Album Review: Philip Sayce – The Wolves Are Coming

Review by Peter Coates –

Released – 23rd Feb 2024

Atomic Gemini/Forty Below Records

Rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter Philip Sayce is excited to announce the release of his highly anticipated studio album The Wolves Are Coming.

Born in Wales and raised in Toronto, Philip’s love of the guitar started early.  As a teen, Philip was plucked from the Toronto blues scene by the legendary Jeff Healey, who took the young guitarist under his wing and showed him the ropes, touring the world and recording as a member of Healey’s band.  From 2004 to 2009, Philip toured internationally and recorded with Melissa Etheridge.

Produced by Philip at Station House Studio in Los Angeles, and engineered by GRAMMY award winner Mark Rains (Rival Sons, Shooter Jennings, Tanya Tucker), mixed by Brian Moncarz (Fantastic Negrito, Alice Cooper, Ian Moore), and mastered by Brian Lucey (Lizzo, The Black Keys, Michael Bublé), The Wolves Are Coming features a cast of great session musicians in Michael Leasure on drums (Walter Trout, Edgar Winter), Fred Mandel (Queen, Supertramp, Elton John) on keyboards and piano, Bernie Barlow (The Moody Blues, Melissa Etheridge) on background vocals, and Aaron Sterling on drums (John Mayer, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift).

Philip describes the record as a personal journey and a diary. These new songs and recordings became a lifeline during the pandemic and illustrate some of the highs and lows he has been navigating since releasing the Spirit Rising album in 2020.  The Wolves Are Coming was created during the bleakest of times, not knowing if he would ever release these songs, or what being a musician and artist would look like moving forward.

There is a wide variety of blues /rock styles on offer through this record, all of them characterised by Philip’s laconic mid-Atlantic vocal twang, and some ridiculous lead guitar playing, and none more so than the opening track Oh! That Bitches Brew, which fuses Eric Gale, Cream, Deep Purple (Glenn Hughes-era) and Led Zeppelin into a retro-monster of a rock/blues anthem, with a crushing basic riff and a hook-filled chorus with Michael Leasure destroying his drum kit.  The middle-eight segment with it’s accents and ripping lead breaks then devolves into a “white noise” prelude to the final chorus, complete with a Bonham-esque drum fill and some more searing guitar work.

Lady Love Divine was co-written with Richard Marx and has a high-energy shuffle that oozes positive vibes and joy, and could easily be a massive US radio hit.  There is a tasty guitar solo and some funky riffage throughout, interspersed with more lead breaks – all in all this is great fun.  Another up-tempo blues-funk number in Babylon Is Burning romps along next with a reckless urgency in the rhythm, and a wah-driven solo that blitzes the mid-section, before a chaotic mix of vocals, backing chorus and guitars, supported by some great organ from Fred Mandel.

A more standard feel is brought by the raunchy Lenny Kravitz feel to Your Love, all guitar-driven groove and funky drum-patterns, before another wailing solo leads us back to the almost gospel-like chorus, and some clever riffs and off-beat drums in the close.  It’s Over Now is a beautifully constructed blues ballad that grows in power and intensity through the initial verse and chorus, to the middle-eight with the band powering up into an abrupt halt, and then the cleanest purest lead guitar phrasing over a simple bass and drum pattern, and some choral backing, before the final climactic chorus overlaid with Philip’s soaring lead vocals and smoking guitar lines.

Photo – Matt Barnes

Michael Leasure had heaps of fun on this record, providing a raucous pounding beat for Black Moon which has a heavy Black Keys or Muse feel, and a rough vocal delivery from Sayce which is unlike anything else on the album, but does not feel out of place.  Blackbirds Fly Alone co-written with Marti Frederiksen (writer for Jason Bonham, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Motely Crue and The Struts etc) starts off with acoustic guitar and works its way through a mellow clear-toned solo all the way to some lightning-fast rock star lead playing.  This track has an old-school feel to it, in the vocals and the organ in particular, and the closing chorus sees Sayce deliver yet again on both the guitar and with the vocals, and the ending comes way too soon for me.

There is sometimes a good reason for a cover, and Albert Collins’ The Moon Is Full is a great choice, with Philip having played this live with Jeff Healey many times, and this certainly echoes Healey, as well as Kenny Wayne Shepherd in the funky guitar chops, and the band just throws down an epic groove that hangs together beautifully.

One of the other single releases is Backstabber which again harks back to those heady days of classic British blues rock, set to another funky beat, and this track may personify the Philip Sayce style better than any other on the record – there is an underlying key raunchy riff, some frenetic rhythms from the bass and drums, glorious vocals and some great harmonies, and some of the slickest shredding on the guitar from any of the current blues rock artists.

A pause for breath is required, and Intuition provides a gentle instrumental beginning, with some wonderful lead guitar breaks in the distance behind the bass, drums and organ, until the feedback tears into a wild overdriven lead solo that is delivered with the complete abandon and passion that Healey or Gary Clarke Jr delivers.  This has a surprisingly sudden stop, and then we get a flippant rendition of John Lee Hooker’s This is Hip just on guitar and piano which appears like an off-the-cuff addition, but features some truly explosive acoustic guitar work in it’s less than 3 minutes!

For anyone who does not know Philp Sayce yet, this would appear to be a damn good way to make an introduction to this hugely talented bluesman – all of the skills of a Bonamassa but with the passion of a Tommy Bolin that sees him leave everything out there on the fretboard as one of the younger guns, such as Jared James Nichols or Christone Kingfish Ingram.  This is unfettered blues rock at its best.

Photo – Matt Barnes

Useful Links:

Website : 

Facebook : 

Instagram : 

YouTube : 

Pre-Order :