“Is that Wendy O. Williams riding a giant wolf through a post-apocalyptic, urban wasteland? Sign me the fuck up!” Such were my thoughts upon seeing the gloriously retro cover art to Johnny Touch’s debut Inner City Wolves. Granted that’s probably not a depiction of the late Plasmatics frontwoman, but I’d like to think it is. Such a cover screams “Eighties metal”, and when your inbox is constantly bombarded with fifty shades of black metal, something as vibrant, both musically and visually as Inner City Wolves is a breath of fresh air. That is not to say that the music itself is at all fresh; Inner City Wolves is every bit as retro as the cover suggests, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
While Johnny Touch features members of heavier-hitting Australian acts such as Stargazer, Cauldron Black Ram, Beyond Mortal Dreams and Intended Victim, with Inner City Wolves, the band members cast aside their death and black metal roots and embrace the 80s metal ethic like they were born to it. The promo materials for Inner City wolves compare Johnny Touch to the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica and Yngwie Malmsteen, and, for once, the promo materials aren’t over-reaching. Johnny Touch might not quite measure up to such titans in quality, but the influences are clear to hear.
In classic Eighties trad-metal fashion, Johnny Touch is comprised of a banshee-wailing vocalist, a certified shredder of a guitarist and… two other dudes. Singer, Pahl Hodgson might not quite have the charisma of a top-tier singer, like Dickinson or Dio, but he has an impressive range and he can more than carry a tune, making him an important asset to the melodic metal that makes up Inner City Wolves. Lead guitarist Jaimie Whyte’s wanking occasionally gets out of hand, but when he keeps his playing song-oriented his fret-firepower definitely injects an extra level of excitement into the album.
Over the course of its eight tracks, Inner City Wolves cover a fair amount of ground. Tracks such as “It’s Alright”, “The Metal Embrace” and “Dishonorable Discharge” gallop along in typical trad-metal fashion and while they aren’t world-beaters they are each more than serviceable. The seven-minute “Lady Stutter” is a little more interesting: beginning with a somber, acoustic intro the track gradually works itself into a muscular …And Justice For All – styled groove, proceeds to a rather heroic solo section and finally to a melodic, sing-along ride-out. “Radiation Axeposure” seems like Whyte’s attempt at creating his own version of “Eruption”, but the shredding is pretty one-dimensional, and though the track threatens to develop into an actual song a couple of times, it never quite reaches anything resembling a point.
“Bitch of a Son” is Inner City Wolves’ unquestioned high-point. With an infectious riff – the best of the album – “Bitch” combines bold, hard rock swagger with fist-pumping, double-bass-thumping thunder, birthing three minutes of pure heavy metal glory. If all its songs were of this caliber, Inner City Wolves would be an absolute motherfucker.
In the end, old Johnny might have been over-billed by his own cover art, as most of the material on Inner City Wolves falls short of excellent. However, while the album might not blow your mind, it is doubtful any fan of classic metal will find it less than enjoyable, and, on a warm summer day, with a cold beer in your hand, these jams will go down pretty smooth.