Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Romeo Riot - Sing It Out
Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock Produced By: Ty Sims
Record Label: Kivel Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website:
Tracks: 10 Rating: 80%
Running Time: 40:23

Romeo Riot - Sing It Out

For those of us who are ‘children of the eighties’, imagine if back in the day you were given free rein to put together your own melodic hard rock ‘dream band’ (a.k.a. a ‘super group’ if you will) encompassing the favorite musicians of your choice.  That is exactly the premise behind the Kivel Records fall of 2017 Romeo Riot debut full length Sing It Out.  In Romeo Riot, Kivel has assembled a true ‘super group’ compromising a roster of five musicians that have contributed to its success in the recent past: vocalist Mark Giovi, guitarists Scott Miller & Erik Johnson, keyboardist Jace Pawlak and bassist Ty Sims.  The Kivel press material sums things up best in describing Romeo Riot as ‘OUR super group.  This is our A-Team.  These are our All-Stars.  This is our own Damn Yankees.’ 
True to form, all of the noted above have participated on albums put out by the label over the years.  Giovi, for instance, fronted the 2008 and 2011 Kivel releases of Farcry, High Gear and Optimism, respectively, while Miller, Johnson and Sims are members of Kivel Groups Tango Down and Bombay Black, both of whom also released multiple albums on the label.  Pawlak is part of the Kivel roster as well in having recorded a solo album in 2016, Promise.

Musical direction speaks for itself as a throwback to said eighties (again noting the Kivel press material): ‘Hard hitting arena rock. The album Bon Jovi never made!  Think Night Ranger, Slippery… era Bon Jovi with a wall of guitars and vocals.’  What I hear in Romeo Riot is much of the same with a joining of melodic hard rock and AOR I can see fans of Guardian (Fire & Love era), Fear Not, Novella, Liberty N’ Justice, Giant and fellow Kivel Records artist Adriangale embracing.  Latter is the name to most stand out in that similar to Adriangale, Romeo Riot features a believing vocalist in Giovi, who in the albums liner notes thanks ‘My Lord Jesus Christ, Thank you for loving me’.  No, Giovi does not make any lyrical contributions, but not unlike Adriangale, Romeo Riot falls under a positive melodic hard rock band heading in that its prose deals with life and relationships from a positive standpoint.       

Opening cut “Room To Run” serves a twofold purpose.  First, it allows Giovi to display his soulful and gritty vocal abilities that are in a somewhat similar vein as Adriangale front man Jamie Rowe (not to invite comparison, but if you like Rowe I can see you fancying Giovi in that quality is of a similar level).  Second, it provides a good indicator of the Romeo Riot AOR influenced hard rock ways as fitting keyboards, assuming guitars and manifold hooks play lead roles.

“Streets Of Babylon” drifts between moments both mid-paced and up-tempo.  In terms of the former, verses maneuver to guitars with a decided bluesy touch, while from the latter standpoint pristine backing vocals step forward to elevate the vehement refrain.  Positive and uplifting is the feel at hand.

Albums title track takes the more delicate approach.  Fading in to keyboards and drum rolls, “Sing It Out” gradually grows and builds over its first minute until impetus picks up at once and leads the way to the exalted refrain in which the group makes another strong commercial statement.  Scott Miller (who was with Adriangale at the time of its acclaimed Crunch album from 2004) and Erik Johnson bestow a fitting stretch of melodic lead guitar.

A cover of the Olivia Newton John hit “Twist Of Fate” ensues.  Yes, you heard that correctly, but Romeo Riot pulls it off without a hitch in that layers of keyboards to the original are supplanted by a better balance of guitars and keyboards, which now accent as opposed to dominate.  Actually, the song translates well within the AOR format, with an apt radio friendly inclining and Giovi’s gravelly vocals lending a heartfelt edge.  I particularly enjoy the shred lead guitar at the end.

I might describe ballad “What If We Were Wrong” as formula but good in encompassing the necessary ingredients: harmonies and melodies galore, affected environs and piano to taste.  Initiative builds until things peak for the histrionic, over the top chorus.  Again, nothing to complain in that it proves a fine ending to the albums first half.

My favorite cut is “Same” with its ample doses of bluesy hard rocking groove that hints of seventies influenced classic rock (I am somewhat reminded of Brazil’s Destra and its magnum opus Joe’s Rhapsody).  The manner in which guitars dig and bite - Miller and Johnson remain at the top of their game - impress as to the understated heaviness to Romeo Riot, whom are by no means watery AOR (they are full on hard rockers). 

