Cover to Cover: Riot
Last time around I covered Manilla Road’s uber-manly efforts in the world of metal covers. This time we are back and taking a look at the New York heavy metal legends Riot, their “unique” approach to album covers, and honouring the legacy of mastermind Mark Reale who sadly passed away in January this year. Well, we’ll largely just be tearing into Riot’s cover art, but it goes without saying that Riot created some of the best power/speed metal in existence. Seriously, I’m putting a ban on reading this article until you’ve at least heard one track from “Thundersteel” because it’s one of the greatest metal classics ever released. Right? Right, let’s get cracking.
Ok so... wait... uh... what? Is that a... pink seal man? With an axe. Walking away from a nuclear explosion.... *sigh*. Ignoring the lifeless yellow corpse and ruined city for a moment (ruined with rock!) what in hells name is that thing. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be intimidating or avant-guarde, (maybe sexy?) but I think you can see why Riot covers are stuff of legends. There’s also a stock standard RIOT logo. It’s simple but it works. I’m sure these will get better, because it’s rare for cover art to get any worse than this.
What IS that thing? And why did it gain 50lbs? I don’t mind that the standard RIOT logo is still with us but “Johnny” as the furry-faced abomination is apparently known, has also regrettably returned to massacre small civilizations with it’s doomsday axe. With this one you get that sinking feeling that the cover for “Rock City” wasn’t a coke fueled mistake and the band is going to try and run with this like Iron Maiden did with Eddie or Motorhead with Snaggletooth. Chalk this cover down to being “huge in Japan”, but if you’re going by this cover the Kamikaze pilots are doing their best to run the fat beast out of their homeland. And it can’t be fun running around with that much sunburn.
JESUS CHRIST! Ok, it gave me a fright that time. Those beady eyes are starting to give me nightmares where I wake up in the night to find it standing at the end of the bed whispering ancient seal curses at me. The fire in the background is apt, both because of the name of the album and because this is my exact vision of hell. The logo remains unchanged apart from being front and center and the colors at least work well so this cover is almost passable. Haha no, Johnny still ruins it.
“The seal isn’t intimidating enough guys... let’s add a child in there”. This is one of the many phrases in life that you should never say. Can you imagine someone who isn’t as intimately familiar with everyone’s favourite atomic seal looking at this cover and trying to make sense of why puberty has only hit 50% of this kid? The badge and background remind us we’re dealing with an proud NYC band which is commendable and the logo has auspiciously grown a third dimension. But overall: abysmal. Given the fact I avoid small school children like the plague it makes this one the bottom of the barrel so far. Is that even possible? Well If you look closely enough you’ll even see Johnny’s face in the moon... so yes, yes it is.
Well, looks like we’re finally back on track. Considering the track is taking us straight to album cover purgatory that’s not saying much though. Riot go back to basics on this one and by back to basics I mean they got the kid shown in the last cover to design this one. I’ve accidentally created better album covers than this in MSPaint while drunk and trying to upload photos to Facebook. The logo has taken a turn for the worst and despite the patriotic military theme it’s lacking in all artistic departments. On the plus side, if you squint this is the first cover you can almost pretend doesn’t involve a man in his underwear with the head of a fucking seal.
Thank the metal lords, not a seal in sight. Instead the artist is still going with the body dysmorphia theme so we have some sort of half-tank Voldemort lookalike and a busty blue sidekick. Both feature an arm cannon which is no doubt must have accessory for the future apocalypse and they appear to be exploring a dilapidated city that has undoubtedly been rocked to death by Johnny. I would tell you tankman is “Thundersteel”, but given that the lyrics to the track say he “shoots through the air” like a “streak of lightning” chances aren’t high unless he also happens to be a Transformer. The cover is drawn with all the skill of a talented high school art student but has that endearing 80s metal charm to it so I’m going to give it a flying pass. The logo has also been updated with a regal gothic tone, because hell why not. You are now free to show another person a Riot CD without embarrassment.
Ugh, a big drop in quality here. While there’s technically nothing wrong with this album cover, and it doesn’t feature Johnny, there is nothing metal about this cover in any way shape or form. This could have been the cover for the latest New Kids On The Block album and you wouldn’t know. The new logo sucks, the font blows, the people are boring, and did I mention one of the TV’s depicts a certain sea-faring mammal? All in all, I’d rather Johnny and that’s saying something. If I want to see an 80s metal album cover featuring a family watching a wall of TV’s, I’ll stick to Toxic’s “Think This”.
Nightbreaker. It a word that just screams shark right? Or maybe Shark is just the nickname of the guy who keeps breaking into my flat at night and eating my food - whatever, it’s shark week in Riot town. It’s a better cover than the previous black background effort, simple, straight to the point, and in comparison to the last cover it’s metal as bullet belt on a viking. Also, the classic logo has returned, so this chalk up another victory for the Riot squad.
On first glance, this appears to be a great album cover. It’s somewhat of a concept album about Native Americans, it has a nice theme, the framing is good and the gentle fog and sailing ships are well thought out. So why on earth do they ruin it with that awful quasi-Papyrus font?! Yes, my dark secret is that I am a font nazi and I equate anything that reminds me remotely of Papyrus to pamphlets about Jesus and/or bagel shops. Close but no cigar Riot.
This time around Celtic and Irish myths are the focus and you can clearly see this in the cover. Because one of the fonts is green! It’s 1998 so we’ve entered that awkward state in graphic design where any designer with enough skill to find the on switch can be considered a computer expert in the field and this is the result. You might think I’m being too tough picking on the fonts here, but seriously - is there anything else to go on? A seaside view? No thanks, if I want a seaside view I’m going to at least have it depicting a priest being drowned.
Holy hell, they’ve done it. The font is the kind of thing you’d see on an invitation Manowar themed bachelor party. There's a city in the distance that has been well and truly rocked to pieces and hell has enveloped the earth with the shear paradox of a traditionally metal album cover by Riot. It’s got quite a Helloween feel to it as it features menacing hooded characters and... wait a minute... I know that axe... Oh christ the hooded character is Johnny isn’t it? Game over man, everybody go home.
Although “Through the Storm” can’t be described as as bad as previous covers, it can be described scrawling “C-, See me after class” on it with red marker. However, I have scanned this cover for some time and besides puzzling at yet another logo change I can confirm there are no cloud or lightning seals to be found.
Well the classic logo is back, Johnny is unabashedly there and Riot have become one those self-referential bands with a straight up guitar on the cover. For a band with a debut named “Rock City” I’m genuinely surprised there hasn’t been more of this type of instrumental posing. As far as the seal is concerned I’ve given up and accepted it at this point, sort of like the neighborhood stray cat, or a man who keeps breaking into your flat at night and eating your leftover pizza. God damn it Shark.
Ah, Immortal Soul. A pure triumph of musical genius and for once a cover worthy of the music. Someone is handing a guitar made of lightning to a stud wearing skeletal ghost in a graveyard which is emblazoned with a classic gothic font and not a seal in sight - they’ve finally done it. “Immortal Soul” was not only my album of the year for 2011 but it’s bad-ass cover will live on as the final image of Mark Reale’s metal genius. Check it out if you have the faintest interest in power/speed/heavy metal. Until next time, shine on Mark!
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