I love power metal. Genuinely. Indeed, I have always believed, that it is the form of heavy metal that sounds most like what people who don’t like heavy metal think heavy metal sounds like, as it were. Yet when I think of power metal one thing sticks in my head more than any other.
I was watching Germany’s Freedom Call once a few years back. Not only did their lead singer say, without any irony at all, that the tiny crowd that night in the arse end of Birmingham in a venue that has long since burned down, was “louder than Grimsby”, but one of our number was clad entirely in chain mail and wielded a wooden sword. No one questioned this.
If that is one end of the scale, then up to 11 – if you will – at the other, are Powerwolf. Not, perhaps, household names in the UK but that’s not the case on the continent. Number one sellers in their native Germany, and huge everywhere else, their last one “Blessed And Possessed” was enough to give their label the first gold album in their history, and now three years later, “The Sacrament Of Sin” is going to do exactly the same.
And to be fair, it does this by basically giving the public what it wants. That’s not through a desire to be formulaic either – indeed they blur the edges here pretty well. “Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone” is not only the first ballad in their career, but crikey its huge, no scratch that, its ginormous, while on the flip side of that is “Nightside Of Siberia” which – after sounding like its going to be the soundtrack to Game Of Thrones – goes on a proper Manowar type gallop.
Signature sound or not, with Powerwolf, it’s a bit like AC/DC, you know you are listening to master craftsmen. So, “Fire And Forgive” starts ominously but has all the bombast you could ever want, and Attila Dorn (probably not his real name) is born to do this.
What follows is a cavalcade of million miles an hour drums, solos that soar and classical passages, all the while though, you can put your fist in the air and forget your troubles.
This escapism is all over the frankly daft – but at the same time superb, organ drenched “Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend” (which, to be fair, sounds a touch like Magnum if you listen hard) and “Killers With The Cross” is the most epic fun you can have in four minutes – plus it shows Ghost how you should really do this stuff.
There’s something of the pirate about “Incense And Iron”, while “Strossgebet” (which according to Google Translate means “Hurried Prayer”) is sung in their native tongue and has an air of Sabaton about it.
If those are all – however small – deviations from the path, then tellingly the title track isn’t. Instead, it is the archetype bottling of the power metal sound. Likewise, if you were looking for a quick lesson as to why Powerwolf sell records by the bucketload, then skip to “Venom Of Venus”.
“Nighttime Rebel” takes all the ideas and puts them up a notch, and “Fist By Fist (Sacralize Or Strike)” likes the idea of a thousand years of war so much it tells the story again.
And if that sounds ludicrous, then I’ve got news for you: it is. Everyone knows it is. That’s the point. Just you try and resist it.
You can’t. So get your swords held high (wooden, obviously) and revel in the damn thing. Powerwolf command it.