LEATHER – We Are The Chosen (Album Review)

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The chosen metallic odes arise!

The horizons of heavy metal have broadened quite substantially in the past four decades, but there is definitely something to be said for a back to basics, no compromises, and old school approach to the art. Then again, with the ongoing craze of trying to create the sound of the first half of the 80s spearheaded by the NWOTHM, it behooves one who doesn’t run with the pack to avoid trying to outright relive the past while still paying it homage. Enter heavy metal vocalist and 40 year veteran Catherine “Leather” Leone, longtime collaborator of iconic guitar virtuoso David T. Chastain and front woman of the band bearing his stage name, to bring the vintage metallic thunder with a modern twist from the captain’s chair of her own band. But despite being quite active in the past 10 years and fielding an impressive outing in Leather’s 2018 sophomore LP dubbed “II,” this year may prove her most triumphant return to the fray if this outfit’s latest studio album “We Are The Chosen” is any indication.

Determination and defiance are the two primary themes that permeate this impressive sonic opus in 10 chapters, with a side helping of historically significant influences to boot. Coming off a two-year period of lockdowns and a correspondingly dead touring scene, it functions as a nuclear explosion of penned up passion, often blurring the lines between Leone’s mainline heavy metal sound during the 1980s and a truly vicious brand of modern speed metal edge that elicit comparisons to the likes of Grave Digger and Primal Fear. Reprising his role from this outfit’s 2018 sophomore LP, guitarist/songwriter Vinnie Tex paint a collage of menacing riffs that split the difference between the high octane thunder of Judas Priest and the older, heavy rocking grooves of the early 80s NWOBHM and American metal greats. Likewise, the rhythm section rounded out by drummer Braulio Azambuja and Tex playing also the four strings construct a colossal foundation after the spirit of what Scott Travis and Ian Hill brought to “Painkiller.”

But when all is said and done, center stage belongs to the veteran, leather-clad Amazon that is leading the charge, and from one song to the next Leone showcases a level of raw power and gravely edge befitting America’s answer to Doro Pesch and Jutta Weinhold. Like a freight train carrying a shipment of smaller freight trains, the opening anthem and speed-infused crusher “We Take Back Control” embodies all of the best elements of German-styled speed metal with a thrashing edge, while Leone’s jagged growls could almost rival that of Eric Adams. Similarly fast and fierce cruisers such as the riff-happy, thrashing mayhem of “Always Been Evil” and the driving force of “Tyrants” further tilt this entire album into Teutonic territory, while the somewhat more rhythmically nuanced metallic bluster of “Off With Your Head” shifts between a driving power feel and a more groovy stomp, all the while Leone’s jagged vocal fervor perfectly embodies the image of The Red Queen commanding scores of executions.

“We Are The Chosen” Album Artwork

Naturally not all that occurs here is an exercise in ramming speed with zero respites, as an impressive assortment of slower and more involved compositions hearken back to the bygone days when heavy metal originally delved into the epic and the fantastical. The bluesy swagger set to a pummeling modern metallic template dubbed “Shadows” presents an interesting side venture into older Black Sabbath territory, complete with some spacey atmospheric elements that point to an interesting marriage of said band’s mid-70s and early 80s eras respectively. Then again, the shuffling riff work of title anthem “We Are The Chosen” points to late-80s revision of “Children Of The Grave” with a harrowing present day sense of heaviness and a tantalizing side-order of symphonic elements. But the coup de grace that really brings this album’s greatness home is the poignant tribute to Ronnie James Dio in “Hallowed Ground”, perfectly blending the olden vibes of the “Holy Diver” era with the modern melancholy of Dio’s latter day works, all but to the point of channeling what may have been a track off one of the sadly unfinished second part of the “Magica” series, with Leone providing a fittingly gritty growl in memory of the man on the silver mountain.

After topping off this tall order of traditional heavy metal with a storming trifecta of speed-happy mayhem in “Dark Days”, “Who Rules The World” and “The Glory In The End” respectively, one is left to reflect upon what may prove one of the most stellar offerings of the year. It goes without saying that the vocalist who lends her name of the project is the star attraction, but one would be remiss to skip over the impressive guitar display put forth by Tex, showcasing a sense of virtuosic flair and melodic grandeur that finds itself nestled between the iconic work of Vivian Campbell and Tipton/Downing during the height of the 80s heavy metal renaissance during the middle of said decade. Yet it can’t be stated enough that this is as much a towering metallic assault in the 2020s sense as it is an album recalling the earlier days when heavy metal was not so heavily bound by stylistic rules and sub-genre labels. It pulls zero punches, often blurring the lines between its mainline American roots and the speed-steeped German sound that’s been quite the rage of late, and it should sit well with fans both young and old.

Order the We Are The Chosen” album HERE,

Released By: SPV/Steamhammer
Release Date: November 25th, 2022
Genre: Heavy Metal

Musicians:

  • Leather Leone / Vocals
  • Braulio Azambuja / Drums
  •  Vinnie Tex / Guitars and bass

“We Are The Chosen” Track-Listing:

  1. We Take Back Control 4:49
  2. Always Been Evil 4:06
  3. Shadows 4:08
  4. Off With Your Head 5:17
  5. We Are the Chosen 5:27
  6. Tyrants 4:29
  7. Hallowed Ground 6:56
  8. Dark Days 3:41
  9. Who Rules the World 5:09
  10. The Glory in the End 3:26
 

9.0 Excellent

One of metal’s most ferocious vocalists of the 80s and arguable American answer to Doro Pesch Leather Leone returns from an involuntary 4 year hiatus to deliver 10 anthems of highly refined and tempered sonic steel

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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