ALBUM REVIEW: Leatherwolf – Kill The Hunted
“Long before British metal legends Iron Maiden picked up on the concept, a pack of Huntington Beach, CA-based teenagers, collectively known as Leatherwolf, pioneered and perfected the heavy metal three guitar assault, nicknamed the Triple Axe Attack.” So says the press release, but we of course all know that many, many, many Rock bands had three guitarists long before Leatherwolf – Molly Hatchet, Skynyrd, Springsteen, CSNY, BOC and The Eagles and I’m not even trying. I know about the ‘Triple Axe Attack’ but why mention beating Iron Maiden to 3 guitars? And why harp on about doing it ‘long before’ Maiden did? Technically it’s not even correct either as back in 1983 Maiden featured Bruce on guitar on occasion along with Dave and Adrian (you can even see him play on 1985’s Live After Death video). OK I know technically that’s not a 3 Guitar attack, but 1983 isn’t exactly long after Leatherwolf formed in 1981 either, and Leatherwolf didn’t release their first EP until 1984. Rant over. For the record as a fan of Leatherwolf I love their sound, but with Maiden I prefer the first few records when they only dreamed of 3 guitarists.
Editor’s note: ‘After all of that at the time of review the band’s current website only lists Rob Math and Geoff Gayer on guitar – so no Triple Axe Attack.’
Leatherwolf is one of those interesting bands that is certainly old school Heavy Metal through and through but a band who also managed to appeal to the large-haired masses in the late 80’s and as a result had their 15 minutes of fame with tracks like ‘Hideaway’ that didn’t really represent their sound at all. It’s that sort of confusion, and lack of label support that surely must have fueled their eventual break up after dabbling with a Grungier sound and becoming Hail Mary as the 90’s hit. It’s a shame because along with Lizzy Borden to me these guys were the best of American Metal at the time, and for me that’s where the comparisons with Maiden sneak in, it’s nothing to do with the number of guitarists though.
After a grunge infused hiatus they came back strong in ’99 with a wonderful live record ‘Wide Open’ and their heaviest so far ‘World Asylum’ followed in 2006. I finally caught them live at Rocklahoma three years later and had a lovely chat with Michael Olivieri, who is no longer with the band departing in 2019. And so here we are in 2022 after a pandemic sized pause with a new album ‘Kill The Hunted’ featuring Michael’s replacement Keith Adamiak on vocals. Only Geoff Gayer remained of the original ‘Triple Axe Attack’ when he rejoined in 2019 yet the press states that Rob Math, Luke Man, and Wayne Findlay (MSG, Vinnie Moore) play guitar on the record (I presume this record was in the can before Geoff got back on board as it was originally slated for a 2020 release). So um, none of the famed ‘Triple Guitar Attack’ appear here then… That of course means that just drummer Dean Roberts appears on record from the band’s original line-up.
So to the album…
The album’s first 2 singles ‘Hit the Dirt’ and ‘The Henchman’ (the latter featuring Whitesnake’s Joel Hoekstra – is that a ‘Quadruple Axe Attack’?) sounded great, after a few more plays they sounded exceptional and certainly recalled that classic Leatherwolf sound. To be honest I had a blast listening and couldn’t wait for this one to drop. Sometimes if the ethos is right and the members know what they are trying to capture then to an extent the line-up doesn’t matter. And whilst I do miss Michael’s vocals, Keith is more than competent with this material. So whilst you can go down that ‘original members’ rabbit-hole lets rather say that this does sound like Leatherwolf and the songs are there to carry it off.
From ‘go to woah this is great stuff, heavy and exceptionally well-produced it has those guitars you crave and just doesn’t let up. If you want to hear a band where you can pick out all the parts for praise this is it and as I said the vocals hit the marks too. ‘Hit the Dirt’ the opener is in your face and really lays down the high water mark, ‘Nobody’ a medium pacer is just as good as is the title track which ups the aggression.
Deeper in ‘Ony the Wicked’ has the best riff here and takes the mood down a little before exploding. It’s a real highlight. ‘Madhouse’ adds more pounding riffs and a killer solo, whilst ‘Medusa’ adds melody and ‘The Henchman’ gets almost Thrashy with an early-Megadeth vibe. ‘Road Rage’ adds ‘pedal to the metal’ guitars and again touches on the Thrashy and sees Keith really shine. And we go out in style with the final two tracks meeting the exacting standards already set. ‘Lights Out Again’ has that Megadeth feel again and really hits the spot and closer ‘Enslaved’ that sort of recalls the ‘Street Ready’ days, and does it in some style.
Metal album of the year? I can’t see anything beating it.