Metal Review – Johnny Touch: Inner City Wolves

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Metal Review – Johnny Touch: Inner City Wolves
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Johnny Touch: Inner City Wolves
Heavy Metal
Shadow Kingdom Records
August 19th, 2014
Release length: 39:05
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When it comes to vintage Metal, the label Shadow Kingdom Records has become a refuge for those seeking to submerge themselves in the glory days of the musical genre. Anyone familiar with it knows very well what to expect, but still this review will go on for those who do not as we look upon Johnny Touch, a four-piece Australian Heavy Metal group’s debut album, Inner City Wolves. The band formed back in 2007 and currently consists of an all-star line-up of Denny Black (Cauldron Black Ram) on drums and guitar, Jamie Whyte )former Intended Victim) on guitar as well, lead vocalist Paul Hodgson (Beyond Mortal Dreams, Oath of Damnation), and a newcomer who goes by the name of Inphiltraitor. 2010 saw the release of their Fight for It demo, followed by the Possessed by the Heavy Metal Embrace split in 2012 through Hellrocker Records, and another a year later titled Touched by the Beast through Iron Bonehead Productions. But is their 2014 debut full-length outing Inner City Wolves something worth taking note of, or does it fail to deliver on the build up those previous efforts suggest.

Inner City Wolves immediately establishes that eighties Heavy Metal vibe with vintage mid-pace hooks that scream the dirty streets and back alleys of the big city similar to what many American bands of the genre sounded like back in that day, and even some mainstream acts like Bon Jovi or Motley Crue. While the riffs scream Katana and Iced Earth sans the bite their worship carries, its hard to fault thanks largely to Glam Rock presence often hard to ignore, especially in “It’s Alright.” A subtle epic tone is carried in the riffs that have a traditional NWOBHM-era distortion at work alongside the medium range hum of the bass guitar that ends up a bit drowned out by its stringed counterpart and echoed drums. The restraint is admirable, though there are plenty of times you’d wish the pace would at least stay as increased as it is during the start of the guitar solo. Instead it remains the same steady tempo in places where it matters like the chorus or the bridge nearing the two minute mark where the solid to mild vocal range grows hushed and deep.

“The Metal Embrace” has a little extra speed in the guitars with a bit of a haunting atmosphere that channels the spirit of King Diamond down to additional falsettos in the background. The main verses sound a lot richer with much needed enthusiasm all around, but the chorus finds incredibly short notes from the guitar, muting the note to make the chugging manner sound like thin lines instead of a steady presence. The only perk is the bass guitar comes through a little better due to this and, at times, a little louder pending certain notes. Both this and “It’s Alright” are good songs for what they are, though they will more than likely leave you a bit disheartened due to the thin elements and how familiar the territory is all around. However, one listen to the extensive guitar solo/instrumental that is “Radiation Axeposure” will confirm that this band does have the power to properly shred when they want to, as well as throw in some cowbell (or something similar) which is an element that would greatly improve some of these tracks if it were to be used.

Aside that chunk of shredding, there are some impressive cuts to be found. “Dishonourable Discharge” finds tight, faster riffs with a suiting mid-tempo drum presence all around. The chorus slows things down a bit though, but thankfully doesn’t use those quickly muted notes found on “The Metal Embrace.” Everything but the lead-in to the guitar solo sounds full of energy and excitement, including much of the vocal performance. There’s even some gang chants to be found at times that sound fantastic. “Lady Stutter” is a pretty strong track overall, especially for its length. This one also shows off some Progressive Metal influence that is more obvious as you approach the guitar solo near the five minute mark. There’s a hazy atmosphere as well that still keeps with that back alley environment with riffs that manage to bewitch the listener similar to “Black Magick Woman” by Santana with hypnotic drum patterns towards the end. Finally there’s “End of Daze,” a slower piece that walks the line that separates ballads from traditional Metal compositions. It has some catchy material when the pace picks up, though the start and end sound incredibly familiar to Iced Earth fans due to how parts sound similar to the song “Ghost of Freedom.”

Every little thing about Inner City Wolves screams its eighties Rock and Metal title. The problem with it is that the band often restrains themselves too much to the point where everything comes off the most basic of Heavy Metal albums from that time period. There’s little bite to the mix of hollow analog and digital sharpness, greatly lacking the necessary enthusiasm all around to really keep you interested outside a select few tracks and some familiarity in the guitars. Johnny Touch isn’t bad, “Radiation Axeposure” proves this fact with ease to make you wish more like it exist on this rather lifeless studio presence that more than likely (and hopefully) pales to their stage presence. Had Inner City Wolves been handled as a modern album and not trying to make it seem like it had initially been recorded back in the day, this probably would have been a much stronger experience overall. Instead it’s an example that not everything needs to, or even sounds better if it seems like it came from the eighties.

01. It’s Alright – 3:13
02. The Metal Embrace – 5:31
03. Lady Stutter – 7:31
04. Radiation Axeposure – 3:23
05. Dishonourable Discharge – 3:39
06. End of Daze – 4:26
07. Bitch of a Son – 3:00
08. Black Company – 8:21
Initial Pressing Score: 6/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Shadow Kingdom Records via Clawhammer PR.