“Cry” comes across in the form of a semi-ballad.  The song highlights moments both still and forward, including those that flow evenly to keyboards and piano (reflective of a pop basis) and others in which guitars punch to the front of the mix (once more, the groups heavier side).  Similar to “What If We Were Wrong”, it might be a bit predictable but is solid all the same.

“I Want To Try” represents quintessential melodic rock.  This one is on the reserved side compared to some here (by no means a bad thing) but is no less able, with catchy hooks galore, cascading harmonies and some of the best larger than life backing vocals you will hear.  Fire & Love era Guardian comes to mind, a compliment of the highest order.

Romeo Riot remains in top form on “Every Now And Then”.  Slow, emotional and bluesy, the song finds everything falling into place with its mesmerizing amalgamating of immaculate polish (albeit not to a fault) and commercial overtures (I can see it challenging for radio play if recorded back in the day by any of the aforementioned big names).

Album closes on a high note to “Best Nights Of Our Lives”, a keyed up, straight on hard rocker that ups tempo as Romeo Riot celebrates the good times by putting its intrinsic energy on full display.  Guitar team of Miller and Johnson, as one might expect, put on a show with their dazzling duel lead guitar abilities.  I am glad the group chose to go with two guitarists as opposed to one in that not only does it lend an extra element of heaviness but also more creativity in the soloing department.

As noted, Sing It Out is a mainstream release but with positive nature to its prose.  What I have said regarding mainstream releases in past reviews still holds true: the album might not be for all Angelic Warlord readers, but it is for some- so I encourage you to approach with a certain amount of prudence and discernment in mind.  That positivity in question manifest on “Room To Run” -

How long before a new day
Nothing’s new under the thumb
I need to make my own way
All I want is room to run

There’s time to work it out
Time to get it right inside
I would rather start again
And find a way to be alive

- “Streets Of Babylon”:

I hear the voice on high
Can’t sit here waiting for the lightning to strike, every night
I need room to run
I’ve got a heart but I’m in need of new blood

Just like a satellite
I tumble through the night
A victim of the speed of life

Albums title track deal with persevering through the tough times of life:

The clouds are forming in the distance
It’s coming ‘round again
You know you’ll it in your bones
Like a storm that’s raging in your soul

Sometimes it feels so good
To just let go when everything is saying no
You need to find that strength right now
And let me show you how to say
I’ll never be afraid again

“Same” speaks of doing something different, thinking outside the box:

Everybody tells the same old story
Everybody want the same old life
Mini vans and picket fences
And east side corner office

We walk in each other’s footsteps
We believe in each other’s lies
We look in each other’s faces
And realize that it’s no surprise
If you’re playing the game you’ll away remain
Always the same

The polished feel to production hints of the work of brothers Elefante circa nineties, noting the referenced Guardian and Fear Not, but it works in light of how such polish also does not rob Romeo Riot of any inherent energy or heaviness.  The point being there are plenty of guitars but also an even balance of keyboards and backing vocals to complement without dominating either way.

There is a lot of AOR/melodic hard rock within current hard music circles, and I cannot help but think Romeo Riot, with its ‘all star band’ approach, represents a strong contender with its debut Sing It Out.  Many of the better known ‘suspects’ have been referenced in terms of comparison, but if you like label mates Adriangale - both musically and lyrically - then I can see Romeo Riot being of interest.  Again, as a ‘super group’, Romeo Riot delivers the goods musicianship wise in that, obviously, its talent cannot be denied, but equally important is how the quality to the product reflects how said talent works together.  My favorite moments occur when the group lends some blues based elements to its AOR leanings, such as on “Streets Of Babylon” and “Same”, but otherwise, Sing It Out is a consistent work front to back, although I find some of its ballad moments on the predictable side.  AOR fans rejoice!   

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Room To Run” (3:08), “Streets Of Babylon” (4:11), “Sing it Out” (4:38), “Twist Of Fate” (4:13), “What If We Were Wrong” (4:46), “Same” (3:36), “Cry” (4:27), “I Want To Try” (3:14), “Every Now And Then” (4:27), “Best Night Of Our Lives” (3:43)

Mark Giovi - Lead Vocals
Scott Miller - Guitars
Erik Johnson - Guitars & Drums
Ty Sims - Bass
Jace Pawlak - Keyboards


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