By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
LEATHERWOLF – LEATHERWOLF (1987)
I wrote about the Leatherwolf album Street Ready back in 2017 and it was an article that became one of the first that got rather enthusiastically shared by a band that I featured. In fact, the band shared the article when it first went up and then shared it again a couple years later.
I love that album and I have always wanted to revisit the band’s catalog with another of their releases. But while I’ve had the Leatherwolf album in my Big Box of Cassettes for a while now, I have only now gotten around to checking it out.
The strange thing is that while I know that they did a video for the song “The Calling” that got some airplay on MTV, I can’t rightly recall if I ever saw it back then. As I listened to the first side of the album, the song kind of sounded familiar but I can’t figure out if it is a memory from the distant past or if I’ve heard it over the years in other ways.
But what I know now is that “The Calling” is a pretty damn good song! It demonstrates the band’s grasp of hooking the listener into the song that would come to the forefront even moreso on Street Ready.
The first side of the album opening with “Rise Or Fall” gave you a real sense of heavy grandiosity and melody with a big vocal presence from Michael Olivieri. Plus the triple guitar attack filling up a lot of space lets you really experience a jam-packed musical soundtrack to each song.
The song “Share A Dream” lends itself more to a power ballad type song style, but still has something to it that makes it feel “heavier” still. As for the side closing “Cry Out”, the song’s slow start soon gives way to a far deeper and heavier sound that revs you up. There’s an excellent solo to be found here as well. A impressively cast backing vocal also amps up the song’s energy.
The second side of the album has an interesting cover song. Leatherwolf covers the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Bad Moon Rising”. I’m not fully versed in the CCR catalog but I do know their hits and I actually quite love “Bad Moon Rising”. And while I’m thinking that those CCR diehards will probably not like Leatherwolf’s version, I think what the band did with the song works perfectly. They turned it into a pure powerhouse metal track that finds the band just blowing the roof off the place as they rocket through their rendition.
As for the original songs on Side Two, the album opens with “Gypsies And Thieves”. While the song is pretty good overall, it is the song’s last part where the pace is given a shot of electricity where I think Leatherwolf really hit the groove for the song.
“Princess Of Love” has a killer rocking vibe to it and the song’s chorus really got into my head. Of course, when the kinetic ball of fire that is the song “Magical Eyes” burst out of your speakers you can feel yourself torn between doing the whole “bang your head” thing or maybe doing some Olympian level air guitar. An absolutely killer tune!
I love the last song on the album a lot too. “Rule The Night” has a relentlessly aggressive pacing to the music and the lyrics (the chorus in particular) does lend itself to being quite an anthemic call to arms.
While there were reports of a studio album due out in the spring of 2020, to the best of my knowledge that release has yet to happen. I’m guessing that’s due at least in part to the pandemic but it sure would be nice to hear a new album from the band after a mostly silent last 15 years. (They did release one new song on their Youtube channel in 2019 called “The Henchmen”).
Until then though, reaching back to 1987 to check out the band’s Leatherwolf album will certainly tide you over. Why? Because once again, Leatherwolf leaves you wanting more despite nine powerfully melodic (yet truly heavy) tracks that pack a full on assault in every note!
NOTES OF INTEREST – While Leatherwolf still hasn’t released a full length album since 2007’s New World Asylum, the band remains active. But their lineup has been a constantly changing thing. Singer Michael Olivieri has been out of the band since February 2019 with Keith Adamiak as his replacement.
Bassist Paul Carman also returned to the lineup in 2019. It is his fourth stint with Leatherwolf. He originally joined in 1986 as the replacement for Matt Hurich who had left to join Stryper.
The producer for Leatherwolf was Kevin Beamish. Other bands that he’s worked with include Saxon, Jefferson Starship, Y&T and Keel. He also produced five albums for REO Speedwagon, including their monster hit album Hi Infidelity (an album I wrote about for The Cassette Chronicles as well).