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Inner City Wolves

Shadow Kingdom (2014)
Rating: 7/10

Who on earth is Johnny Touch, I hear you bellow? Well, it’s a new one on me too but this Australian band is worth a listen if you like classic heavy metal, and it’s really as simple as that.

Let’s face it. Back in the 80s there wasn’t a band around who wasn’t influenced by Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, so it’s no surprise then Johnny Touch nod to a few of these on their debut rocker Inner City Wolves.

It’s another of those albums that sounds like some 80s reissue, with clear driving vocals, steady clinical guitars, a weighty and efficient drum assault and a general feel of traditional rock – the sort of sound many acts seem to be aiming for today. Indeed, Johnny Touch is one of the more accomplished band of upstarts. Having formed in 2008, this debut full-length opus boasts the talents of vocalist Pahl Hodgson (vocals), Jamie Whyte (guitar), Inphiltraitor (bass) and Denimal (drums).

Now with so many bands reviving the classic metal sound – The Dagger being one of the more recent bands that spring to mind – Johnny Touch are a decent outfit that opt for simple passages and patterns. Flick through any of the eight tracks on offer here and you’ll find tight musicianship that brings forth some excellent melodic strains and good, solid songwriting skills.

There’s nothing overtly clever about Johnny Touch – in fact, at times it’s a rather harmless record that struggles to catch fire – but one cannot scoff at the fine soloing on a track such as ‘The Metal Embrace’ or the truly shred-tastic opening of ‘Radiation Axeposure’, with both tracks suggesting a band with some truly stunning potential.

Where I’m rather unfulfilled however is with the distinct lack of bite; mainly in the vocal department, which could make tracks such as ‘End Of Daze’ just a touch more sprightly. That’s not to say that Hodgson isn’t good at his job, but his tone is rather standard at times and seems to bring the general sound and weight down with it. With traditional metal bands I expect a more convincing, passionate display in the vocals, and while not every metal frontman of today can be the next Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Dio, Black Sabbath) or Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) I’m just left craving something a tad steelier. After all, the music can be quite racy, especially on the driving ‘Bitch Of A Son’ and my favourite number ‘Lady Stutter’ – a seven-minute leviathan that builds in steady fashion to a devilish chug.

And so, with such sterling guitar work and reasonably healthy drum sound, Johnny Touch does not quite hit the scale when it comes to vocals, or production for that matter, but it’s still a sturdy rock record symbolic of what is right with modern metal that has old school influences.

Neil Arnold

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