Powerwolf – Lupus Dei (Re-Issue)
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 11/11/22
Running Time: 01:05:34
Review by Simon Black
I’m still incredulous that I came so late to the Powerwolf party, and even more pissed that I missed their performance at Bloodstock a few years ago, as with the bigger walleted Download now likely to swallow them moving forwards their meteoric rise from obscure to top-drawer in this country is now complete. It’s a problem for Power Metal acts in the UK, as they frequently don’t put the groundwork in early that they do on mainland Europe, and consequently remain a niche act before scenarios like the above see them play catch up and overshoot pretty damn fast. Well good luck to them, they deserve it as they’re a hard-working act that delivers a consistent level of quality.
As I said, I discovered them only relatively recently and unlike many long running acts whose best work is often to be found in their early years, Powerwolf seems to get better and better with every album. You know whenever a fresh album arrives precisely what you are going to get. The band have always had a turn for catchy song-writing and the re-release of “Lupus Dei” illustrates this, but the skill and polish of this ability just kept honing upwards since their inception.
Most acts demonstrate both their own and the audience’s love for a particular album by quite how much of a record’s material survives into the live set year on year. The usual formula as bands get on is to blast out 3-5 songs from whatever the current release is at the start of a show, with the rest of the set made up of much older material that presage the inevitable Greatest Hits album at some point, but Powerwolf consistently do the complete opposite of this. In fact, a quick skim across their live albums listings indicates that only the title track from this release has ever made it onto any of their many live albums. That’s as much to do with the fact they seem to get better as songwriters on every album cycle as it is about the fact that they are forward looking. I suspect a huge contribution to this is the fact that with the exception of the drum stool, this is the same line-up that formed in Saarbrücken in 2003.
The album itself is interesting.
Being mainly more familiar with material in the last ten years and generally being of a mind to air a live recording when I do so of my own free will, the early albums of the band remain a bit of a closed book to me. Two things immediately strike me as I crank this one up. Firstly, this is absolutely arrangement-wise the same act, with the same catchy song-writing and knack for ear-worm arrangements and phrasing as evident as they are today, and thematically this is consistent, so lots of catholic-styled religious imagery (although if there’s any actual religion in there it is the worship of the Church of Metal), corpse paint, werewolves and vampires… with the songs usually being about corpse painted Metal warriors hunting down vampires and werewolves…
That said, they sounded somewhat different in 2007. For a start Attilla Dorn is singing in a completely different register from the one I am more accustomed to. As a student of classical opera, he’s always demonstrated that style in his performance, but nowadays he’s more of a mix of alto and baritone (with occasional lofty peaks when scaling a crescendo at the end of the bridge or final verse), but this album is more tenor and alto in pitch. In addition, the distinctive cathedral organ sound from Falk Maria Schlegel is less dominant. In later albums that synth voice is used rigidly throughout and remains as unchanging as a Hammond organ in an early 70’s Hard Rock album, but here it’s only used sporadically amongst lots of other key sounds and way, way further back in the mix, as opposed to taking equal weighting with the guitars as it does today.
The third fact is not so immediately obvious. This is a concept album (i.e., with one specific story across its duration, rather than individual songs riffing around a consistent theme) and one told from the point of view of the werewolf, rather than the usual narrator choice of the band members’ stage identities (specifically Thiess of Kaltenbrunn from 17th century Livonia who self-identified as a werewolf, potentially forcing a update of the gender identification spectrum to LGBTQ+W). And that’s probably the main reason why this material does not appear live much – it really does not fit into the overall staging and narrative style the band have now. This is a bit of a shame really, as having dug a little further into their back catalog, it’s clear that musically this is far more the casting of the mould that leads us all the way to 2021’s fantastic “The Call of the Wild”. Although the stylism remains unchanged throughout, this is the start of the bolder, stagier incarnation of the band who by this point had grown enough in popularity to be able to headline and deliver the theatrical performances and set pieces we love them for today, and that feels like it’s cross fertilised back into the writing as they pushed themselves beyond their relatively low key origins.
In short it feels like the point where they really take off musically, and from this point they run with it. I can’t fault any of the tracks on here individually, although to be honest the concept would have passed me by had I not dug a little deeper in my research. It’s the template for the future, but as I said before, it’s hard to award higher marks, because the song-writing just continues to creak up a notch album by album from this point forward. Clearly, we are going to need a bigger scale soon…
‘Saturday Satan’ Official Video
01. Lupus Daemonis (Intro)
02. We Take It from the Living
03. Prayer in the Dark
04. Saturday Satan
05. In Blood We Trust
06. Behind the Leathermask
07. Vampires Don’t Die
08. When the Moon Shines Red
09. Mother Mary Is a Bird of Prey
10. Tiger of Sabrod
11. Lupus Dei
12. Lupus Daemonis (Intro) [Demo Version)
13. We Take It from the Living (Demo Version)
14. Saturday Satan (Demo Version)
15. Behind the Leathermask (Demo Version)
16.Tiger of Sabrod (Demo Version)
Attila Dorn – Vocals
Matthew Greywolf – Lead And Rhythm Guitar
Charles Greywolf – Bass, Rhythm Guitar
Stéfane Funèbre – Drums, Percussion
Falk Maria Schlegel – Organ, Keyboards
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