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CD Review: SPEEDWOLF Ride With Death

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There's this movie: Werewolves on Wheels.  It came out in 1971 and combined one theme that was hugely popular at the time (bikers) with one that really wasn't (lycanthropy).  It played fast and loose with its audience and heartily embraced everything the midnight movie circuit stood for at the time:  exploitative use of sex and violence, broad themes of absurdity bordering on nonsense, an empathetic treatment of counterculture values, etc.

Speedwolf are among those 80's-worshiping bands that could be said to represent the midnight movie analogue to heavy metal: cheese to the fore, shirt tails in the wind, old school in the sense that all legit musical innovations that later bands found worthy of emulating have been stripped away and what you have left is the unapologetic heart of metal, a teenage hedonistic wasteland of thwarted libido and overcompensating machismo… all in the name of freedom and off-the-cuff self-expression.  Not that anyone in a position to offer anything authentic in this vein is capable of the kind of introspection that would characterize it this way.

Motörhead are a close reference here, both for the raspy vocals and street punk riffage, but Speedwolf occasionally throw in some NWOBHM-style melodic leads.  Mostly it's an all out assault on Motörhead and the UK punk bands they influence, though, with Reed Bruemmer's feisty bellow chewing scenery left and right where Lemmy would play it straight, Richie Tice keeping up an obsessive-compulsive pace throughout and Kris Wells sounding like he's doing the work of two guitarists (he is, basically).  For a band from Colorado, they definitely have the throwback British shit down, let's just put it that way.

Ride With Death is Speedwolf's debut album, although they had an earlier demo out called (oh for fuck's sake) Bark at the Poon… saves me the trouble of having to cover lyrical themes, at least.  With retro-thrash having been a respectable niche in Europe for some years now I don't see any reason why there can't be a little NWOBHM revivalism here in the US. So long as things don't go and get all respectable or anything.

Oh, and that seemingly random Werewolves on Wheels reference earlier?  It's right there on the album cover, dunce.  If your band is called Speedwolf and you choose to name your album Ride With Death what other cinematic reference would be applicable?  Orange County Choppers just got shook.

8 out of 10

Ride With Death is out now on Hell's Headbangers Records.

PS.  I have no reason to believe this is anything other than a fan-made video but it damn well ought to be official if it's not already:

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