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.