Wolfpakk are a melodic metal band formed by the hugely talented Michael Voss and Mark Sweeney who invite guest vocalists to join them on their expertly crafted albums. This is their fourth and the third one in a row that I have had the pleasure of reviewing for Ave Noctum – we’re like old friends now! I have to admit though, it’s the hardest I’ve had to review so far, but not because of anything the band have done wrong. It’s rare that I feel the need to criticize a record company (or employees therein), but why the hell would you choose to release an album of melodic metal with guest singers on the same day that a well known melodic metal project with guest singers called Ayreon releases their latest opus? It’s got to hurt sales and cross over with fans in some way – even though they aren’t totally alike musically, people may have to choose between which album they buy. And as a reviewer I’ve had to immerse myself in the 27 hours (as it can seem) of Ayreon’s new one in the same fortnight as poor old Wolfpakk. They deserve better as a band, because Wolfpakk are actually rather splendid!

It’s not enough that Wolfpakk in their own right are a top class melodic/power metal band, but that added spice of the guest vocalists sprinkled throughout each release (and the song style leaning itself to that singer’s personal vogue) just gives everything even more interest. This time around we’ve got Biff Byford (Saxon), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Michael Vescera (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), Tony Harnell (TNT), Oliver Hartmann (Avantasia), Jioti Parcharidis (Victory), Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper), Pasi Rantanen (Thunderstone), Claus Lessmann (Phantom V), Danny Vaughn (Tyketto), Andy Lickford (Lickford) Guesting on guitar there’s Timo Somers (Delain), Brad Gillis (Night Ranger), George Lynch (ex-Dokken), Alen Brentini (A. Gabalier), Jen Majura (Evanescence), Chris Holmes (ex-W.A.S.P.). Bassists on offer are Rudi Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne), Marc Lynn (Gotthard), Volker Krawczak (Axel Rudi Pell), Michael Müller (Herman Frank) and drums are courtesy of Alex Holzwarth and Gereon Homan.

So who does what on which track then? Nah, I’m not being the bad guy and spoil the surprises, but it goes without saying that each one of the above puts in a fabulous performance on their designated track(s). And let’s be honest, with the instantly recognizable vocalists on display here it’s obvious to most Metal fans that someone like Biff Byford is singing on the perfectly Saxon-esque ‘Blood Brothers’! Oops. Oh well, there’s ten other surprises left for you discover for yourselves…crashing on…

There’s plenty of lupine lyrical lunacy still prowling it’s way all over “Wolves Reign” for all you devout cubs out there, which is part of the experience and also highlights Wolfpakk’s refreshing what-the-hell attitude. This is top class Melodic Metal, but quite wonderfully can’t be categorized like any other specific band – because although the core is the same, each song has a slightly different style thanks to those vocalist invited to guest on it. And every album is different. So yes there are elements of Pretty Maids, Saxon, Thunderstone etc. on here because of the singers involved, but that’s because Voss and Sweeney deliberately put those markers in the songs to bring out perfectly the style of each vocalist.

Four albums in and Wolfpakk are just getting better and better with each release, with Voss and Sweeney growing in confidence and bravado. There are so many Melodic Metal styles on here that it’s sometimes like a mouth-watering compilation of these singer’s finest moments. But then the tracks are strong enough to stand up without them – Voss and Sweeney’s vocals are more than fabulous enough to carry the album themselves – the guests just give them the added musical inspiration, gloss and cohesion. I hope there’s cash to spare at the end of this busy month because really if you like classy Melodic Heavy Metal then Wolfpakk should also be on your purchase list.

(8/10 Andy Barker)