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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
Blessed & Possessed (Napalm) the sixth studio album by German band Powerwolf opens with a majestically bombastic title-track that is everything you could hope for in a Powerwolf album as the choral vocals just add that extra classical touch to the power metal onslaught. And yes, the melodies are super catchy, like the genre requires. But Powerwolf is not all symphonic bombast; ‘Army of the Night’ really sounds like Sabaton’s combat style, reminding of ‘Ghost Division’, but with far better vocals than Joakim Brodén was then capable of. It is effective in raising both spirits and your heartrate!
On ‘Armata Strigoi’ the riffs are incredibly tight, the melodies have just enough cheese to make this incredibly enjoyable to listen to, and the guitar solo is effective and varied. ‘We are the Wild’ is a Power Metal anthem, as the chorus is perfectly suited to chanting along from the audience. It also features a really nice orchestral break before the solo.
‘Higher than Heaven’ is an up-tempo and highly energetic piece – I couldn’t help but grin madly during this song as the contrast between the fast-paced singing, smooth vocal melody, and pacey music is just immensely pleasing – the slower break does not lose any of the power, but gathers it for the final chorus.
The vocal talents of Attila Dorn are well showcased, in the more battle-oriented songs they sound like a cross between Joakim Brodén and Hansi Kursch, in others, like ‘Let There Be Night’, his voice takes on a very classical quality, with great clarity and vibrato. However, the best parts are the combination of rough and classical, which lends great power to the music and the lyrics.
In case you hadn’t realised yet from the other songs, ‘Christ & Combat’ should make it abundantly clear what the theme of the album is: religion and war, and the lyrics seem to describe some sort of Christian Valhalla. It also has features some excellent bass lines.
While I really love ‘Sanctus Dominus’ for its choral bombast with Latin lyrics and the customary clipped pronunciation, by the time I get to ‘Sacramental Sister’ the religious themes become tiresome with an entire album on the subject hard to swallow
However, the music is fun, the sound is good, and I heartily recommend it to people who love cheesy power metal and have no aversion to the glorification of holy wars and religiousness.
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