REVIEW: Leatherwolf- Leatherwolf (1988)

Found in the late 1990’s at Natural Sound in Kitchener.

 

LEATHERWOLF – Leatherwolf (1988 Island)

I first saw Leatherwolf in a 1988 Hit Parader magazine. Their gimmick was the “triple-axe attack”. Their singer, Michael Olivieri, doubled on guitar so during those twin harmony solos, the rhythm guitar wouldn’t drop out. Yeah, I know, that doesn’t sound like much, now that Maiden have three full time lead guitarists. At the time it was enough to get me interested enough to have a listen. I saw the video for “The Calling” on MuchMusic — instant fan!

This album, originally released on Island records (then home of U2), is quite good.  It’s an amalgam of thrash metal’s heaviness and pounding double bass — and glam rock. An odd mixture, but it works. The first album Endangered Species was pretty straight forward thrash, but this self-titled is tempered by keyboards and ballads.

Leatherwolf commences with some sweet acoustics: “Rise Or Fall” soon kicks into gear with some march-style drums and “Genghis Khan” (Iron Maiden)-style riffing. Then, another time change and the song careens into high gear with thick backing vocals, time changes, and guitar harmonies.  The aforementioned “The Calling” was the anthemic first single. A fist pumper. I love the riff on this one. Very cool and chunky.  The chorus ain’t too shabby either, nor the verses.  Although it’s a bit early for a balld, “Share a Dream” is next.  Most metal guys out there will probably have no problem skipping this too soft keyboard ballad. I don’t mind it, but it’s a jarring change of pace.

At first you might think “Cry Out” is another ballad, but once the intro is over the song nails it. This one is quite the anthem, with plenty of shouted backing vocals, and power to spare.  That was the side closer, and side two was introduced by “Gypsies And Thieves”.  Like the album opener, it’s complex with plenty of changes and fast parts.  Good for getting back on track.  Leatherwolf are a metal band after all, not Bon Jovi!

I was enamored with “Bad Moon Rising”a a teenager.  Yes, the CCR cover, but performed as a fast-paced two-minute thrash rocker. Some won’t like it, as a cover is always a dangerous weapon to behold.  I always thought it would have made a great theme song to an 80’s horror movie.  Remember back when you absolutely had to have a rock theme song in every horror movie?  In fact, in the 12th grade I gathered my friends Anand and Danesh with the intent of creating a student film along those lines.  Unfortunately we only finished one scene before our star one day just decided to stop showing up at school!

“Princess Of Love” is not a ballad, but it is quite keyboard heavy and gothic. Another winner in my books.  “Magical Eyes” is one of the only dull songs on the record.  It’s heavy, but inferior in quality to a song like “Rise Or Fall”.  Skip button territory. Because it would have been folly to end the album on anything but, “Rule The Night” is a metallic anthem. Shout-able choruses redeem the album.  Leatherwolf threatens to run off the rails once or twice, but it always centers itself before it’s too late.

As you have seen, Leatherwolf walks the fine line between thrash metal and commercial pop metal. As such the band never fell in with either camp and broke up after the next album Street Ready, which was actually way better than this one. Some closed-minded listeners didn’t get this strange mixture of seemingly contradictory styles.  That’s too bad.  There’s a lot to like here.  The only real drawback to this CD is the 80’s production values by Kevin Beamish. It’s a little too dense, a little too echo-y.

The band reunited in the 90’s with the live Wide Open CD, and went through several lineup changes in the lead vocals department. Olivieri left to be replaced by former Racer X singer Jeff Martin who did some awesome demos with them (check them out).  Then he in turn was replaced by ex-Crimson Glory singer Wade Black on the studio album World Asylum. When he left, World Asylum was re-recorded with Olivieri back on vocals and retitled New World Asylum! Whew!  And I believe the band are working on new music as you read this.  Stay tuned.

4/5 stars

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15 comments

  1. Here’s a nice little story:
    My brother’s wife’s dad is American and her mom is from Chile, so she has relatives that lives in Orange County and my brother and his family visits them every second year and back in 2004 I joined them. So, me and two friends of mine got to live at her cousin’s house for the 3 weeks we were there. Now, the house next door was owned by an old roadie from New Zeeland, a Kiwi, named Graham and he shared the house with one Geoff Gayer, yes, the guitar player from LeatherWolf. A really nice guy that we saw a lot of during our 3 weeks there, a bit of a fuck up, yes, but very nice. Apparently LeatherWolf was his band from the start and he managaed to get himself fired not one, but two times. He said he had a successful clothing line going on at the time but no one had ever seen any of his clothes.
    I told him Headbanger’s Ball Europe played their Hideaway video quite frequently, but that it never stuck and therefore I had never checked out the album. He told me not to bother as no one in the band really likes the album and that it was a huge compromise. They were fans of thrash and power metal but their record company told them to go melodic rock instead or otherwise there would be no record. One listen to World Asylum kinda confirms that statement, even though I believe that album was pretty bad.
    Still reading your review makes my curious about checking them out. The fine line between thrash and pop metal sounds interesting. I guess it was the Street Ready album that has the Hideaway song on it, right?
    That said, there really are no reasons for calling your band LeatherWolf. How lame, how lame…

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    1. Hideaway was on Street Ready. If I’ll be totally honest I think Street Ready is the better album. I think it’s their best one yet (the only one I’m missing is the live one Wide Open).

      Now their first album Endangered Species was not very good. I have it on vinyl and I never listen to it. It has one or two good songs. Spiter is decent.

      The first album had a different bass player, who also did a brief stint in Stryper when Tim Gaines wasn’t available or quit or something.

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      1. I’ll take poodle hair over the grunge look anyday though. I kinda like it when rockstars looks like rockstars and not some random guy who just walked off the street… :)

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      2. Such a cool idea. Should we go and also separate the singers with blond hair from the ones with curly and brown into their own categories?

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