As the dying sun casts its orange glow over the forest, darkness begins to swiftly envelop the lofty trees. Gently at first, but soon wrapping itself around the dense woodland in a tighter, black embrace. The distant mountains, which only moments ago watched over the trees with such benevolence, now take on a different, more sinister character. Soon, the chirping of birds ceases and animals briskly return to their homes as the clouds above drift slowly apart, revealing the moon at its fullest, it’s colour a deep and vivid blood red, casting its devilish hue onto the mountaintops below.
Silence engulfs the trees for a moment, almost as if the forest itself is drawing a deep, fearful breath in anticipation. The first howl is heard somewhere off in the distance. A lone cry that splits the silence like a sudden, terrifying crack of thunder. Soon it is joined by another, with many more soon joining the unholy chorus until the cold night air is filled with nothing but the sound of baying, hungry wolven beasts. Lycanthropic creatures, which in the daylight hours had walked the earth in human form, now move silently across the damp earth to the edge of the forest and to the township just beyond…
Yup, it’s Powerwolf time again, folks. Woo hoo! That time when you’re suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to listen to nothing but unpretentious heavy metal songs about werewolves, churches, priests, and the bloodsucking undead. Formed in Saarbrücken by bassist Charles Greywolf (aka David Vogt) and guitarist Matthew Greywolf (aka Benjamin Buss) in 2003, the German band’s latest offering, The Sacrament of Sin (Napalm) is another monstrous album bursting with majestic riffs and sumptuous choruses, each song soaring like an eagle before swooping down and sinking its claws in, latching onto your consciousness like a ravenous vampire bat.
Opener ‘Fire and Forgive’ gets things off to a typically bombastic start, all galloping riffs and towering vocals from singer Attila Dorn (or Karsten Brill to his friends) with the irresistible chorus of ‘Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ following closely behind. If you’re not already grinning like an idiot, raising your horns and playing air drums to ‘Killers With the Cross’ and the folky, mid-paced stomp of ‘Incense and Iron’ (pronounced “I-Ron” of course) then you’re doing Powerwolf wrong.
Deviating from their usual blueprint for a few minutes, ‘Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone’ marks a first for the band – an actual ballad. A power ballad, of course, but still great and a nice change of pace. ‘Stossgebet’ (which roughly translates to a quick or hurried prayer) is another slowie with a main riff similar to ‘Fake Healer’ by Metal Church but which builds into something more akin to Rammstein.
With an Amon Amarth style opening riff, ‘Nightside of Siberia’ thunders along like a steam train and features another one of those choruses that will remain firmly lodged in your head for weeks to come. The title track is vintage Powerwolf, and ‘Venom of Venus’ is probably the album’s most commercial track, but yet again, possesses one of those annoying earworm things. ‘Nighttime Rebel’ is pure traditional German metal, and closer ‘Fist by Fist (Sacralize or Strike)’ ensures the album ends with a suitably unholy bang.
Expertly produced by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Amon Amarth), The Sacrament of Sin sounds every bit as good as the material demands. Keyboard player Falk Maria Schlegel does his usual magnificent yet understated job, imbuing each track with a heightened grandiosity without ever dominating the mix, and as he has done since 2011, drummer Roel van Helden remains an unflappable metronomic marvel.
If you were foolish enough to believe Powerwolf might be running out of steam, then you’d better think again. This is simple, powerful German heavy metal rippling with furry muscles and trademark anthemic choruses.