by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Senior Columnist —
As opposed to the so-called super groups – burdened with instability from the moment of birth – the all-star project with its clear division into masterminds and guest performers gives the former almost endless possibilities to push forward. Even so, there must be a proverbial thorn in their side as well, this being the concern of repetitiveness as well as a difficult compromise between the cohesion of the project and variety of artists gathered for recordings. Especially the latter must have been a priority for Michael Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (Mad Max, Michael Schenker, ex-Casanova) and the continuation of their shared venture under a Wolfpakk moniker. What they did for their fourth album Wolves Reign was to combine guest singers from both sides of the musical spectrum, from Saxon’s Biff Byford to Tyketto’s Danny Vaughn. And guessing from the final result, the compromise was reached successfully.
With its soaring melody and blistering guitars, the opening track “Falling” gives a listener more or less accurate impression of what’s the overall vibe of the entire album. The song’s first verse reveals Claus Lessmann (Phantom V, ex-Bonfire) being featured here on vocals alongside Sweeney and Voss, the former’s voice immediately recognizable for every Melodic Hard Rock fan. The tight rhythm section is comprised in half by another big name of the same genre – the former bass player in Dio, Ozzy Osbourne’s band and Quiet Riot, Rudy Sarzo. In “Run All Night”, it’s Mike Vescera (ex-Malmsteen) who takes over the microphone, the song itself being a fine piece of fast-paced Melodic Metal. “Blood Brothers” blends the thunderous Heavy Metal sound with tribal chants as the legendary Biff Byford of Saxon teams up with Sweeney and Voss to tell the tragic, yet true tale of Sitting Bull and the Sioux tribe.
Although the ‘80s-tinted, synth-laden intro might have suggested otherwise at first, the album’s ballad-ish title track has a dark and somewhat ominous vibe to it. It’s marked by the guest appearance of Tony Harnell (known from his tenures in TNT as well as a short stint in Skid Row) on vocals, whereas the wailing guitar solo has been provided by the former axeman of Dokken, George Lynch. “No Remorse” comes next with its anthemic, guitar-laden sound and furious pace on the verge of Power Metal, a rapid change of mood in comparison with its predecessor. Behind the microphone, there’s Avantasia’s Oliver Hartmann sharing his vocal duties with Sweeney and Voss, his voice shining throughout the song. The current singer of Victory, Jioti Parcharidis, takes the helm in “Inside The Animal Mind”, revealing yet another side to otherwise glossy and melodic sound of Wolfpakk as scorching through the rough and rampant track. On the other hand, “Scream Of The Hawk” and “The 10 Commandments” both mark a return to the anthemic formula and soaring melodies. The former features Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper) on vocals, whereas the latter – Pasi Rantanen of Thunderstone.
The topic of environmental issues and the damage to the Earth seems to be utilized in Melodic Hard Rock quite eagerly these days. Wolfpakk also follows this path in “Mother Earth”, an intense, emotionally laden piece number nine with guest participations of Pretty Maids’ Ronnie Atkins and Simone Christinat of Legenda Aurea. The slow-ish outro of the track closes it on a contemplative note, corresponding well with what comes next. Featuring Tyketto’s Danny Vaughn alongside Sweeney and Voss, “Tomorrowland” is a piece of charming, piano-based balladry. And also, a heavy contrast to the very last song on Wolves Reign, as “I’m Onto You” with Lickford’s Andy Lickford on vocals and ex-W.A.S.P.’s Chris Holmes on guitars provides a rough and heavy final chapter to the album instead.
Thirty years ago, a ‘80s Hard Rock and Metal fan could only wonder what would it sound like to have the likes of Claus Lessmann, Biff Byford, Steve Grimmett, George Lynch and Rudy Sarzo on one album. Meticulously crafted under the careful guidance of Michael Voss and Michael Sweeney, Wolfpakk’s Wolves Reign gives the answer for those who could have wondered then. And although every musical or vocal addition to the eponymous ‘pack of ‘wolves’ carries a bit of their own vibe to it, overall the album is cohesive and coherent, a tight set of eleven Hard Rock pieces blending the past glory of the genre with the modern-day production. Recommended.
Genre: Hard Rock, Melodic Metal
Michael Sweeney: vocals
Michael Voss: vocals, guitars (tracks 2, 6, 8, 10), bass (track 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11)
Vocals: Biff Byford (Saxon), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Michael Vescera (ex- Yngwie Malmsteen), Tony Harnell (TNT), Oliver Hartmann (Avantasia), Jioti Parcharidis (Victory), Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper), Pasi Rantanen (Thunderstone), Claus Lessmann (Phantom V), Danny Vaughn (Tyketto), Andy Lickford (Lickford)
Guitars: Timo Somers (Delain), Brad Gillis (Night Ranger), George Lynch (ex-Dokken), Alen Brentini (A. Gabalier), Jen Majura (Evanescence), Chris Holmes (ex-W.A.S.P.)
Bass: Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne), Marc Lynn (Gotthard), Volker Krawczak (Axel Rudi Pell), Michael Müller (Herman Frank)
Drums: Alex Holzwarth (Avantasia), Gereon Homan
2. Run All Night
3. Blood Brothers
4. Wolves Reign
5. No Remorse
6. Inside The Animal Mind
7. Spirit Of The Hawk
8. The 10 Commandments
9. Mother Earth
11. I’m Onto You
Label: AFM Records
Hardrock Haven rating: (7.5 / 10)