Wolfpakk - Nature Strikes Back

Wolfpakk Nature Strikes Back cover
Nature Strikes Back
Massacre Records
This must be Wolfpakk’s fifth album and while the first couple of albums where the duo of Mark Sweeney & Michael Voss augmented by a bevy of guests were fun… “Nature Strikes Back” unfortunately feels rather uninspired and by the numbers, with songwriting on autopilot, trying to copy what made Helloween great in the past…
Well, not exactly on the title track that opens the album, which feels mildly influenced by Malmsteen’s neoclassicism, but without the same firepower. Vocal duties are split between the two and Michael Sweet of Stryper, while Voss takes care of guitars and bass, leaving the drumsticks in the hand of one Mikkey Dee of Motörhead, King Diamond and Scorpions fame, who doesn’t disappoint. Let’s say that this is not a bad song.
“The Legend” that features former Wardrum and current Beast In Black singer, Yannis Papadopoulos, begins with a short from Handel’s Messiah, before Pap starts to screech uncontrollably, thankfully deciding to go for lower register next to avoid sounding like a shred out Kai Hansen… the song’s got some nice verses, but the uberhappy chorus doesn’t do much for me. Guitar virtuoso Joey Tafolla from Jag Panzer, if he’s still a member, handles the six strings while Karl Johannson basses and current Manowar and former Hammerfall sticksman Anders Johannson is behind the kit for this track, all doing a reasonably good job.
“Beyond This Side”, which features current Nazareth, Persian Risk and Don Airey singer Carl Sentance, is a bizarre mix between Judas Priest, Gamma Ray and Helloween, with someone from the duo; I would suspect, actually pulling a very Helloweenesque, Derris like vocal? A super reverbed Voss, I’d imafine. Nino Laurenne of Thunderstone seems to handle guitars, Voss on bass and one Gereon Homann of Eat The Gun manning the drums – something he’s also doing on a lot more tracks on the album, where a guest isn’t featured.
“Land of Wolves” has a Rainbowesque atmosphere and riff that sounds to derivative and Mats Levén formerly of Candlemass, Malmsteen and more than a hundred other projects literally, doing a Kai Hansen with additional range impersonation. Bruce Kulick (ex-KISS) solos on this one with drums taken care by André Hilgers (ex-Rage). It’s not that bad of a track, but already from the second track onwards the ideas begin to sound progressively weaker.
“Under Surveillance” features vocals by Perry McCarty (ex-Warrior and Radiation Romeos among others) with the duo also assisting. Corvin Bahn (Uli John Roth, Peter Panka Jane) contributes a keyboard solo, with Voss on bass and Homann on drums. Average track, with a passionate vocal, that however doesn’t inspire that much other than some of its parts and not their sum.
“Restore Your Soul” has a more symphonic character and Oliver Fehr’s (formerly of Transit) voice is not a bad choice for it. Vinnie Moore (UFO, ex-Vicious Rumors) pops in for a solo on the guitar and you might have guessed on who fulfills the remaining roles on this as well as the last three songs of the album.
“Lone Ranger” that features Michael Bormann (of Jaded Heart among others) was chosen as a bit of a single. The song is a heavy slightly Dio’esque song, with a nice enough performance by Bormann, who seems to be more enthusiastic than a lot of other singers – even if the material he’s given is not exactly top notch, in all aspects. Thom Blunier (Shakra) lays down a neat guitar solo, Anders LA Rönnblom (Killer Bee) the grooves while Mark Cross (ex-Helloween and a few others) does man the drums.
“One Day” has ex-Victory singer Fernando Garcia sharing vocals with the duo and he also offers a passionate performance. Craig Goldy of DIO solos, and Uwe Köhler (ex-Bonfire) lays down bass. Drums are taken care of by Mark Kullmann (Voodoo Circle, Glenn Hughes). The track like its predecessor is a melodic rocker that doesn’t manage to rise above a certain level. I suppose the consistency of the recordings can’t be that great with multiple singers and guests as not everybody shares the same style exactly and the glue that Sweeney and Voss provide to make it all gel, is not as strong as in past efforts.
With a lot of songs sounding a bit like Gamma Ray, it made sense to get their current singer Frank Beck for a session and “Revolution” is the result. Heck. Voss phones in a Kai too. It’s not too bad actually, with a nice, if not a little too flashy solo courtesy of Jeff Waters from Annihilator and B+D by you know who.
“A Mystery” features some pretty nice smokey female vocals from Jasmin Schmid (Jazzmin), which contrast quite nicely to the mildly gruff Dioesque ones from Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, CoreLeoni), with some of the leads by the duo feeling rather appropriate and some detracting from this rather nice ballad, where Voss solos after a rather long silence. It’s got some nice melodies, making it much better than most of the material on offer that unfortunately feels pretty generic and cookie cutter.
Last but not least, “Lovers Roulette” is a lighter, feistier but still pretty melodic track, sees Nick Holleman (ex-Vicious Rumors) antagonizing the two, with Voss taking care of strings and that Homman fella drumming along. Not a bad track actually, a little like Helloween meets Unity… look it up. It ends with a gunshot mind ya? Did they commit suicide after having to listen to the album in its entirety?!
I’m afraid to report that this isn’t among Voss’ better moments and since he’s a pretty good musician it would be nice to see a more focused effort from him, than him spreading his talents over many frankly average attempts.