Good Heavy Metal Album with Really Bad Cover Art
by Jody Haskins for The Laguna Spectator March 19, 2016
“Narita” is the second heavy metal album by New York Based rock band Riot. It was released October 5, 1979. Noisecreep recently named Riot “Narita” one of the 10 worst album covers of all time. I will go a step further and call Riot’s “Narita” officially the “Worst Heavy Metal Album Cover Ever.”
The album title is a reference to an airport in Japan. The cover album cover is graced by the band’s mascot. He is a creature with a sumo wrestler’s body and a seals head. This unpleasant looking fellow is Riot’s mascot.
This mascot became more tough guy looking on later albums. It doesn’t help that it almost impossible not to look at him and hold back the laughter. He is standing in a field of human skulls and holding on to a battle ax. There is an awesome volcano in the background. Now for your reading and listening pleasure my review of the Riot Narita, the winner of the Worst Heavy Metal Album Cover Ever award.
Track One: Waiting For The Taking
Waiting For The Taking kicks butt. It is a stand up and take action song that could be in a Rocky movie.
Track Two: 49er
This is a great song about the gold rush and the original 49ers. These are some of the best rock lyrics I have ever heard. It tells the story of the 49ers and how they fought, lived and died. This song is equal parts Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song and Iron Maiden’s The Trooper.
Track Three: Kick Down The Wall
Blistering guitar into to this heavy metal rocker. These guys are expressing their frustration with the whole promotional aspect of the business. Guy is telling those guys to just kick down the corporate and political walls that are hindering their breakout success.
Track Four: Born To Be Wild
Maybe this is what the record company guys told them would get them their big break. Do a cover of an old established well known rock song and get some air play. Wrong. This is a lifeless bad version of a classic rock song. Skip it.
Track Five: Narita
Riot blast off and gets back on track with this speed metal instrumental composition. Sounds a little like “Sufin’ With The Alien” by Joe Satriani. This is a showcase of the excellent musicianship in this band at this time. Also the production handled expertly by Steve Loeb and Billy Arnell.
Track One: Here We Come Again
This is a nice mid-tempo rocker. Flying tigers and an electric noose are some of the strange lyrics found in this song. Not the best song on the album. At this point it is still not the worst song on the Riot Narita LP. That honor is held by”Born To Be Wild”.
Track Two: Do It Up
Do It Up is the high water mark of side two. This is a up-tempo rocker with a swinging vibe. Mark Reale’s guitar work is excellent and Guy’s vocals are gritty and believable on this track.
Hot For Love
Bits and pieces of brilliance in this song but overall the lyrics as well as the arrangements feel incomplete and rushed.
Riot delivers yet another song about being a rock and roll ‘highway star’. This song delivers more autobiographical lyrics about life on the road. It is a short song with a great guitar intro and solo, I wouldn’t skip it, just don’t expect a lot.
Road Racin’ is a poor man’s Highway Star. The song has a weak finish because the ingredients are there but this cake fell in the oven. A rock song is the same way, the great ones include just enough of the right ingredients in the right amount to create musical magic.
This is 1/2 of a Riot heavy metal album. I would put side one up against any band from that era. The poor decision to place a lifeless boring cover of Born To Be Wild as the fourth track is just too much to overcome. As for side two it would be OK background music at a fraternity party in 1979 but that is about all I can say. The magic only occurs on Waiting For the Taking, 49er and Kick Down The Wall.