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Rise Of The Animal

AFM (2015)
Rating: 9/10

Rise Of The Animal is the third album from Wolfpakk, whose promotional page for this album is somewhat of a who’s who in hard rock and heavy metal.

As my eyes scanned down the list of guest musicians, I was rather impressed to see Bob Daisley (ex-Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Black Sabbath), Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween), Ted Poley (Danger Danger), Joe Lynn Turner (ex-Rainbow, ex-Deep Purple), Chris Slade (AC/DC), Axel Rudi Pell (ex-Steeler), John Norum (Europe), Don Dokken and Bernie Tormé (ex-Ozzy Osbourne) among others.

To say then that I expected great things from this opus is an understatement, but before we get carried away with the name-dropping it’s important to note that Wolfpakk is very much the work of vocalists Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (Mad Max, ex-Bonfire, ex-Michael Schenker, ex-Casanova). They’ve carved out an impressive career since forming this band in 2010, but due to their contacts they’ve roped in some extremely talented musicians, and thankfully I am not disappointed by the end result.

The record dishes up 11 tracks, beginning with the rollicking ‘Rider Of The Storm’; a straight up galloping metal masterpiece which – although suffering from a rather clicky drum sound at times – is meaty in its vocal snarl and literally fizzy in its guitar rush. I must admit that due to the bulging list of guest musicians, there are times when I don’t know who is featuring on what, and I almost don’t want to stare at the credits so as not to distract me from the blazing fury that is presented before me. If ‘Rider Of The Storm’ is a gleaming sword of blazing fire though, then ‘Sock It To Me’ is a nostalgic heap of glam stomp flair which features Krokus frontman Marc Storace – who drags the track along to a catchy if somewhat basic chorus.

However, with so many fantastic ingredients, every minor flaw was always going to be smothered by the vast array of positives. They come via the energetic trudge of ‘Monkey On Your Back’, the atmospheric strains of ‘Highlands’ with its evocative keyboards and Celtic twinge, plus the weighty ‘Black Wolf’. Kiske puts in a fine shift as expected on the title track with its simmering introduction and eventual metallic glint, which enables the track to gallop in classic Iron Maiden-style. ‘Somewhere Beyond’ is another personal favourite; opening with gunfire and the whirl of helicopter blades, it unravels like some epic power metal fantasy, while with ‘Grizzly Man’ we’re battered with a grunge-tinged bludgeoning riff and pummelling drum.

To say that the album also features Al Barrow (Magnum), David Reece (ex-Accept), Charlie Huhn (Foghat), Jeff Watson (ex-Night Ranger), Doug Aldrich (ex-Whitesnake / ex-Dio), Ryan Roxie (Alice Cooper), Mark Schulman (Billy Idol / Foreigner), Simon Phillips (ex-Toto), Andi Deris (Helloween), Barend Courbois (Blind Guardian), Rick Altzi (Masterplan), Chris Ivo (Jaded Heart), and many, many more should be enough to prompt you to purchase this album. When we add to the fact that the music on offer is not about ego but is delivered with utmost style, this is testament to the songwriting prowess of Sweeney and Voss whose talent shines through even when in the company of some of hard rock’s true greats.

Neil Arnold

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