By The Great Sun Jester
Rock Wolves’ self-titled debut from Steamhammer/SPV grew out of drummer Hermann Rarebell and singer/guitarist Michael Voss’ tenure with Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock. When Schenker decided to suspended touring for a well-deserved break, Rarebell and Voss opted to continue working together on a new project and soon enlisted bassist Stepham “Gudze" Hinz to round out this power trio. Rarebell, the longtime songwriting force behind the Scorpions for many years, is clearly behind a lot of these songs, but make no mistake – they sound and play together like a band should rather than as some glorified solo vehicle for Hermann the German.
The first single and album opener “Rock for the Nations” tells us where we are immediately. Rock Wolves freely roam AOR rock territory with convincing authority. The enormous choruses with soaring backing vocals, sleek pacing, and anthemic sentiments are standard fare in this rock sub-genre and the trio pulls it off with polish and authority. “Surrounded by Fools” has methodical pacing, but it’s still an airy and strongly AOR musical experience with particularly biting guitar work. Voss’ vocal reaches the same sort of peaks discovered on the opener. The band’s cover of the Jim Vallance penned 80’s classic for Heart “What About Love?” will certainly strike some as an exceedingly odd choice for potential eighties covers. Rock Wolves, however, bring a hard-hitting style and a much more modern sheen to the song than their predecessor could have mustered in the Me Decade. Some people will flat out dislike this, but cooler heads will hear its good points and realize its inclusion is perfectly in keeping with the album’s theme.
“The Blame Game” rates as one of the best musical moments on the band’s debut. Rarebell’s drumming is very straight-forward, disdaining fills, but it still keeps a nice swing and Voss’ bluesy guitar hook anchoring the song gives it some added flair. The big ballad muscle of “Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down” depends on formula and theatricality for its success and fans of those sorts of tunes are in good hands with this trio. The contrast between the verses and chorus is particularly dramatic while the musical strengths are centered on Voss’ singing and Herman Rarebell’s powerful drumming. He employs a little more flash here, but it never harms the performance. The drumming on “The Lion Is Loose” creates a compelling groove from the outset and the whiplashed fury of the chorus join in to make this one of Rock Wolves’ best tracks. Voss unleashes a brief, dive bombing guitar solo in the song’s second half ratcheting up the intensity a few added notches. Rock Wolves’ debut album is, in some ways, a throwback to a style of music that’s fallen out of commercial favor in markets like the United States, but this trio is likely aiming for Europe’s greener pastures with this release. While it might have an obvious commercial slant, there’s no question that Rock Wolves have a released a confident and energetic debut that illustrates their abiding songwriting and musical talents.
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