Review: Leatherwolf – Kill The Hunted

Review: Leatherwolf – Kill The Hunted

N.I.L.8 Records(November 11th, 2022)

Reviewer: Jason Hopper

Metal veterans Leatherwolf have returned from a fifteen-year hiatus to release their new album ‘Kill The Hunted’. It’s amazing to me that with an over four-decade career, they are just now releasing their fifth studio album. I have not followed their career but do own their debut as well as one of their most well-known albums, 1989’s ‘Street Ready’. There are some great tracks on that album, with the title track being a personal favorite. Not knowing what to expect, I was just hoping the new album would resemble something close to those older albums.

It’s quite a reach to expect something similar given all the time that passed as well as the numerous line-up changes. Surprisingly, a lot of those elements remain, but with no trace of any pop rock production. Those looking for something akin to tracks like ‘Lonely Road’ or ‘Hideaway’ will not find that here. What is here is a hard-hitting old school metal beast of an album.

Without knowing too much of the band’s history, I was blown away by the MVP of the album, drummer and founding member Dean Roberts. He also produces the album, making his drums sound crisp, powerful, and overall stellar! His playing, especially on opening tracks ‘Hit The Dirt’ and ‘Nobody’ has some of the best fills and time changes that I have heard from any band this year. Both these songs hit like sledgehammers. Based on what I knew of the band, I did not expect something this heavy and I was impressed!

Track three is the one song that does remind me of their more “famous” songs. It happens to be the title track, and those background vocals in the chorus are very reminiscent of older tracks like ‘Hideaway’ or ‘The Calling’. Love the groove on this track and really dig the double time speed up right after the guitar solo.

Top song on the album goes to track four’s ‘Only The Wicked’. Vocalist Keith Adamiak uses some studio effects with a whispered vocal approach in the verses to draw you in before transitioning to a potent growl and his screams of the chorus resonate long past the time the track is over. It would not nearly be as effective if the band wasn’t playing the strongest groove found on the album. A mid-tempo thick and heavy melody that, if done as well as it is here, is sheer metal excellence! Since I mentioned the singer, I will add that although Keith is new to the band, his approach and inflections fit the material like a glove.

I must admit in preparing for this review, I loved the first four songs so much I kept returning to them multiple times before listening to the rest of album. That does not mean the rest of the album’s songs are weak, it’s that the first four are that good. Other tracks such as ‘Medusa’ and ‘Road Rage’ pack a wallop. ‘The Henchman’ has a lot going on, with subdued reflective parts beginning and ending the song and an intricate sped-up center that has time signatures that are evocative of bands like Dream Theater and Queensryche.

As stated earlier, I have limited knowledge of the band, but this album is a notch heavier than the earlier material I have heard from them. If they were ever considered a “hair band” back in the day, there is nothing here that would make one think this is the same band. This is old school 80s metal with updated, top notch production values. The recordings make you feel the music without a brick wall level leaving the listener to appreciate all the individual nuances each member contributes. This is a stellar album that needs to be checked out by all metal fans.  Horns up and salute everyone!