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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Leatherwolf

World Asylum

Review by Mike Korn

I missed Leatherwolf the first time around. Their heyday was the mid to late 80's, a time when a million metal bands were fighting for the attention of headbangers everywhere. In Leatherwolf's case, I missed out; even though I recognized they had about the most "metal" name I've ever heard of.

As with so many other bands from the glory days of metal, the dudes can't let the past lie and so they have returned in the 21st century to pick back up where they started. After checking out World Asylum, all I can say is, kick me hard for missing the band the first time around. This is awesome oldschool American power metal with ripping solos coming out of everywhere, varied songwriting that ranges from the epic to the brutal to the commercial and top notch production.

Longtime vocal journeyman Wade Black (Crimson Glory, Seven Witches, etc) has now joined the band and fits like a glove. This album is his best performance ever. If a mixture of Judas Priest, Savatage, Iron Maiden and Ratt with a distinctive touch sounds up your alley, you cannot pass World Asylum up. This one surprised the hell out of me! Now I have to look up Leatherwolf's back catalogue...

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Am The Law
No, it's not the Anthrax classic, but it sure doesn't lack for power. Opening with an epic flourish, guitars soon start to scream and then Wade Black weighs in with super-catchy vocal hooks. This is power metal with the emphasis on power. There are no fluffy keyboards or acoustics to get in the way - just killer axe work from Geoff Gayer and Eric Halperin. This is how you kick off a metal album.
King of the Ward
This reminds me of the classier hair metal stuff from the late 80's but with good power and crunch. Anybody who's ever heard the cult band Vicious Rumors will recognize this style. It's more of a mid-paced bruiser with a kind of sing-song chorus somewhat like Ratt and lots of wah-wah guitar.
Behind the Gun
A more epic side of the band arises here, with a dramatic feel and more great guitar work. Black's vocals are really soaring here...he never sounded this good with Seven Witches. I think the lyrics here are based on "The Road to Perdition" movie. A song with a lot of twists and turns, this climaxes with a superb gallop to the finish.
Live or Die
There is an eerie, low-key beginning to this cut, which soon transforms into a nervous, speedy riff. It's obvious that Leatherwolf has the knack of writing powerful metal songs that also have a lot of moodiness and atmosphere.
Disconnected
I really like this power-packed number that relies more on a steady pounding to force you into submission. The excellent lyrics seem to condemn video game addicts: "We are the mindless/Senseless and vacant/We are the violent/ Blank and unconscious.” The guitar soloing here just kicks major amounts of booty!
Dr. Wicked (Rx O.D.)
This is a cool track that reminds me a little of Motley Crue with its opening bass-propelled choppy riff. The track then speeds up into quite a powerful number, but with extremely memorable vocal hooks that you can sing along to. The guitar work is stellar as usual, but the bass-drum interplay really gets a showcase here.
Institutions
The oddest and most experimental cut on show, this has an off-center, queasy feeling very reminiscent of Alice Cooper's more demented material. The vocals are really strange, often sounding like a twisted nursery rhyme. A slow thumping bass motif drives the cut, which I thought was a welcome dash of eccentricity, though some might be put off by its strangeness.
Derailed
To make up for the quirkiness of "Institutions,” this is the heaviest and most straightforward cut on the disc, barreling out of the gate with a fast and furious pace. It’s a simple but extremely effective song made for head banging and throwing the horns.
The Grail
There's more of an epic texture to this one, with a European power metal feel to it. It's a pretty heavy track, with a moody mid-section that builds to a scorching guitar solo and a piercing scream from Wade Black. Wow, this is an axe fiend's delight!
Never Again
A dreamy balladic tone starts this off, reminiscent of old Queensryche and Wade's old band Crimson Glory. True to form, a grinding metal section soon arises with a lot of bluesy soloing. The cut alternates between the mellow moodiness and the heavy crunch. About two-thirds of the way through, the track hits an awesome super-heavy grooving riff with tremendous vocals over the top. It’s a fantastic way to end a great album of pure metal madness!
 
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