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Love It or Leave It
Hailing from New Jersey, Riotgod exploded onto the hard rock scene with their 2010 self-titled debut. Taking one look at the lineup, it's obvious that it's one of the highlights of Riotgod, especially if you're a fan of Monster Magnet's rhythm section of Jim Baglino and Bob Pantella. Playing a heavy, riff-driven hard rock style, they are sure to please all fans of the genre. Although the debut leaves much to be desired in the songwriting department, I have to applaud the wonderful musicianship and professional production. Despite my few gripes you'll read about in this review, this should definitely be on any hard rock fan's radar.
The sound Riotgod delivers on the debut doesn't ever go in to uncharted territory, but they play their music with a confident, professional, and fresh approach. Expect to hear a lot of bluesy Led Zeppelin-esque hard rock combined with traditional heavy metal and stoner metal on this release. Again, not the most original thing in the world, but Riotgod's excellent musicianship and pitch-perfect production make up for their slightly derivative style in the long run. The only issue that I really have with Riotgod's album is that it's surprisingly inconsistent. There are a few great songs here, but most of the album falls in the "average" category. The reason for this compositional setback mostly rests in the fact that Riotgod is a rather straightforward album without much variation. There are a few moments here and there that make you realize how diverse these guys really are, but they are few and far between. My advice to Riotgod is to include a few more tracks that show their varied music style, rather than re-hashing a few uninteresting riff-rock songs.
Riotgod's debut technically consists of 14 tracks, but two bonus tracks come standard with the digipack CD. The bonus tracks are far from the best material the album has to offer, but they're enjoyable nonetheless. Although the album is filled with gems, there are definitely a few "duds" that tend to impact my listening experience. Songs like "Pinata", "High Time", and "Drone Station" are always on the more uninspired side of hard rock in my opinion. They're okay, but never really even reach the average mark. Although, unfortunately, much of the album never exceeds a mediocre grade, there are surely enough great tracks to keep me coming back for more. My favorites are the riff-driven opening "Light of the Sun", the Zeppelin-esque "The Time Is Now", the heavy "Crusader", the haunting "Rift", and the ballad-like "Collapsing Stars". I hesitate in calling the rest of the album above average, because most of it is very run-of-the-mill, albeit high quality, hard rock. The near-70 minute running time really hurts the album in the long run. A 40-45 minute playtime could've easily eliminated some unnecessary filler, in addition to getting rid of such a daunting spin-time.
What really makes up for the often mediocre songwriting is the fantastic musicianship. Monster Magnet's rhythm section of Jim Baglino and Bob Pantella couldn't fit Riotgod's sound better, constantly amazing me with impressive riffs, fills, and rhythms. Mark Sunshine's vocals sound a bit like Robert Plant to these ears, but he also has quite a few grunge influences in his singing style. Clearly a very talented singer, Mark delivers some great vocal lines on Riotgod. What really takes the cake for me, however, is Garrett Sweeny's guitar playing. Being that he is the only lead instrumentalist in Riotgod, it should be somewhat expected, but Sweeny constantly exceeds my expectations of a hard rock guitarist. His tasteful riffing and fantastic solos always prove that he is a very talented musician.
The production on Riotgod is great, especially for a self-produced debut. It sounds professional and packs a punch that should be in all modern heavy rock productions.
Riotgod is a solid self-titled debut that I find highly recommendable to all hard rock fans. It's really a shame that the album loses some of its charm after the first half, because it really has a lot of potential. Assuming that the band releases another album, I'm really hopeful for it. I think if the band fixes a few small things in terms of composition we could be in for a really fantastic sophomore release. As for now Riotgod is a very good and enjoyable album that rarely reaches the excellent mark. 3 stars are warranted for this debut.
1. Light of the Sun
3. The Time Is Now
5. 9th Life
7. Collapsing Stars
9. Drone Station
10. Love It or Leave It
12. Sweet Kaos
14. Grand Design
16. Minds Eye
Added: September 4th 2010
Reviewer: Jeff B
Related Link: Band MySpace Page
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