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Johnny Touch - Creepy band name; tasty NWOBHM throwback bangers.


Album Review: JOHNNY TOUCH Inner City Wolves

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Despite what youth pastors and pearl clutching grandmas around the country would have you believe, the world of heavy metal is populated largely by nerds. And there's nothing nerds love more than taking the thing they're passionate about, dissecting it, and reorganizing the pieces into hyper-specific categories that they then argue with each other over. This behavior manifests itself primarily in heavy metal's labyrinthine system of subgenres and microgenres which has become so intricate that attempting to classify certain bands results in an absurdly complex Celtic knot of musical styles. Don't worry, if you make a mistake, some smug poindexter in the comments section will correct you in the most juvenile and/or offensive language possible. Because writing about these subgenre straddling bands can get so tiring, it's a nice change of pace when an album like Johnny Touch's Inner City Wolves comes down the promo pipeline.

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Inner City Wolves hearkens back to a time in the 80s when the only kind of metal was heavy metal. When Judas Priest and Iron Maiden were paragons of the genre. When fans sported ripped jeans, mullets, and white Reebok high tops. This is the very definition of regressive music, yes, but it's also a lot of mindless fun. The entirety of Inner City Wolves is a celebration of all things NWOBHM, but the songs on the album rarely sound stale or derivative because the band chose homage over imitation during the writing process. There are certainly sections of music, like the opening riff of "The Metal Embrace" which is cribbed from Dio's "We Rock," where Johnny Touch wears its influences on its sleeveless denim jacket a little too blatantly, but they typically shy away from bald-faced mimicry.

Musically, there's a lot of raw technical proficiency on display throughout Inner City Wolves – a single listen to Jamie Whyte's shredding guitar work on "Radiation Axeposure" confirms that – but Johnny Touch's real strength lies in accurately capturing the zeitgeist of early 80s heavy metal. If you didn't know better, you'd think this album was a lost gem from metal's infancy. That's both a positive and a negative, though. On the plus side, Inner City Wolves is full of hard charging NWOBHM anthems like "It's Alright," "The Metal Embrace," and "Dishonourable Discharge." On the downside, the album has an anemic sound that's reminiscent of hastily thrown-together analog recordings of the era, and two of the songs, "Lady Stutter" and "Black Company," flirt with overindulgent and unnecessarily long run times that have always been common to the genre.

Inner City Wolves isn't going to end up on any Best of 2014 lists, but it's still an entertaining album that fans of heavy metal's salad days will appreciate. The album is out now on Shadow Kingdom Records on CD and digital formats.

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