The seminal all-star power metal project Wolfpakk is back with their fifth album filled once again with performances from a wide array of metal talent bringing soaring, powerful vocals, driving rhythm sections and blistering guitar solos.
Wolfpakk is one of those all-star projects that goes back quite a ways, getting their start in 2011 when Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (Mad Max, Casanova) released the debut self-titled album. Two short years later Cry Wolf was released and then in another two years, Rise of the Animal, all of which featured an all-star cast of guest musicians. Wolves Reign followed, in a yes, two years later in 2017, and now in 2020 we have Nature Strikes Back. Looking back, Sweeney and Voss have been linked all the way back to 2009 when Voss was producer for Sweeney’s 2nd solo album. Looking at the timeline for the albums, it was not long after this interaction that the two started writing tracks and finding guest artists to help bring their vision to life…and the rest as they say is “history”.
From an overall perspective, what really struck me is how coherent the songs on this album are, which is not always the case with all-star projects. Not naming any names, but I’ve reviewed some others that while having remarkable performances, seem like a collection of songs from a number of different bands who also enlisted a cadre of musicians just to provide guitar solos. That is not the case here at all. Even in the first track, “Nature Strikes Back”, which does feature some great guitar parts, those parts are integral to the song, show some restraint, and don’t have the feel that they were just an afterthought layered in over the top after the rest of the song was done. While I’m not sure exactly how Sweeney and Voss managed to corral all the talent into laying down their performances, the production and mixing is done such that one can pick out different performers, but everything fits seamlessly. As one would expect with power metal, vocals and guitars carry the day and everything is very clean with all the instruments contributing perfectly to the overall sound.
Musically, the songs are pure, classic European, perhaps even German, power metal, bringing to mind bands like one of my favorites Iron Savior. As such the eleven songs take nearly an hour to complete, but one does have to make space for multiple guitar solos and interludes to showcase the many talented vocalists contributions. One other surprise is the variety in which the songs approach the genre and that keeps the listener engaged, not all the songs are fast riffs with locomotive-like drumming. Songs like “Beyond this Side” start out very differently, then veer toward the melodic metal and even bring in near-breakdown-like elements. Not to be overlooked amidst the vocal and guitar heroics, a good bit of effort in songwriting has been spent on making sure the drums, bass, and keyboards are key contributors to the effort as well and songs like “Land of Wolves” exemplify that through much of the track as the guitars take a secondary role to driving the track along. Perhaps the only miss for me would be the ballad “A Mystery”, which is aptly titled as it’s a mystery to me why it is here. It’s not necessarily a bad song, but does have a bit of dated feel to it. I am happy that they chose to put it near the end of the album and not earlier as it would have killed the momentum found in the previous songs. The album closes right after that track with “Lovers Roulette” that has elements of a harder rocker, but shifts to a brighter tone for the bridge and chorus section in a way that doesn’t really fit with the style of previous songs.
Wolfpakk is one of those rare all-star projects that sounds as if it really was one band that wrote and recorded everything, much to the credit of Mark Sweeney and Michael Voss, who have a good bit of experience seeing as how this is the fifth album for the project. As you would expect given the talent involved, vocals are strong, guitars are blazing, keyboards provide the right atmosphere and everything is expertly carried along by the drums and bass. This is why we look forward to all-star projects.
Written by John Jackson
- Nature Strikes Back
- The Legend
- Beyond this Side
- Land of Wolves
- Under Surveillance
- Restore Your Soul
- Lone Ranger
- One Day
- A Mystery
- Lovers Roulette
Mark Sweeney – Vocals
Michael Voss – Vocals, guitar
Guest Band Members
Vocals: Michael Sweet (Stryper), Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast In Black), Carl Sentance (Nazareth), Mats Levén (Ex-Candlemass, Ex-Malmsteen), Perry McCarty (Ex-Warrior), Oliver Fehr (Ex-Transit), Michael Bormann (Jaded Hard), Fernando Garcia (Ex-Victory), Frank Beck (Gamma Ray), Jasmin Schmid (Jazzmin), Ronnie Romeo (Rainbow, CoreLeoni), Nick Holleman (Ex-Vicious Rumors), Jean-Marc Viller (Callaway)
Bass: Peter Fargo Knorn (Victory), Anders LA Rönnblom (Killer Bee), Uwe Köhler (Ex-Bonfire), Karl Johannson
Guitars: Joey Tafolla (Jag Panzer), Nino Laurenne (Thunderstone), Bruce Kulick (Ex-Kiss), Vinnie Moore (UFO), Thom Blunier (Shakra), Craig Goldy (Ex-Dio), Jeff Waters (Annihilator)
Keyboards: Corvin Bahn (Uli Jon Roth, Peter Pankas Jane), Tom Graber (Felskinn, Ex-Crystal Ball)
Drums: Mikkey Dee (Motörhead, Scorpions), Anders Johannson (Manowar, Ex-Hammerfall), André Hilgers (Ex-Rage), Mark Cross (Ex-Helloween), Markus Kullmann (Glenn Hughes, Voodoo Circle), Gereon Homann (Eat The Gun)
Record Label: Massacre Records
Release Date: January 24, 2020
Lyric video for ‘Nature Strikes Back’
Video for ‘Lone Ranger’
Video for ‘One Day‘