–2007)
Peter Bitelli – drums (1975–1980)
Sandy Slavin – drums (1980–1984, 1986)
Mark Edwards – drums (1986–1987)
Bobby Jarzombek – drums (1987–1995, 1997–1999, 2008–2012, 2013–2014)
John Macaluso – drums (1995–1997)
Pat Magrath – drums(1999–2000)
Bobby Rondinelli – drums (2000–2002)
Additional live musicians
Randy Coven – bass (2005–2007)
Gerard T. Trevino – guitar
Ronnie 'Eggman' Eggers – guitar
Rhett Forrester was shot and killed in Atlanta, Georgia on January 22, 1994 at the age of 37 after he refused to give up his vehicle in an attempted carjacking. His murder remains unsolved.
Guy Speranza died from pancreatic cancer on November 8, 2003 in Orlando, Florida at the age of 47.
Mike Tirelli was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2008 and underwent what was announced to be his final surgery in March 2009. He is reportedly recovering well.