A mere 29 years after her first solo album, the legendary Leather Leone returns with a follow up, backed by a group she refers to as The Boys From Brazil as that was where they were drawn together.
If you know the name, then you’ll already be excited I guess. If you don’t then Leather Leone is without a doubt one of the greatest heavy metal vocalists of all time and a stalwart, a cornerstone of US heavy metal. The very definition of ‘keep it true’ in fact. An earthshaking voice in a slight but tough-as-her-name frame. The one who refused to compromise by ‘dressing more sexy’.
So another old metal musician makes a comeback, why should you care? Well firstly apart from the twenty years when she was out of the music world entirely (one interview I read divulged she ‘went through lots of therapy’ , became a veterinary tech and rescued pitbulls, which is pretty darned metal itself), she has already made he return in 2011 with the Sledge/Leather project and then with long-time friend, collaborator and all round guitar hero David Chastain on two Chastain albums.
But this, seemingly spurred on by the need to play live which sadly will not happen with Chastain, is Leather Leone off the leash.
‘Juggernaut’ just charges in without a breath; great riffing piles in like Judas Priest at their finest, and then that voice kicks the door down: Gritty, snarling but when it rises the purity of tone is just awesome. The aggressive expression is highlighted perfectly by the production, which also brings the guitars full on to the fore with bristling energy. Clearly, this is not a bunch of hired muscle, this is a full on, hungry band. ‘The Outsider’ ramps this up, a huge melody line throughout it, some punishing drums rams it down and we’re somewhere between Wolf, NWOBHM, Dio and Priest. I mean, shit, this is just…well beyond what I had dared hope.
It’s just superb, uncompromising heavy metal. ‘Lost At Midnight’ is a less bombastic but no less forceful song, a little more Dio-esque in the riff maybe and again with the superb guitars from Vinnie Tex and Daemon Ross bursting out lead breaks like no tomorrow as Leather belts out the lyrics with a whipcrack and a range that pushes it right into first division stuff.
You can’t help but be truly impressed by the song writing here. Things like ‘Black Smoke ‘ with its rumbling riff and Leather wailing over the top are the kind of thing any true metal band would sacrifice their drummer for. ‘The One’ is what happens when Rob Halford and Dio have a daughter; epic, pounding heavy metal with screening guitars, hammering bass from Thiago Velasquez and a huge dexterous drum sound courtesy of Braulio Drummond dropping the gear and pushing it on. Sweaty, committed metal reeking of studs and leathers. The 1980s and 90s kept fresh and modern and relevant.
‘Anabelle’ slows the locomotive, an impressive song built around the vocal performance. Imagine Lee Aaron back in the 80s with ‘Barely Holdin’ On’ just with more guts, a deeper tone, an expressiveness that you can’t fake. This is from the soul stuff. ‘Hidden In The Dark’ is epic metal, the guts and the grit keeping it the right side of the power metal divide but showcasing what an outstanding band Ms Leone has gathered not to mention that song writing once more. Sorry, writing is hard when you’re banging your head this hard.
‘Sleep Deep’, ‘Let Me Kneel’, ‘American Woman’ – not a filler amongst them, not a duff track on the entire album. It’s like they’ve been just waiting to unleash them.
They finally bounce right on our the door with ‘Give Me Reason’, the height of the party track, a little metal boogie dancing its way on through and out into the beer and bourbon night. Leather Leone’s tough drawl and the wired to the mains riff lead the way and we just dance like fools after them.
Ah man, I’m just swept away by this. This is fist clenched, heart pumping joy. This is utter proof that the fire still burns stronger than ever in Leather, that she is right where she should be: Out there snarling. You won’t hear a better, more exhilarating heavy metal album all year. The last time one blew me away like this it was Wolf’s Evil Star. And that is a classic.
This is the kind of record you want your heroes to make. Probably a lifetime best. Love and Dio indeed.