Following the previous night’s splendidly named Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse, a still virtually full moon hangs in the sky over Birmingham, accompanied by rapidly falling temperatures and icy gusts of snowy wind. So, what better way to keep warm on a wintry January evening than with some werewolf themed German Heavy Metal. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
It doesn’t take being Phil Collins to feel it; there’s something in the air tonight and I don’t just mean the faux-incense billowing at times from the stage. I mean that certain intangible, mustier than the smell of sweat, beer and wet T-shirts, incorporeal something that happens around that point when a band progresses from being one that people like to one that people like. And it seems that the London crowd are baying for Powerwolf.
The first thing that is striking is that the O2 Academy is filled. The second is the rabid fervour for the band of the congregation. As each song draws to a close, a chant from the pack rings out strong and true: “Powerwolf! Powerwolf! Powerwolf!” without fail. The zeal of the Zealots (sorry, couldn’t resist) is infectious, and as the set draws on it becomes a Pavlovian Evangelical reaction to each song; the febrile followers flushed with feverish devotion sharing their delight at seeing the preachers of the night.
With a main setlist drawn equally from ‘Bible Of The Beast’, ‘Preachers of the Night’ and this years’ stonking ‘Blessed and Possessed’, it matters not that the soundman is punishing guitarists Greywolf for misdemeanours unknown and has buried the brothers Grimm well behind the drums and vocals, because Attila Dorn is transfixing; spreading a sermon of werewolves and religious tongue-in-bummery, bedecked in cassock and corpsepaint, arms and vocal chords open with his ecclesiastical tones powerful and apostolic, ripe for the Powerwolf parishioners to raise their voices in communion with him as hymns to the lupine and sanguine are choired with gusto, particularly the power baroque ‘Armata Strigoi’.
As good as the core Powerwolf set is, its tail and subsequent encore raises the bar even higher, as the band close out with a rousing ‘We Drink Your Blood’ and a stomping ‘Lupus Dei’, before returning as conquerors to obliterate ‘Sanctified With Dynamite’, a crushing ‘Kreuzfeuer’ – the heavy metal anthem Rammstein never wrote – and a final unifying brothers-in-arms ‘All We Need Is Blood’.
Should you have a sense of fun intact, I defy thee to have ears and not leave the Powerwolf extravaganza without a grin on your face and a sense of pack; of community. For in the live arena, backed by their own army of immortals, the power is indeed of the wolf.
WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY
Werewolf obsessed German Power Metallers Powerwolf are lining up their second album for Napalm Records, and sixth opus overall. Focal point of the band Matthew Greywolf talked lyrics and music (but not religion) with Ghost Cult as he gears up for the release of Blessed & Possessed…
Powerwolf are a rare old breed… when the moon is full, and howls fill the air, they bring tales or werewolves, liturgical detonations, vampires and papal decapitations all via bombastic, energetic heavy metal. In part due to Romanian vocalist Attila Dorn’s distinctive tones, Greywolf has been successful in establishing identifiable Powerwolf characteristics that have run throughout their career – distinctive hook-laden, fist-pumping traditional based metal, album covers depicting werewolves in papal robes destroying priests, corpse-paint and crucifixes, Latin titles and lyrics about sticking it, and dynamite, to the Man (upstairs).
From releasing a concept album about a werewolf finding God in the classic Lupus Dei (Metal Blade), religion is an integral part of the Powerwolf world. And from the title of their newest album, Blessed & Possessed (Napalm), it seems that once again the band have a bone to pick with Christianity. One wonders, though, just how many more stories of vampires and werewolves blowing up priests the band will be able to tell?
“I don´t know, and I don´t care” begins Greywolf. “We feel truly inspired by what we do and what we love. Our lyrical concept is the result of our private fascination by history and religion, and it suits our music very well.
“I was raised a Catholic and have some knowledge about Catholicism and Christian history – that’s the territory I know about, and why Powerwolf mostly refer to Christian religion and liturgy.”
Greywolf, though, doesn’t want to be drawn into discussing it, continuing “I don´t want to philosophize about that. Powerwolf is not a band delivering any sort of religious or political message. As far as religion in general is concerned, I´m convinced that the question about higher spirits and the sense of life lies within man and is universal.
“Being a band that sings about religion doesn’t mean we feel the need to deliver a message or convince anybody of anything. Anything but metal of course.
“I don´t label ourselves anything but Metal. I don´t need any other description and I think we have developed a trademark sound that stands out of any description.”
With a band like Powerwolf, to this observer and fan, there has always been an assumption that there is a touch of tongue in cheek and irony that is part of the bands make up. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“We´re dead serious about what we do” straight bats Greywolf, suddenly shifting my own personal take on the band. “This band is what I live for 24/7. Some people mistake slight sarcasm in our lyrics for unserious, but on the contrary it isn’t at all. We use sarcasm to display distance to religious fanaticism. Sarcasm is a means to point out we´re not fanatics, and sarcasm is a true weapon.
