I hadn’t even recovered from the shock that singer Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids, who recently released their new, brilliant album, was battling lung cancer when it was time for another shocker: drummer Frankie Banali is battling stage four pancreas cancer. Horrible, horrible news. And just like the case of label mates Pretty Maids, the news broke just in time for the release of their brand new album, their first with the same line-up as the predecessor since Jesus went to pre-school. And speaking of line-ups, when Quiet Riot was about to release their last album Road Rage back in 2017, singer Seann Nicols jumped ship but luckily enough, the band hired American Idol contender James Durbin, pulled back the record, re-recorded the vocals and released the record and everything seemed hunky-dory in the riot-camp. The band toured a lot, released a live record earlier in 2019 and then hit the studio for a follow-up.
And as they say, misery loves company, so when it was time for release, Durbin did a Nicols and handed in his walking papers and for the second time in a row, Quiet Riot found themselves without a singer when it was time to release a new album. Banali didn’t think twice about picking up the phone to give his old friend Jizzy Pearl (Love/Hate) a call. Jizzy was in the band between 2013 – 2016 and sang on the digital-only album 10, an album that in all honesty wasn’t that much to write home about, he has a voice perfect for Quiet Riot, he knows the boys in the band, so why not give it a second shot? Jizzy accepted but this time, the vocals won’t be rerecorded, the album will come out with Durbin’s vocals intact. I was never a big Quiet Riot fan, Metal Health (1983) and Condition Critical (1984) aside and neither Road Rage nor Durbin as a singer impressed me, so I’m not gonna say I had the highest of hopes for this album either.
The leading (video-less) single “Don’t Call It Love” opens the album and my first reaction to the song is that it bears very little resemblance to the band that released “Metal Health” ages ago. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad song – because it’s not. It’s actually lots better than I had expected. It’s a raunchy rocker that sports a riff borrowed from Mötley Crüe’s “Wild Side”, upbeat and straight-forward with a sound more similar to a band like Slaughter than Quiet Riot. The hook-laden and AOR-flirtatious refrain gives the tune an immediate hit-feel as well which makes the tune a perfect leading single. It should had come with a video, though. Good one.
Second single “In The Blood” is more 70’s blues-rock laden on a raunchy groove where the verses goes in an uptempo but slows down to a more in-your-face grit in the refrain. This is a Stadium Rock tune but I’m not sure about the hit-potential here. For me, the song faded fast and at the end of the day, the song is only ok at best. There’s a big mid 80’s twist to both the music and the title of “Heartbreak City”. The tune comes in a mid-pace, quite heavy and it holds a crunchy groove, topped with some hooky and memorable melodies all over the track. It’s a bit generic – in search for a better word – but it also holds a damn catchy chorus that at least had me humming for some time afterwards. It’s one of those “official audios” that the record companies releases these days but it really should have been a straight-out single with an accompanying video because there sure are hit-potential here as well. I dig it.
“The Devil That You Know” is uptempo, punchy and straight-forward with a grittier, back to basics old Quiet Riot style and I can hear Kevin DuBrow taking this one on, rest his soul. That said, it’s an enjoyable song but for the most part, just another decent rocker that doesn’t really leaves a lasting impression despite the infectious chorus. “Change Or Die” is a stompy rocker that’s takes a straight ahead route, going for the throat with a good, beefy live-feel. Alex Grossi also treats us with a magnificent guitar-melody and some chunky, catchy riffing over a striking rhythm where Banali and bassist Chuck Wright grooves things up. The tune also brings on some edge and a darker feel but also a striking refrain that hits where it should without being radio-friendly or flirting with the airwaves. A damn good song and one of this album’s finest moments.
On a rootsy and earthy note, “Roll On” is slow in pace, blues-tinged and stripped with a nod towards a band like Great White. The song’s juicy rhythm brings Whitesnake’s “Crying In The Rain” to mind and while the song is somewhat laid-back, it also swings. The electric piano fits perfectly and changes the dynamics even more and it’s hard to grasp that this actually is Quiet Riot. I think it’s a great song and it must be stressed that Durbin totally nails it as well. Rowdy and robust, “Insanity” holds verses that goes from slow to mid-paced on a stompy beat but as the chorus comes on, the tune gets both heavier, rougher and rowdier on a faster pace. It starts out like an instrumental jam, probably influenced by Van Halen and as the verses are really good, it lures me into being a winner tune but the song’s chorus can’t keep what the beginning of the song promised. Said chorus is bland and forgettable and the album’s underwhelming production makes this song a bit messy – and the tune vanishes into thin-air, making it a “it could have been great” song.
“Hellbinder” offers some beefy and Led Zeppelin like riffing into a sleazy and raunchy groove in a mid-tempo. The chunky verses brings on a classic Quiet Riot vibe which takes us into a striking, very 80-s laden chorus that holds a massive hook that makes it stick right away. Very good, indeed. On the border to power-balldry, “Wild Horses” is more of a pop-laden Melodic Rock tune. It’s upbeat with hook-laden melodies everywhere and even though it doesn’t sound like the Quiet Riot I used to know, it’s extremely catchy with lots of harmonies, a slight 60’s feel and lots of radio-hit potential. Very good. “Holding On” takes us back to the old 80’s, Quiet Riot days of yonder with a juicy, fat groove, a stompy beat and a slight Zep-influenced 70’s outlook – especially in the guitar department. Quite heavy yet melodic and a refrain that means business – very good.
Riff-happy and guitar-gritty, the aggressive and in-your-face “Last Outcast” comes on strong with a whole bunch of attitude and a willingness to show us that they still know how to rock our socks off. The tune comes in a mid-pace but the guitar solo part and parts of the chorus speeds the tune up. Made out of ballsiness and adrenaline-fueled, the tune also sports some very memorable melodies and even though the refrain isn’t catchy as such, it manages to stay tuned in my brain. Good one. Closer “Arrows And Angels” is an upbeat rock-song with a slightly laid-back mode in the lead vocal department and some big pop-twists of a more modern hard-rock kind. It’s catchy enough, though and a decent rocker and does its job as a closing track.
Speaking only of the songs’ quality, this album is a huge surprise. Sure, more often than not, this do not sound like the Quiet Riot I blasted through my stereo as a teenager but I couldn’t care less as Quiet Riot of 2019 is a completely different beast and with Hollywood Cowboys, they has recorded their finest album in ages. I’d go as far as appoint this album as their best effort since the oh so underrated, self-titled and Paul Shortino fronted album from 1988. And as always, the musicians here are all stellar and solid. I have never gotten all the hurrah’s that has gushed over Durbin since the Idol days, but on this album he does a good job. But there are flaws here that takes the final score down a couple of notches. Firstly, the record isn’t without fillers and secondly, the album’s production leaves shitloads to be desired. It’s thin, sounds rushed and cavernous with a demo-tape sound – a damn shame when the band has brought us a collection of such fine songs.
To round things off, a word for Frankie Banali. I cross my fingers that you will beat the living shit out of that horrible disease and that you’re already feeling better as I write this. I hope you get out of this tougher and stronger. Musically, you have proved with this record that you and your band still have a lot to offer, something that I and many more with me didn’t think would happen after the last couple of releases. You proved us wrong. Be well, Frankie and FUCK CANCER!
More Quiet Riot reviews:
1. Don’t Call It Love
2. In The Blood
3. Heartbreak City
4. The Devil That You Know
5. Change Or Die
6. Roll On
9. Wild Horses
10. Holding On
11. Last Outcast
12. Arrows And Angels