Review Summary: Get ready for some 80’s nostalgia, triple guitar attack style!
Leatherwolf was not your typical sunset strip band even though they may slightly look like one (and well, they DID play the strip back in the day). Starting in 1981 and forging roots firmly entrenched in the NWOBHM (New World of British Heavy Metal) sound they soon found themselves opening for bands like Slayer and Metallica. Their debut album (also called Leatherwolf) is a great piece of nostalgia and well worth a listen. That was the basis though, the cake without icing. In 1987 the band released their 2nd self-titled album. Keeping parts of their heavy metal roots and adding in equal amounts of progressive instrumentation and AOR (Album Oriented Rock) songwriting sensibilities they crafted what would be an excellent yet often forgotten album.
Leading the band and the six sting onslaught was vocalist Michael Olivieri. His voice is well suited for the music, with an approach stuck somewhere firmly between Iron Maiden and Ratt. It has that great glam/AOR tone to it, but he nails enough notes to make sure you know that he can belt it out with the best of the metal crowd. Carey Howe and Jeff Gayer are the bands other two guitarists and simply shred all over this release. Creating a great mix of heavy metal riffage and progressive solo’s and interludes (imagine if Accept and early Queensryche had a child) the auditory onslaught here is intense and well worth your time. Rounding out the band were drummer Dean Roberts and new (for this release) bassist Paul Carman. An interesting aspect of this release is the heavy infusion of keyboards (played by Olivieri) that add even more depth to an already complex release. The production is as crisp as one can get for the mid 80s and holds up extremely well even today.
The mix of songs on Leatherwolf is interesting. Ranging anywhere from Dokken-esque shred fests to the very glam influenced cover of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ there’s a bunch here to love. There is an overall fantasy approach to the songwriting and lends the band a feeling of early power metal (to go along with the rock, NWOBHM, Glam and AOR influences….). While it is effective in spurts this constant jumping takes away from any really cohesive flow that the album may have. Because the tracks jump between so many different styles, it is a release that I can enjoy more in single songs than a prolonged listed. There are two typical ballads here, Share a Dream and Princess of Love. The latter is much better and the former is the weakest track on this release. The track ‘The Calling’ was the single released to promote the record and is one of the strongest songs here. It has a killer riff, excellent solos and a shout along chorus.
There are a ton of bands out there from the mid-80s that were mostly forgotten for decades. With a distinct blend of all the positives in metal with a unique three guitar attack, this one is worth your listening time.