POWERWOLF - Wolves Of Wall St., Drink Your Blood, In Times Square!

February 24, 2023, 8 months ago

By Mark Gromen

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Despite readily headlining indoor arenas and outdoor festivals, overseas, Powerwolf has resisted the lure of visiting this continent, until now. The vision was always to do it solely on their terms (and timetable), but February 23 introduced the North American army of the night to dynamite, erections and flames at the Palladium, in Manhattan's historic Times Square. In honor of the occasion, the overpriced drinks were named after Powerwolf songs! Hopefully, the campy mix of horror films and (sacri)religious imagery will play beyond Broadway, eventually to towns across the country. With just a trio of consecutive East coast dates (including a stop in Montreal, the following night) and four, out west next month, many converts came from out-of-state (some in costume: monk robes, nun habits, garters, fishnets, ecclesiastic garb, etc.) to witness the Metal Mass USA. Sadly, there was no reproduction of the impressive pyro display witnessed overseas, but as Sabaton (another conquering European headliner) also proved, the fiery display, while it enhances the performance, is not a necessity for a great show.

Never seen a merch line serpentine through the bowels of this venue, doubling back on itself, several times, like a massive jungle python. Unfortunately, for most, half hour after doors opened, the $50 event t-shirt was only available in large and medium sizes. An hour later (the standard wait, by many accounts) it completely disappeared, eaten by the cash cannibalizing snake. As with many established Euro acts making their (North) American debut, two distinct audiences, invariably, arise: the old-timers, who want to hear the same songs that established the band as headliners overseas (but have yet to be aired here) and the recent devotees, most familiar with the newer material/hits. Powerwolf did a masterful job placating both camps, which is no easy feat.

The Wolves kicked off a full tilt assault, ignited by a fast-paced dose of old school. The fans were rapt from the opening notes of "Faster Than The Flame" and rarely let up. Three small risers stood across the front of the stage: one each for the Greywolf brothers/guitar tandem and another, centrally located, for vocalist Attila Dorn, with his sword/mic stand. On an elevated perch, at the back of the stage, were the drummer and keyboardist/cheerleader Falk Maria Schlegel. On & off the riser, striking all the Guitar God poses and with expressive facial expressions (aided by the corpsepaint), Matthew Greywolf is the more demonstrative of the axe men, but each and every member voiced/pantomimed their heartfelt appreciation for the tremendous crowd response, this evening. They were surprised and truly touched by the acknowledgement/reaction to their music.

A hooded monk delivered the thurible (swinging incense burning utilized in the Catholic Church) to Dorn, prior to "Incense & Iron". After adding a new continent of recruits to "Army Of The Night", a purple/red lit "Amen & Attack" sees the guitar-bros trade respective sides of the stage. Not the first time, nor will it be the last. Later, Schlegel produces a giant black flag, emblazoned with the interlocking PW logo. The build-up to "Dancing With The Dead" sees the guitars offstage, as Falk and Attila do their skit. There's a lot of Vaudeville comedy in the presentation. Think Laurel and Hardy, or Dick and Doof, as they're known in Germany from the string bean skinny Falk (his silent antics recall Harpo Marx or the "talkative" half of magician team Penn & Teller) and the full-bodied singer Dorn. After a dramatic pirouette that would impress John Travolta (we in Saturday Night Fever territory), the singer and keyboard player waltz around the stage, ballroom style. Another spontaneous burst of crowd clapping along. Sometimes it's prompted by the Greywolfs, others, Dorn, but neither, here.

Prior to "Armata Strigoi", the singer attempts to explain each of the four parts required for audience participation, but his efforts are interrupted by overzealous fans (who have waited years, to sing along, and are eager to demonstrate their prowess). While he acknowledges the accuracy of their rendition ("You guys watch a lot of YouTube videos," he jests), Dorn jokingly reprimands, saying initially he said to listen, then repeat. The robust first thruster is a workout for the throng, vocally and physically. A storm of white strobes accentuates the chorus. Meanwhile, an ecstatic Falk jogged about the stage. Attila even tried to get the VIP balcony to sing a verse. The final group rendition (band/audience) was completely a cappella. 

Having feasted on the classics  (apart from "Dancing"), the choices (temporarily) veered into what I refer to as the American setlist (heavy on recent video tunes), even though the songs were constructed/recorded long before they even contemplated heading overseas. Attila asked the faithful to howl. "Do you want to be part of our wolf pack?" Cue "Beast of Gévaudan". The singer stood atop the staircase leading to the upper tier (centrally located between the drums and keys) to begin the purple illuminated "Stossgebet". During the slower, dramatic march, each guitarist genuflects, arms outstretched, or hands folded in prayer.

Bouncy, blue tinged "Demons Are A Girl's Best Friend" continues to tuneful, lighter (less traditional metal) melodies that have characterized the recent output. "Fire And Forgive" revs things up again, albeit minus the namesake conflagration. For "Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone", Dorn sings to Falk, at his keyboard station. The reduced pace lays bare Attila's voice, proving he truly can sing, not just shout/scream, like so many rock/metal vocalists. Later day "Sainted By The Storm" pipes in backing vocals and feels like a Sabaton number. Ditto "Blood For Blood (Faoladh)", which would appear a couple of selections later, complete with fan/band pogoing in place. 

Great to see the tongue-in-cheek (pun intended) "Resurrection By Erection" reactivated for the maiden US gig (as it's been out of the touring set, of late). Dorn got a chuckle when he teased the title by saying it was a song "about something that happened this morning, under the blankets." Under green lights, it got one of the biggest responses of the evening: clapping along and a rousing sing-along. For "Let There Be Night", Dorn said he had bad news: time for the last song. The crowd booed, then started chanting, "We want sex," which broke up Falk and Attila. Turns out "Night" was just the end of the proper set. The members put down their instruments, walked to the front of the stage and thanked the fans, after which the stage lights were turned off.

After an empty, blackened stage was invigorated with lights, the band returned for "Sanctified With Dynamite". Sensing the end was near, Falk, always the animated cheerleader, was on the upper riser, flailing manically for a bigger crowd response. A free-for-all of white lights swept the stage. Attila leading the way, a variation of the Icelandic Skol soccer chant (metered clap) introduced a rather frenetic "We Drink Your Blood". No need to save any remaining energy, might as well pour it into what remained of the set. Prior to the "Werewolves Of Armenia", the crowd began to chant, "Please come back". The song features an audience vocal battle ("who" "ha"), as representatives of either Dorn or Schlegel ("I have to part the room, like Moses", commands the singer). The green lit finale see Falk at the front of the stage exhorting his "troops". The two guitarists are together, perched atop the upper level. Thanks and bows, Dorn promised they'd be back.

Best of all, the stage had mics to pick up the crowd noise and there were a couple of hi-def, digital video recordings happening in the photo pit. So perhaps we'll see it again, on a future DVD/stream. Hope so!

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