Monday, August 1, 2011

Powerwolf - Blood Of The Saints (2011)


Germany's Powerwolf are bound to grab your attention. One look at the album cover, and you will make a judgment. You might say they are another gimmick band looking to snatch up fifteen minutes of fame. You may wonder, for a moment or so, what kind of music they make. In your haste, you will decide, "It is probably a power metal band with songs written about werewolves." Well, on that you are correct. And on "Blood Of The Saints," the pack are on the prowl, looking for blood!

From the ominous organs and spoken passages of "Opening: Agnus Dei," you get an idea of what is to come. Walking the line between traditional heavy metal and more modern power metal, "Sanctified With Dynamite" is ripe with headbanging string work. The guitars shred along, up and down the neck, backed by the thunder of kick drums. With each passing cymbal crash, you become more invested in the track, lost in the groove of it all. Capped by the catchy, classically trained vocals of frontman Attila Dorn, this is everything you need to convince you to listen further. The vocal delivery is on point, especially on "We Drink Your Blood." Dorn manages to be forceful without being over the top, the slight raspy nature in his voice complimented by the choir of voices behind him. The keyboards are dazzling, creating landscapes of orchestrated instruments throughout. This is a guitar rock anthem, one to chant along to with your fist high above your head.

Deep, rich vocals initiate the action on "Murder At Midnight," before guitars fly into your frame. Dorn's range is on display, alternating between the dark crooning and the higher octave chorus. Fast and furious, the drums are as accurate as an atomic clock, never skipping a beat. The chanting of the breakdown portion is equal parts eerie and grandiose, setting up the finish. Church organs cry out, with classical styled vocals soaring over the top. A distorted guitar cuts in, and "All We Need Is Blood" is upon you. Based on the werewolf legends of yore, this track oozes an element of fun. The guitars chug along, amidst a sea of fills and rolls. The keyboards are omnipresent, keeping mood cold and dark. The choir vocals return, before dropping out to the thrashing of guitars, bass and drums.

The all out thrash of "Dead Boys Don't Cry" may leave you with a sore neck and a bruised forehead, but that will all be solved with "Son Of A Wolf." The symphonic elements are on display, with the haunting keys creating a cold mist. The 1-2 punch of drums and the more coarse, yet melodic, vocals is excellent. A dueling guitar solo blazes through the meat of the track, setting up a crashing finish. There is certainly restraint on display here, as well as excess. "Night Of The Werewolves" is a perfect example of both, from the understated keyboard and guitar in the intro, to the winding vocal patterns that emerge as the song progresses. Dorn's power metal chops get a workout here, and they pass the test with flying colors. On the whole, this is a track that fires on all cylinders, giving you a taste of what the band is capable of.

And whether it be the fires of "Phantom Of The Funeral" or the alternating stomp and thrash of "Die, Die, Crucified," the band marches through with expert delivery. Every aspect is larger than life, leaving you feeling as though this is more than just a power metal record. One of the more memorable tracks present in the finale, "Ira Sancti (When The Saints Are Going Wild)." It blends together the gritty and the sublime. The keyboards and orchestra are not added just for the sake of having them, but rather they star in the song. And, keeping with the theme of the album (and band, for that matter), the organ lead track ends in the darkest night, with the sound of a distant pack of wolves howling.

At first glance, Powerwolf may seem like nothing more than a gimmick band. And while you will, ultimately, make that decision for yourself, I was left with two distinct feelings. First and foremost, this is a band that needs to be seen live. The spectacle that would be attached to the music on "Blood Of The Saints" promises to be outstanding (the pyrotechnics of Rammstein meets the musical show of Stratovarius?). Second, these songs are well written and catchy, without being overly cheesy. No one ever said that metal couldn't be fun, and these guys make me want to join the pack.


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