The Strange Saga of Quiet Riot's "Road Rage"
Still Feelin' The Noize?
It's certainly been a long, strange trip for L.A. rockers Quiet Riot. Originally led by the charismatic, motor-mouthed, leather-lunged vocalist Kevin DuBrow, QR is widely credited with igniting the '80s "hair metal" boom with their multi-platinum Metal Health album, which topped the Billboard charts in 1983. Their hit singles "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" and "Cum On Feel The Noize" are classic-rock radio staples to this day. Quiet Riot's popularity faded in the late 1980s, but even when grunge rock took over in the 90s, they never really went away. Kevin kept the machine running with a rotating cast of replacement musicians (and occasional reunions of the "classic" lineup), continued to release new Quiet Riot albums, and became a regular fixture on the retro-metal tour circuit.
Sadly, Kevin DuBrow passed away in 2007 at the age of 52, shortly after the release of QR's 11th studio album Rehab. Kevin was the heart and soul of the band, and for a while it appeared that Quiet Riot would die with him. However, after a period of mourning, longtime QR drummer Frankie Banali decided that the best way to honor his fallen band mate's memory would be to help keep his music alive. Frankie began assembling a new lineup with the blessings of Kevin's family, and his struggle to rebuild the Quiet Riot brand was the subject of the documentary Quiet Riot: Well, Now You're Here, There's No Way Back, which was released in 2014.
"Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back" trailer
Banali's version of QR has been fairly stable on the instrumental side - bassist Chuck Wright and guitarist Alex Grossi have been on board since 2010 - but finding the right vocalist has been a constant challenge. Two singers (Mark Huff and Scott Vokoun) came and went between 2010 and 2013. Journeyman vocalist Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate, L.A. Guns and Ratt fame held down the vocalist slot for the next several years and gave Quiet Riot the opportunity to record their first new material since the death of Kevin DuBrow (2014's digital-only release 10, aka Quiet Riot 10), but Pearl left the band in 2016 to re-start his solo career. He was replaced by Seann Nichols, a veteran of former Guns N Roses drummer Steven Adler's solo band, Adler's Appetite.
With a seemingly solid new lineup in place, the new Quiet Riot signed a deal with the Italian melodic-rock label Frontiers Records and began work on a brand new studio album, to be titled Road Rage. When the recording sessions were complete, Frontiers began turning the promotional wheels for the new album. Road Rage was slated for an April 2017 release, the first single from the album ("The Seeker") was posted on YouTube, and the album cover artwork was revealed online. Tour dates were being booked, and things seemed to be firing on all cylinders ... so of course, something had to go wrong.
In March 2017, less than six weeks before the scheduled release date for Road Rage, Quiet Riot parted ways with Seann Nichols. He had been in the band for less than a year and had performed a grand total of five live shows with them. A few days later, Nicholls revealed that he'd accepted the vacant vocalist position in Bobby Blotzer's controversial, problem-plagued version of Ratt. (Side note: good luck with that one, pal...)
So now Quiet Riot had a new album in the can and ready to go, but no singer. Enter... former "American Idol" contestant James Durbin!
James Durbin is probably best known as "the Metal Guy from American Idol," where he finished in fourth place in 2011. Durbin's jam with metal legends Judas Priest on the "Idol" tenth-season finale, where he performed "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking The Law" with them, was a series highlight. James has released several solo albums since the end of his "Idol" run, and he first came into Quiet Riot's orbit thanks to a side project with current QR guitarist Alex Grossi, called Maps To The Hollywood Scars. Frankie Banali was apparently so taken with Durbin's vocal abilities that he had wanted James to record Road Rage with Quiet Riot, but scheduling conflicts prevented it from happening.
(Fun fact: the 28-year-old Durbin wasn't even born yet when Quiet Riot released their breakthrough Metal Health album in 1983!)
When Durbin's status as the new Quiet Riot singer was made official, fans began to wonder about the fate of the just-completed new album. Would the band still release it with the "old" singer's vocals on it? If so, would they bother to perform the new material on the road with Durbin? Or would they simply scrap the whole thing and start over? Within days, they had their answer. Quiet Riot and Frontiers Records announced via social media that Road Rage's release would be delayed till late Summer 2017, which would give the band time to re-work the material with Durbin. James will re-record all the lead vocals for the album and add "new lyrics and melodies." Frontiers quickly removed Nicholls' version of "The Seeker" from their YouTube channel and halted all promotional activities for Road Rage until further notice.
While this is an unusual situation for a band to be in, it's not entirely unique. The New York thrash metal band Anthrax had a similar problem with ill-fitting vocalist Dan Nelson, who joined the band in 2007. He recorded an album's worth of new material with Anthrax and then was fired in 2009 before it could be released. After Nelson's exit, Anthrax brought back their classic-era vocalist Joey Belladonna and reworked the tracks, which finally saw the light of day in 2011 as the album Worship Music.
Still All Crazee Now?
James Durbin has already made his live debut with Quiet Riot - their first gig with him as front man took place on March 18th at The Cotillion in Wichita, Kansas. Clips from the show quickly made it to YouTube and they seem to indicate that James is already settling comfortably into his new position.
Coincidentally, Seann Nichols' first live appearance as the new Ratt vocalist took place on the same weekend, at the Prairie Knights Casino & Resort in Fort Yates, North Dakota. On another strange but related note, shortly before his Ratt debut Nichols told the Classic Metal Show podcast that he plans to record and release his own version of the Road Rage album in the near future, so that interested fans can hear the songs as he originally wrote them. Something tells me this saga is far from over...
Quiet Riot's first live gig with James Durbin
Time will tell how Quiet Riot's Road Rage will go over with the band's longtime fan base. Durbin's involvement has definitely brought QR more press attention than they've had in some time and it's possible that he might bring a youthful edge to their new material (not to mention some new, younger fans), but we'll all have to wait for late Summer 2017 to hear the results for ourselves. If nothing else, you have to admire Quiet Riot's willingness to go the extra mile on this new album and make sure it's "right" before they go out on the road to support it. Hopefully with Road Rage, Frankie and his new band will do Kevin DuBrow proud.
QUIET RIOT studio discography
Quiet Riot - Sony Japan, 1977
Quiet Riot II - Sony Japan, 1978
Metal Health - Pasha, 1983
Condition Critical - Pasha, 1984
QR III - Pasha, 1986
QR - Pasha, 1988
Terrified - Moonstone, 1993
Down To The Bone - Kamikaze, 1995
Alive And Well - Cleopatra, 1999
Guilty Pleasures - Bodyguard, 2001
Rehab - Chavis, 2006
10 (aka Quiet Riot 10) - indie, 2014
Road Rage - Frontiers Records, 2017