It’s been more than a decade since Germany’s Powerwolf first caused a splash in the metal world with the release of their debut full-length album, ‘Return in Bloodred’ (2005). With a visual and musical style unique solely to their own, since then, Powerwolf has continued their meteoric climb, releasing to date six studio albums. Now in 2018, the band is ready to unleash its latest offering unto the altar of metal: ‘The Sacrament of Sin’. With the release of their seventh full-length album, Powerwolf has once more tapped into the familiar but has also expanded their sound, recording for the first time ever a ballad along with some of the bands’ most indelible and empowering material to date. Overdrive Music Magazine sat down for an in-depth chat with Powerwolf’s lead guitarist and band co-founder, Matthew Greywolf, to find out what went into the creation of ‘The Sacrament of Sin’.
After exchanging pleasantries, Greywolf had this to offer of the musical approach to the album, “I would say the approach was to expand the territory a bit,” before adding, “I think ‘The Sacrament of Sin’ has become the most diverse Powerwolf album with the most variation in the music and a lot of new elements in our sound. At the same time, I think it’s become a pretty typical Powerwolf album in terms of atmosphere and power and character.”
Listening through the album, one song that stuck out in particular was the song, Killers With The Cross. With a more upbeat sound to it, and accentuated by an almost pop sensibility to it in terms of its driving melody, the arrangements for this track sparked an interesting answer. “Well, there was a pretty clear inspiration for this one and that was Headless Cross from Black Sabbath!” Greywolf chuckles. “We covered the song Headless Cross on the covers album on the previous album, ‘Blessed & Possessed’ (2015), and in general, we did this cover album where we covered ten of our favourite heavy metal songs and the range of these cover versions was going from Black Sabbath to Gary Moore to Amon Amarth.
“That project showed us that we could, in fact, play much more variation than we did in the past and it made it sound like Powerwolf. There’s the trademark voice, there’s the church organs, and all of that sounded pretty much like Powerwolf. In the particular case of Killers With The Cross, I agree that especially the chorus hook line has this pop approach to it.”
As one of the original founders of Powerwolf, the question was posed to Greywolf what the initial drive had been for him (and other co-founder Charles Greywolf) in creating an operatic metal band that utilises Christian and folklore themes? He adds, enthusiastically, “That’s a very good question!” before letting out a laugh. “All I can say is that there was no master plan for that. I mean, the only thing we had in mind when starting the band was that we wanted to deliver a whole experience; all for the visuals. I think one of the early influences for that concept was Iron Maiden. For me personally, Iron Maiden was the band that made me a heavy metal fan at the age of eleven. I was equally attracted by the music, as well as the artwork, the way the stage looked, and everything. It was just this huge universe of its own that totally got me into heavy metal, and the same approach is what we wanted to deliver with Powerwolf from the early days on. A lot of concert-goers actually tell us that if they come to a Powerwolf show they feel like they have been on this sort of journey for two hours into a different world. And, you know, that’s exactly what good entertainment should deliver.”
‘The Sacrament of Sin’ is special for another reason. With the song Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone, this is Powerwolf’s first ever attempt at a power ballad. “The idea of writing a proper ballad was growing for a lot of years,” Greywolf begins. “I think it was some years ago that on one of the tours, I was confessing to Attila that I was a big fan of those classic rock and metal ballads and he was confessing the same , so we agreed that one day we would write a ballad, no matter what. But it never worked in the past. The fact that we did as a part of ‘Blessed & Possessed’ showed us we could go for that, and that we were ready for it. Because, I mean, back then we covered Edge of Thorns from Savatage, where we had those verses based on piano and vocals; and that was the first time we tried that, and it sounded pretty great! So when we started writing ‘The Sacrament of Sin’, I had that in mind and I was quite confident that we could realise that long-planned ballad this time. Luckily, it all came together very well and I think, for me personally, it’s one of the highlights of the album, definitely.”
After the success of ‘Metallum Nostrum’, a follow up covers album seemed like a natural choice. Turning the concept on its head, however, was Powerwolf’s decision to let other bands cover their songs! Enter ‘Communio Lupatum’, a record that comprises covers of Powerwolf songs as performed by Epica, Eluveitie, Caliban, et. al. “We came up with the idea for that after a long night on the tour bus and a lot of beer!” Greywolf laughs. “The thing that’s most exciting for me is that all those bands made those songs very much their own. When they started working on it, we told them, ‘Don’t try to sound like Powerwolf; don’t stay with the original arrangements. Just do whatever you would do with just the basic ingredients of the song and make it sound like your own trademarked style.’ And they all did, and it’s super amazing. Eluveitie, for example, translated the lyrics of Ira Sancti (When The Saints Are Going Wild) into Celtic to get that unique Eluveitie vibe. All the time, when a new song came in, it felt like Christmas; like unwrapping presents. I think it’s a super nice bonus and it’s going to be pretty exciting for fans as well.”
As the interview neared its close, the question was posed whether Powerwolf could see an Australian tour on the horizon any time soon? “Well, there’s nothing scheduled or concretely planned but I really hope that it’s going to happen one day because, I mean, for us, touring countries we’ve not been to before is always super special and it’s one of the privileges you have as a touring musician to learn about new countries and explore new ground. So, I really hope that this is going to happen in the future.”
Lastly, Greywolf had this to add for the fans anticipating the release of their new album. “‘The Sacrament of Sin’ is an exciting new chapter in Powerwolf’s heavy metal mass, so everybody, risk an ear and celebrate the grandness of heavy metal with us!”
‘The Sacrament of Sin’ is out July 20th via Napalm Records. Pre-order your copy HERE!