Talking Tracks January 2012 - Mark Reale (7th June 1955 – 25th January 2012)
It’s with great sadness that we say farewell to Mark Reale, guitarist and co-founder of New York metal giants Riot. Having battled Crohn’s Disease pretty much all his life he succumbed to complications arising from it and died on 25th January. He was just 55 years old, and at the time he was hospitalised was rehearsing for a brace of upcoming shows in support of the band’s monster new album ‘Immortal Soul’.
I was never fortunate enough to meet Mark, much as I would love to have done so as he was an early idol of mine. An eagle-eyed – eagle-eared? – friend discovered the band’s debut album ‘Rock City’ when import copies first dribbled into the country with neither fanfare nor press in 1978; almost immediately it became an imaginary-guitar classic (well, side one did, anyway) with a group of us pretending to play riffs and solos that we didn’t have a cat’s chance in hell of replicating on actual instruments. The fact that those same songs had been written by someone just five years older than us didn’t even cross our minds.
After ‘Narita’ and ‘Fire Down Under’ the singer changed and with Guy Speranza (RIP) giving way to Rhett Forrester (RIP) the vibe changed too. The band’s fortunes began to wane but picked back up with the 1988 classic ‘Thundersteel’ and its rather off-the-wall follow-up ‘The Privilege Of Power’. After that the music scene changed once more but Riot hung in there. Musicians came and went but Mark kept the band going, clocking up thirteen studio albums in the process: not all classics, true, but each had songs that harked back to the glory days and showed that there was still a fire burning in the band’s heart.
The news that the ‘Thundersteel’ era line-up of Tony Moore, Mike Flyntz, Don Van Stavern and Bobby Jarzombek had re-united for album #14, ‘Immortal Soul’ was greeted with great excitement across the metal community. The album, released on SPV at the end of last year, clocked up rave review after rave review and revealed a real return to the integrity and heads-down honesty of the band’s earlier days. It’s perhaps even more distressing that Mark lost his fight with the disease at a time when he and his band were set to fight back to centre stage once more.
“Some never made their dreams come alive…” sang Speranza on ‘49er’, but not only did Mark Reale bring his dreams to life but also he inspired many through some of the greatest metal songs ever recorded. Requiescat in pace, Mark; you will be sadly missed.
John Tucker January 2012