REVIEW: Leatherwolf – Endangered Species (1984)

LEATHERWOLF – Endangered Species (1984 Tropical Records / 1985 Heavy Metal America)

Leatherwolf carry on today but their origins are found on a humble indi debut from Heavy Metal America records back in 1984.  The Florida band’s original lineup boasted lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Olivieri, who was finding his feet here on the first album.  His voice was enviable; the fact that he could play guitar led to a gimmick called the “triple axe attack” long before Iron Maiden were able to execute the concept themselves.

Opening track “Spiter” takes influence from the aforementioned Iron Maiden as well as the thrash scene on the west coast.  Its blast of metal power serves to open the album with gusto.  The title track “Endangered Species” has a cool layered riff that is almost buried beneath the heavy production.  This is a busy band, with drummer Dean “Drum Machine” Roberts keeping all limbs in a flurry.  A great vintage heavy metal track here, just begging for a recording less flat and brittle.  Plenty of hooks and ideas packed into five minutes.

“Tonight’s the Night” isn’t as memorable, though Olivieri sure gives the vocal his all.  I can’t but laugh at “The Hook”.  “Hey honey, looking for a date?”  Songs about the world’s oldest occupation oh so often veer into cringe territory.  This is no “Charlotte the Harlot” though that seems to be the intent.  “Keep your eye out for the hook!” sings Michael.  The quiet section in the middle is pretty cool and there are multiple nifty riffs, but the song is a clanker.

Side two begins with acoustic guitars, a needed change of tone, and soon it’s back to hammering riffs.  “Season of the Witch” isn’t half bad.  As usual one riff just isn’t enough.  An amped-up Beast-era Iron Maiden seems to be the primary influence.  “Off the Track” has a shouted chorus that passes for a hook.  Not bad, but somehow incomplete like its parts weren’t fully assembled.  A slower tempo and sonic effects make “Kill and Kill Again” an effectively heavy change of pace.  A lot of Maiden in the faster outro, though.  Then accelerate into “Vagrant” which is further into the thrash side, but the production renders the guitars too tinny and without depth.  Fortunately the album closes on title track “Leatherwolf”, a mighty strong Priest-like street fight.

Though they still remained a heavy metal band with three lead guitarists, Leatherwolf added considerably more commercial elements such as ballads and keyboards by the time of their major label debut.  Michael Olivieri would tone down the screamy side of his style, which is used excessively here.  The band had a lot of room to grow, but their youthful exuberance helps make up for it.  There are a few worthwhile tracks that may have a place in your collection, and any fan of the heavier side of vintage metal will enjoy a spin.

2/5 stars

26 comments

  1. If I saw this in the store, picture and all, I’d laugh and say it’s pretty on the nose for the genre, perhaps even a parody… I like your description of what they were trying to do, but does anyone ever need to try to be derivative of Maiden? They’re so unto themselves, it’s a fool’s game, better to make your own sound. I get the feeling you wanted your 2/5 to be higher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I’m saying “Maiden” so often because I am not aware of other bands they may sound like. But it’s hard to avoid the comparisons when the guys are doing harmony guitars. I think of one metal band when I hear guitars like that!

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      1. Well dude, if you, whom I consider an expert on this genre, don’t know other bands who sound like that, probably no one else does! Probably lots of pretenders to Maiden’s clear supremacy.

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  2. I hung out with their guitarist Geoff Gayer quite a lot back in 2004 when I went to the U.S. He lived next door to my brother’s wife’s cousin in whose house we were staying on our visit. Great guy.

    I never checked them out properly. Saw a couple of their videos back in the day but I didn’t think those songs were all that much to write home about.

    Besides, who in their right mind names their band Leatherwolf??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Geoff Gayer is one of the few still in the band. Only two original members left. The bassist on this album was in Stryper for a heartbeat when Tim Gaines was briefly out.

      I think you would REALLY like the 2nd and 3rd albums, but you would dislike the 1st.

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  3. I dug out mine too. I only have Leatherwolf (1987). Really digging this. I ran into this cd just few years ago. Back in the 80’s this would have been one of my favorites for sure. Thanks again for bringing this up!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I know this one, my mate had it on cassette. My memory of it is liking it but not finding it very distinctive. What’s wrong with the guys in the photo? they clearly need some standing lessons!

    Liked by 2 people

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