Quiet Riot Releases "Road Rage" With New Singer James Durbin
Still Feelin' the Noize?
It's certainly been a long, strange trip for L.A. rock legends 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 1983's multi-platinum Metal Health album, and their hit singles "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" and "Cum On Feel The Noize" remain 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, DuBrow kept Quiet Riot's name alive. Quiet Riot continued to release albums during the lean years, with a rotating cast of replacement musicians (and at least one reunion of the "classic" Metal Health lineup), 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 has been an on-and-off presence since the 1980s and guitarist Alex Grossi has 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 DuBrow's death (2014's digital-only release 10, aka Quiet Riot 10), but he left the band in 2016 to re-start his solo career. Pearl was replaced by Seann Nicols, 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 Nicols. 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, Nicols revealed that he'd accepted the vacant vocalist position in Bobby Blotzer's controversial, problem-plagued version of Ratt.
So now Quiet Riot had a new album in the can, 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 came into Quiet Riot's orbit thanks to his side project with current QR guitarist Alex Grossi, called Maps To The Hollywood Scars. Frankie Banali was 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 announced, fans wondered 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 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, who would 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 was an unusual situation for a band, it's not entirely unique. New York thrashers Anthrax had a similar problem in 2009 with ill-fitting vocalist Dan Nelson, who'd recorded a new album with them but was fired before its release. 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 made his live debut with Quiet Riot on March 18th, 2017 at The Cotillion in Wichita, Kansas. Clips from the show quickly made it to YouTube, and James already seemed quite comfortable in his new position.
Coincidentally, Seann Nicols' first live appearance as the new Ratt vocalist took place that same weekend at the Prairie Knights Casino & Resort in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Shortly before his Ratt debut Nicols told the Classic Metal Show podcast that he planned to release his own recordings of the songs he wrote for Road Rage in the near future, so that fans could hear those songs as they were intended to sound. His version of the "Road Rage" title track has since been released as a digital single.
Seann Nicols "Road Rage" Lyric Video (2017)
Reworked "Road Rage" Released
In early June 2017, Quiet Riot announced that after a "three-week marathon" of re-working existing tracks and writing and recording some fresh material, the new-and-improved version of Road Rage with James Durbin on vocals was ready to be released on August 4. In a press release announcing the new release date, Durbin had this to say about his Quiet Riot experience thus far:
“The crown jewel, on top of joining one of your favorite bands, has to be writing, recording and releasing a new album, No matter what, you are now a part of that band’s history and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to do that with Quiet Riot."— - James Durbin
On June 12, Frontiers Records released "Freak Flag," the first single from the "updated" version of Road Rage, on their YouTube channel. Within the first 24 hours, comments on the video ranged from "Sounds great! Keep 'em coming!" to "Who's the girl singing?" (haha) This was soon followed by an official music video for the opening track "Can't Get Enough," directed by Frankie Banali's wife Regina. The "Can't Get Enough" clip is the first "real" Quiet Riot music video since the late 1980's!
Quiet Riot with James Durbin - "Freak Flag" (2017)
Time will tell how Road Rage will go over with the band's longtime fan base. Banali seems enthusiastic about his youthful new front man, and Durbin's involvement has brought QR more press attention than they've had in quite some time. Perhaps James will bring a youthful edge to their material (not to mention some new, younger fans).
Hopefully with the release of Road Rage, Frankie and his new band will do Kevin DuBrow's legacy proud.
"Can't Get Enough" From "Road Rage" (2017)
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
© 2017 Keith Abt