Fire Down Under
Review by Felix on June 9, 2019.
A classic guitar riff kicks off a classic metal album: Riot's Fire Down Under belongs to these 50 or perhaps 100 albums that each and every metalhead should know in order to understand the roots of his or her favourite style. I don't say that the entire full-length blows you away. Of course, Riot recorded an album which was a child of its time. I was twelve years old when the album came out and I can tell you that everything has changed since 1980, if I neglect my unbroken love for spaghettis. Jokes aside, how many people have died since the recording of Fire Down Under? One thing is for sure, both Guy Speranza and Mark Reale are among the victims and they died much too soon. Guy Speranza did not sound like Bon Scott, but he embodied this casual, cool and slightly dangerous outsider as well. His clear and almost relaxed voice is perfectly accompanied by the brilliant riffs of Reale during the highlights of this work.
"Outlaw" marks one of those highlights. It's one of those early metal songs that combine commercial potential with natural heaviness. Of course, you are not listening to the sound of a ton of bricks falling down. But the song is opened by a flickering guitar which is killed by a heavy, generic riff that leads to a smooth chorus. Great guitar lines occur, and it is only logical that this song has withstood the test of time, even though its ending is pretty repetitive. And the riffing is responsible for the quality of the further jewels, namely "Swords and Tequila" and the title track. The opener about weapons and alcohol has a perfect flow and an unforgettable chorus, while the "Fire Down Under" is among the very first speed metal eruptions. It impresses with its energy and courage. It sounds less aggressive than that German speed metal prototype "Fast as a Shark" or the strangely forgotten "Starlight", both written by Accept. However, that's mainly due to the mature vocals of Guy who prefers a much more mature approach than Udo Dirkschneider.
The remaining material has not much to say in comparison with these ingenious diamonds. The compositions do not show embarrassing elements and tracks like "Altar of the King" are based upon a profound heaviness. Riffs and solos do not lack strength and Speranza sings passionately. Nevertheless, the extraordinary class of the three highlights remains untouched. "No Lies", for instance, relies on a nice rasping guitar during the verses and the solo part, but the average chorus fails to crown the song. It doesn't matter. Fire Down Under has become a monument which documents a very early, explosive metal cocktail. And tracks like "Run for Your Life" did not only show a very heavy approach, they also set the direction for thousands of metal bands in terms of the lyrics. No doubt, albums like this properly and timelessly produced output have given heavy metal its identity and that's a good reason to like them, although the strange sound collage at the end does not make much sense in my humble opinion. Either way, the musical relevance is great, and the historical significance cannot be overemphasized. R.I.P., Guy and Mark, your album lives on.
Rating: 8.3 out of 10