German power metal/freak show act Powerwolf have been perplexing me since their 2005 debut. All corpse painted up and evil looking, they look like a black metal band but actually play sub-par power metal with traditional metal elements and coat the whole thing with cheesy theatrics and goofball pomp. I attempted to get into what they were doing on several occasions due to the buzz they were receiving but aside from a few scattered tracks, it was rough going. To me they always seemed generic and silly, though I appreciated their zest and zeal for entertaining. With this back-history, I naturally chose to approach their fourth album, Blood of the Saints with muted expectations. As usual, Steel Druhm is proven wise indeed. Blood of the Saints is arguably Powerwolf‘s best release thus far and packs several amusing and respectable songs, albeit, still laden with cheese and cheap theatrics. However, as a whole, its still the same Powerwolf product and that can’t lead too far down the road to the land of 5.0. For every decent song, there’s an equally painful one and a few are just laughable. While I know they don’t take themselves too seriously, sometimes silly is too silly and that’s the case here more often than not.
Blood of the Saints may not be a concept album per se but it has a cohesive element stringing the material together. That element being church-themed music, religious ritual samples and lots and lots of church organ music. While it works fine at first, I found it growing tedious by the half way point and by the end I thought I was listening to “Ina Gadda Da Vida”. When they just play their simple, stripped down power metal meets Iron Maiden, its tolerable but the embellishments are too much. After an intro steeped in religious pomposity, they dive into “Sanctified With Dynamite” and its a basically cool song. Zippy, aggressive and straight forward and oddball frontman Attila Dorn does a respectable job of delivering his lines without getting too hammy (the man likes to overact like Nicholas Cage). Its got a catchy chorus and things are silly but enjoyable. It sounds a little like mid-period Running Wild at its core but wimpier. Follow up “We Drink Your Blood” is a return to the old Powerwolf I know and giggle at. Its slower, features uber silly lyrics and is tough to take seriously. Making that job harder is them singing “we drink your blood” in a way that reminds me far too much of Faith No More’s “We Care A Lot.” Unintended hilarity thus ensues. That’s the story playing out for the rest of the album. Good song, silly song. While tracks like “Murder at Midnight, “Night of the Werewolf” (which rips off Maiden‘s Fear of the Dark” so badly that Eddie is surely coming to scalp them) and “Phantom of the Funeral” are all respectable, the rest of Blood is generic and dimwitted tomfoolery (especially “Dead Boys Don’t Cry” and “Die Die Crucified”).
Its finger pointing time and Attila Dorn is on the receiving end. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent enough singer and his mid-range sounds a bit like Piet Sielck (Iron Savior) and Joakim Broden (Sabaton). He can also channel a bit of youthful Ozzy when he needs to get up there. However, his compulsive need to overdo things with theatrics, odd voices and sundry antics hurt the songs and takes the focus off the music. Also burdensome are the lyrics which run the gamut from silly to stupid (its a short trip). When you have a chorus of “die die crucify, hallelujah” and you’re over the age of 15, there’s a problem to address.
There are some legitmately well down moments like the lead guitar lines in “Murder at Midnight” which rock muchly and the sparkling power metal attack in the background of “Dead Boy’s Don’t Cry.” Their problem is putting all of it together into songs that aren’t half baked or too goofy to deal with. Most of the time they sound like an off off Broadway musical and its far too easy to imagine them dancing and acting these tunes out onstage. Now see Powerwolf starring in Lycanthropy: My Pack or Yours. No thanks.
I know Powerwolf has their supporters and while I’m not sure what they hear that I don’t, they should be thrilled by this. I will probably listen to “Murder at Midnight” on and off but otherwise, this just didn’t put hair on my back like it should. Woof.