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A trend making the light of day in the metal community and growing larger by the minute is for friends and/or acquaintances in the music scene over a period of time, coming together for a collaboration which usually involves a plethora of guest musicians and vocalists. It began as “metal operas” about ten years ago, thanks to Mr. Tobias Sammet of Edguy and Avantasia; but recently the metal opera theme has fallen away for more personal and introspective themes.
The next collaboration in this trend is Wolfpakk, comprised of ex-Crystal Ball vocalist Mark Sweeney and current Mad Max vocalist Michael Voss. Long-time friends, the pair finally come together after years of planning and timing and the end result is a catchy mix of modern traditional heavy metal with hard rock. Special guests on this debut you ask, well there are plenty of them – 31 guests in all, including 12 vocalists, 10 guitarists, six bassists, two keyboardists and a drummer. Some notable names amongst the 31 include Rob Rock (ex-Impelitteri), Paul Di’Anno (ex-Iron Maiden), Tim Owens (ex-Judas Priest/ex-Iced Earth), Mark Boals (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Axel Rudi Pell), Tony Martin (ex-Black Sabbath) and Matt Sinner (Sinner/Primal Fear).
Both Sweeney and Voss have written all the lyrics and music, as well as the mixing and production, and have joined label heavyweights AFM for a worldwide release. Knowing what the two musicians have achieved in their careers thus far, it would be expected that this be a damn fine CD... and it is. Catchy melodic metal forged with the harder-edged hard rock that expels some nifty guitar-work the whole way through. Being melodic metal, keyboards are a priority, but not overused like in some melodic metal bands. There is an excellent balance from the keys, through to the bass and guitars, with crystal clear production and a fine performance from all involved. With both Sweeney and Voss singing on tracks as well as the guest vocalists, it can be difficult at times to work out who is behind the mic at any given song, but those with a keen metal ear should be able to narrow it down in no time at all.
With nine songs and a short 57-second interlude, the album feels a little short; however the final track on the disc does lift the time to 52 minutes after clocking in at just short of ten minutes. All nine tracks on the release are of a high and consistent level of quality; the majority having a sing-a-long chorus that at times can come off cheesy but still good nevertheless. The album contains a nice blend of speedy tracks, with a few prodding mid-paced and epic sounding songs, all with their own identity, own story and another guest on the CD showing that they were worth the selection. One of the many highlights on the disc is the amazing and energetic solos throughout each track, knowing that each one came from a different guitarist, the other major highlight is feel some songs give off, shooting you off back to the day, when this style of melodic metal/hard rock was only in baby steps and taking off like a screaming eagle.
Songs on the album which will get your head nodding in approval include the utterly straightforward but uber catchy and brilliant melodic hard rock anthem “Ride the Bullet” and the mid-paced metal hymn “Let Me Die”. More top-notch tracks follow with the harder-edged “Slam Down the Hammer”, while “Dark Horizons” is a catchy and passionate, keyboard-friendly winner. Lastly, the opening song “Sirens” is an energetic, powerful and cracking track that will surely be repeated constantly.
Wolfpakk aren’t reinventing the wheel here with their collaboration, and melodic metal hasn’t changed in quite some time, so don’t expect anything groundbreaking on the album. Ultimately it's what every melodic metal fan could ask for and more; with the many guests giving the CD more of a ‘best of’ compilation feel. In a very polished performance that it worth the effort of tracking down, Wolfpakk’s debut is definitely a front-runner for top melodic metal release of the year.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com and www.metalcdratings.com