Leash Law - Dogface 2004 Black Lotus Records reviewed by: EC
|Track Listing1. Fight|
3. Stealing Grace
4. Hail To Blood
6. Better When Betrayed
7. Martial Law
9. Paving The Way
Occasionally a band will come along that really sets the mark high, gaining momentum slowly by word of mouth, then letting the tension settle in as they deliver the so-called goods, in this case a US metal opus that redefines US power metal. Leash Law is that type of band, one that sets their sights on a rich, traditional metal landscape, complete with all the minerals and elements needed to build a nice, solid foundation. Upon this solid foundation, Leash Law embark on a building process of epic magnitude, setting each stone carefully in place, never wavering from the ultimate goal, that simply being to create a power metal album that doesn't necessarily incorporate the same 'ole same 'ole, instead gracing us with a fine slab of "experimental" power goodness, with the word "experimental" underlining the true essence of this band. You see Leash Law doesn't really come at you from one direction, instead this band lies in wait, carefully planning the ultimate metallic front, a listening invasion that comes out of the dark in one fell swoop, calculating and demanding in its wide assault, never competing one on one with the listener, instead taking the sound to different dimensions, attacking in a clockwork motion, allowing a full rotation through the group's epic sound, forcing the listener to accept a change of pace and once and for all, demanding the listener to open their minds and absorb the musical diversity.
Leash Law could be considered a metal supergroup by many. The band is fronted by the talented and charismatic Wade Black, who is best known for his fine work with the legendary Florida act Crimson Glory, as well as a recent collaboration with Jack Frost in Seven Witches. Anyone who has heard Mr. Black is quite aware of the man's vocal abilities, as he fits the mold of the "perfect" heavy metal singer, mixing it up with the likes of Rob Halford, Tim Owens, and Ralf Scheepers. With new band Leash Law, Black once again plays master and commander, leading his metal troops into the heat of battle, backed by the likes of Emo Mowery (Nocturnus, Tiwanaku), Rick Renstrom (Rob Rock, Tiwanaku), Stephen Elder, and journeyman Richard Christy (Death, Iced Earth, Tiwanaku), Leash Law takes to the fields in true guts and glory style, taking huge risks with this debut record, "Dogface", available through Black Lotus Records.
So what makes "Dogface" different? That is the million dollar question.
"Dogface" doesn't settle for less, instead taking chances with each carefully crafted track. The band does a great job mixing this album up, with tons of innovative arrangements and timing changes, punctuating each song with a different style of songwriting. Most acts involved in this genre play it safe, staying middle of the road with simple arrangements of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, allowing plenty of room for leads halfway in, and in some cases even throwing in the familiar twin guitar harmony. With "Dogface", Leash Law refuses to be bound by the metal authority, instead taking each track and doing something different with it.
Mowery and Renstrom just plain showboat with these songs, displaying a very rare gift indeed; The ability to play as one tight, cohesive unit this early in the group's career. Mowery and Renstrom hook up like legends, showcasing that special talent that made Downing and Tipton so awe-inspiring. Christy's drum work is once again unbelievable, proving that the man never stops working, constantly improving his craft with every album, with "Dogface" being the case in point. Christy is a madman behind the kit, and does a wonderful job with these difficult songs. Wade Black is of course in top form, showcasing his unbelievable pipes in grand fashion, staying sold through the mid-range tracks, and soaring on each high. His voice just speaks metal.
So for the songs themselves: This is a fine batch of metal greatness, a solid song-writing effort that seems to have one steady theme, that being war and its consequences. Black and company choose to look at war in different ways, from album opener "Fight" with its patriotic look at America's fight for freedom, to the sadistic, savage days of the Roman Empire with "Hail To Blood". Black also adds a bit of a personal touch with "Better When Betrayed", a song that I'm sure was inspired by Black's past relationships with certain people in the music business. A fine ballad can be found here as well, with an emotional, lost love tragedy called "Banion".
Along with quality songwriting, "Dogface" offers some unbelievable power metal music as well. Mowery and Renstrom go completely European with fine tunes like "Fight" and "Stealing Grace", adding in some nice sound sample touches as well with these songs. The guitars go from neo-classical shredding to groove heavy riffs not unlike death metal bands like Morbid Angel. This is ultra heavy power metal at its finest, combining the modern sounds of Nevermore and Brainstorm with the basic building blocks of Priest and Maiden. The group even step it up a notch at times, with that classical score type sound that makes some tracks sound truly epic. Renstrom is completely over the top with his leads, just creating sonic fury at will.
As I mentioned earlier, Leash Law really aren't afraid of diversity, and prove it with this record. The arrangements and vocal lines are rather abstract at times, reminding me of more complex bands like Blind Guardian and Spiral Architect, but never venturing too far down the progressive road, instead taking small looks in those directions before quickly changing glances. Occasionally there are death metal growls, falsetto screams, atmospheric parts, and sure-fire scorching guitar solos, all neatly wrapped up in classic US metal stylings. This stuff is just different, and for the time being, very refreshing for this genre of metal.
Leash Law are making power metal fun again, and I'm very proud of these guys. They prove that hard work, dedication, and unbridled determination are still the key ingredients for a good band to become a great band. Wade and company, I tip my hat to you.