“Musically this band is exactly the dream I had being a young metalhead who dreamt of having his own band.”
Not even as an artist, or a musician?
“Sure, we might want to play more sophisticated stuff, but honestly, I’m blessed and happy that my ego doesn’t feel the need to show off what great guitar player I am. Writing songs for Powerwolf is all about writing great and catchy songs, not about displaying musical abilities. There´s way too many bands doing so, and all of them are boring as hell.”
All this talk of great and catchy songs brings us back to that distinctive Powerwolf sound, and it comes as no surprise to report that Blessed & Possessed doesn’t deviate far from the expected output; uptempo, dark, metal anthems praising the power of the lycanthrope and another dose of classic Powerwolf, instantly recognisable and defiantly fist-pumping.
Yet, to be distinctive, and to have lived with their own sound and style for ten years now, not falling into a rut and maintaining standards is something that every band that achieves longevity has to find a way to deal with, and Powerwolf are no exception. “We are a band that works intuitively. We don’t take conscious decisions and therefore our trademark sound is a sound that has evolved over the years and can be seen as a natural result of the five of us playing music together. Hence it’s not hard to stay true to our natural sound.
“When we start writing a new album, our goal is not to consciously change anything or try hard to be different, but simply to write a bunch of great new songs – the rest is what naturally happens.
“What we knew was that we had something thrilling to write and release. The combination of the five musicians that are Powerwolf was magic from the first moment on and still is.”
Blessed & Possessed is released via Napalm Records on 10th July
Get set for another installment of vampires, werewolves and various other unholy goings on as everyone’s favourite sub-species of Canidae, Powerwolf are set to hit the studio to bring us Opus Six (or should that Lupus Sex… though that takes things down a whole other path?).
2013 saw the German carnivores unleash Preachers of the Night, the highly successful follow up to breakthrough album Blood of the Saints and earlier this year the band celebrated their tenth anniversary by re-releasing some of their back catalogue in The History of Heresy I box set (review here). The band are once again set to team with Napalm Records to inflict more full moon Power Metal madness in the summer of 2015.
Quoth the Greywolf:
“By now the major part of the songwriting is finished and we’re right now preparing for the studio work. The recordings will begin in early January and will keep us busy until March. Without revealing too much at this early stage, you can expect an album that’s 100% uncomprimising POWERWOLF-stuff. There´s songs to go wild to, there´s epic and atmospheric stuff – and a lot of wolfish metal madness in between, and quite a bunch of songs that will be must-plays on any future POWERWOLF show for damn sure”.
Ah, listen to them, the children of the night, what sweet music they make!
Iron Maiden were the first band I can remember making a big deal of reaching a decade with their The First Ten Years (EMI) boxset. Back in 1990 it was a big deal because Heavy Metal as we know and love it hadn’t been around long enough for multiple bands to reach such a landmark. Next up was Judas Priest’s Metalworks (Columbia) compilation in 1993, a 20 year retrospective.
Both of those bands are prevalent when discussing Powerwolf’s own ten year anniversary, being, along with The Misfits, chief amongst their influences. And to be fair, a deluxe double-CD with bonus tracks and live DVD box set, with 112 page hardback book all in a canvas bag (all for the incredible price of $30) is as good a way as any to celebrate such a key milestone in a career.
Comprising of their first two albums, Return In Bloodred and landmark release Lupus Dei, backed up with a smattering of live tracks from the time, along with a bonus DVD featuring their triumphant Wacken performance of 2008, The History Of Heresy I (2004 – 2008) (Metal Blade) is a great opportunity to pick up the earlier works of a band who seem to have blossomed in terms of output and popularity in the last few years.
Of the two albums on display, the development of the band is clear to see, from the more naïve and awkward, though still promising, debut to the confident and distinctive sophomore Lupus Dei. While …Bloodred may be a little uncertain and inconsistent in places, the core elements are in place, and in ‘Kiss Of The Cobra King’ possesses a genuine classic anthem.
There is a clear step up in class, consistency, swagger and delivery on Lupus Dei, though, with tracks like ‘Saturday Satan’, ‘Prayer In The Dark’ and the speed-camp Priest worship of ‘Behind The Leathermask’ possessing the tongue-in-cheek sing-a-long rocking Power Metal qualities Powerwolf have since refined to an art-form. The live tracks show Powerwolf in a good light, too, sounding tight and energetic and a nice little bonus set.
Considering what you get for the price, and bearing in mind the quality on Lupus Dei alone, it’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s the sale of the fucking century and a great way to backfill and complete your Powerwolf collection.