Powerwolf + Gloryhammer
@ Trädgår’n, Gothenburg
November 17th 2019
Review by Kieron Hayes
Tonight was to be a night of energy, passion and, above all, fun. Trädgår’n, Gothenburg would host two of the most lively power metal bands of modern times: Gloryhammer and Powerwolf, on the Sacrament of Sin Tour. Hell, even their names just scream their genre loud and clear.
Up first was younger band Gloryhammer. Being a project by Alestorm’s Chris Bowes, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this is a band all about tongue-in-cheek fun. But also like Alestorm, they’re more than just a simple comedy band, able to infuse their humour with genuinely impressive song-writing.
Throughout the entire set, Gloryhammer was a band perfectly comfortable with a stage and an opportunity to ham it up on there. Frontman Thomas Winkler was decked out in a suit of armour and cape, and consistently did everything to get the crowd loosened up and enjoying themselves, encouraging chanting along, crowd-surfing, and more.
There was banter aplenty between songs: “Questlords of Inverness” introduced bassist James Cartwright as a cyborg fuelled by neutron stars, which are in turn run on alcohol, and the audience was urged to take a journey to the galactic fortress (also known as “the bar”). Later on, Winkler brought out his now-trademark goblin-smashing astral hammer. Naturally, it should make no sound when swung in space, but the band helpfully invented sound in space for just this.
When not urging the audience to imitate the sounds of an astral hammer being swung, Winkler’s voice was put to great use, his pipes producing the glass-shattering screams that are a regular feature of their own brand of power metal.
Theirs is the sort of music best experienced with familiarity (and ideally plenty of neutron star fuel), and the best received songs were the big numbers everyone knew and could properly abandon themselves in. This is something that will hopefully only grow as the band goes on.
“Universe on Fire”‘s disco synth beat really kicked off the part atmosphere, it’s a shame it didn’t come earlier in the set, as it noticeably helped loosen the crowd up.
Still, the last song was introduced with a question: Do we want to hear one more song about unicorns? I think the answer is obvious.
The band left the stage to both the national anthem of Unst and Status Quo’s “Rockin’ All Over the World”, which says it all really. A band all about just cutting loose and having a good time.
Into the Terrorvortex of Kor-Virliath (intro)
The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust)
The Land of Unicorns
Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress!
The Hollywood Hootsman
Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy
Masters of the Galaxy
Universe on Fire
The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee
National Anthem of Unst (outro)
Rockin’ All Over the World (outro tape)
The stage was quickly set up for the main men/wolves themselves, Powerwolf, and it was clear that the spectacle was going to be visual as well as audible. A ruined monastery formed the bulk of the stage, the mic was mounted on a tall, snake-entwined cross, goblets sat in front of the keyboards, and the wings held wolf-headed saint statues.
Ozzy’s “Mr. Crowley” played over the speakers as an intro, the band filtering onto the stage as it neared its end. And then…
FIRE AND FORGIIIIVE!
Honestly, text on a page simply can’t convey just how much power there was from that first song alone. The eruption of vitality, the tsunami wave that washed over the crowd, the immediate surge of energy. Not one heart in the place didn’t pump with excitement, not one set of hands wasn’t in the air, and not one pair of lungs wasn’t suddenly bursting with sing-along chants.
Right from the off it was clear that the crowd was in love with the band, and every moment the show went on only solidified that adoration. Many bands will get some chants of their name throughout a set: here, the cries of “POW-ER-WOLF!” came up after just about every single song, and you could tell from the grins on the band members’ faces that they were touched by the passionate reception.
Powerwolf did everything to earn that respect too. The sound quality was outstanding, especially for a live performance, everything coming through crystal clear. Both Greywolf guitarists were making faces and expressions to emphasis the performance, drummer Roel van Helden kept the forceful beats coming, and Attila Dorn’s vocals were simply incredible. As was especially illustrated during the occasional vocal lesson to the audience, there’s no trickery in his soaring vocals on their records: here in the venue, that voice was infused with every bit of operatic vigour and glory.
Special mention from me goes to keyboardist Falk Maria Schlegel as “man of the match” at this gig. He looked amazing, every inch the dark priest, even down to the way he moved. Combined with the make-up and atmosphere, it felt like a cross between a holy man and a cenobite was performing on the stage. And while the keyboards are a prominent instrument in Powerwolf’s work, in the parts where they weren’t in direct use he would stride about the stage acting as the band’s hype man, getting the audience worked up and playing off of frontman Dorn magnificently.
Many songs also had extra visual aesthetics on the stage to help them stand out. “Killers With the Cross” had a huge cross of lights shine bright at the back of the stage, no doubt deliberately calling to mind larger-than-life evangelical preachers. “Stossgebet” saw the stage lit up with flames, and on several occasions robed acolytes marched on with incense.
Despite all the theatricality, there was always a sense of fun in keeping with the band’s tongue-in-cheek approach. There was as much laughter between tracks as there was religious performance, the band even poking fun at themselves and little slip-ups here and there. Attila Dorn and Falk Maria Schlegel took delight in competing to see who can get half the audience to chant their name loudest, and towards the end Dorn was clearly gleeful as he got the crowd singing to go quieter and quieter, until they were whispering along.
This was a night of joy and exuberance as much as it was fire and fury. Metal is a varied style of music and can appeal to a lot of different emotions, none of it any more or less valid than any other, so it would feel wrong to say “This is what metal is all about”, but this was certainly one of the things metal is all about, and it was perfectly delivered. Songs like “Amen and Attack” and “Resurrection by Erection” were just as fun as they sound, while the sheer power behind the likes of “Stossgebet” and “Lupus Dei” was tangible.
This was honestly one of the most enjoyable gigs of my life, coming out of it left me, and I’m sure everyone else, giddy as if getting off a rollercoaster. If you haven’t had the chance to experience this band yet, do so. No, I don’t care if you don’t think this is your thing. It is, you just don’t know it yet.
All must worship the lupine saints at the church of heavy metal. All hail the holy metal mass!
Mr. Crowley (intro tape)
Fire & Forgive
Army of the Night
Incense & Iron
Amen & Attack
Killers With the Cross
Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend
Resurrection by Erection
Where the Wild Wolves Have Gone
Blessed & Possessed
Kiss of the Cobra King
We Drink Your Blood
Agnus Dei (encore intro)
Sanctified With Dynamite
Werewolves of Armenia