Leatherwolf - Unchained Live (Nile8 Records)

Good to have them back...
Release Date: 
7 Dec 2013 - 11:30pm

For a brief moment at the end of the eighties, US Metallions Leatherwolf could reach out and just get a fingertip brush on the prize; Their album of the time, Street Ready, was a glorious piece of American metal chock full of Maidenesque harmonious axework and big, radio friendly choruses that set pulses racing and heads banging all around the world. They were surely the next big thing. And then… nothing. 

Of course over the 20-odd years since that seemingly unexplained implosion the band has returned on multiple occasions, sometimes with all of the members of that classic Street Ready lineup present, sometimes not, but for this new live album, there does seem to be a freshness of delivery and a level of talent involved that would suggest a bright future for a reanimated Leatherwolf. Central to this is the performance of longtime vocalist/guitarist Michael Olivieri, who sounds thoroughly connected and energised throughout,  putting in in an absolutely storming showing on almost every track – age doesn’t seem to have withered his excellent voice at all. The likes of The Calling and Wicked Ways (the first from the band’s 1987 self-titled album, the second the centrepiece of Street Ready) have quite simply never sounded better, whilst Hideaway and Street Ready itself reel back the years effortlessly to provide some pleasingly extrovert nostalgic neck-flexing nirvana.

Olivieri’s new guitar cohorts Rob Math and the returning Greg Urba both put in fine shifts – there’s some great lead work on every track featured here – whilst the rhythm section of Patrick Guyton (bass) and drummer Dean Roberts – both survivors from the ‘glory’ days – both do the necessary in providing the framework for the other three to show off. If I have one small quibble it’s that the most recent track featured, Dr Wicked (Rx O.D.), from 2007’s comeback effort New World Asylum, doesn’t quite have the same appeal (despite some more excellent axework) as the older material aired throughout the rest of the set. That’s not to say it ain’t worthwhile in it’s own way – it is – but it doesn’t quite impart the sense of lipsmacking pizzazz that tracks like the gargantuan reading of Thunder featured here do. However if this unit stays together long enough to record a new album I’m sure the quality levels will be returning to Street Ready levels without too much effort. Now, how about a live tour down under - with Stryper maybe?