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"...burning and scolding with great force and fury, I feel he is near..."
Yet another band to slip through the cracks of notice (despite a stint on Island Records) is CA’s Leatherwolf. Shamefully, some outstanding bands twirl forever on the rim of the waste barrel by no mistake of their own, and it’s always good to throw one a lifeline, even if it’s just for the length of one review. I mean, even a dog is happy when it's acknowledged. With a name I’ve always liked for some reason, Leatherwolf play aggressive, Euro-seasoned traditional/power/speed metal with gleaming progressive musicianship in a vein not unlike Savage Grace, Savatage, and more hard-lined versions of Queensryche and Fates Warning.
“Spiter” screeches into existence, then unleashes a sonic assault you may or may not have been prepared for. I don’t recall what I was expecting, but it doesn’t really matter now. Any belief of a Talas, Prophet, or Wrathchild sound glides out the nearest window and is replaced by a powerful resonance, sinewy with great fluent riffs rife with melody, excellent musicianship and songcraft, and an impressively clear production to boot. Vocalist Mike Olivieri’s fine falsetto can triumphantly butt heads with most anyone in the trained sector, and that’s a company that includes many a talent not to be trifled with.
Showing a softer appeal during the main verses/rhythm is “Endangered Species”, perhaps something a band like Crimson Glory would accomplish, but these supple motives are flanked by intricate, yet heavy riffage and a chorus that isn't hidden in shadow.
Side two flips into a short walk of elegant acoustics to begin “Season of the Witch”, a track that shrewdly shifts with personalities ominous, melodious, serious, and complex. Hair-raising solos via Geoff Gayer and Carey Howe layer each other like familiar lovers, flushed out of all musical impurities and riveting my ear to this top track. “Kill and Kill Again” stalks with a methodical gait like the lyrics hark, then as if to ambush its prey, quickly leaps to frantic, Maiden-esque proportions. “Leatherwolf” nimbly hotfoots around with an unorthodox structure that’s bridged by a helix of iron beam solos. Throughout these five tracks, the solidarity of the musicians is perplexing, tighter than your hair wrapped around a conveyor belt, and with a professionalism that would be a crime to tarnish with a shoddy production.
Leatherwolf was there. They had all the right stuff, all the Olympic level moves to propel them into the high-life like a 400 foot, game-winning homer. If there’s any reason why this quintet couldn’t dance in the spotlight, please fill me in.