Powerwolf – Blessed and Possessed

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My church at home has a choir made up mostly of octogenarians, and a similarly aged congregation. Had Powerwolf been the backing band to our hymns, I may have been less eager to give up my Christian faith during my university years, [1] especially if we had been singing songs like ‘Resurrection by Erection’ or ‘Coleus Sanctus.’ Although Powerwolf have dropped those more overtly comedic songs on their latest power metal opus, Blessed & Possessed, the sheer bombastic power, breakneck pace, and operatic majesty combine to make it their best album yet. Its overall theme is more of the tongue-in-cheek subversion of Christian imagery seen on previous albums: Saints crawl instead of march; vampires fight for God; nuns lust for Satan; and darkness itself is praised over light in a twist on the story of Genesis.

Given the band’s general affinity for werewolves, it might be considered unusual for them to write a song about vampires, but on ‘Armata Strigoi’ they blend the Romanian strigoi legends with the subversive idea of making them into a hellish army of God. Rising from Hell, ‘the land of the fire’, the strigoi are technically undead souls that can drain a body of blood. However, instead of cowering before the sign of the cross or feasting on the blood of the living, these particular vampires ‘hail the cross and kill by the Bible’ to enact (un)holy vengeance on those engaging in any of the seven sins. This is the most dramatic song on the album, with Roel van Helden’s thunderous drums and Attila Dorn’s powerful vocals brilliantly evoking the terrifying image of vampiric hellspawn galloping out of the underworld to wreak havoc on the living.

‘Sacramental Sister’ has perhaps my favourite lyrics of the album, telling the story of a rather lustful nun. The titular servant of God is weaker-willed than her more pious sisters: though she has ‘locked up [her]grail’, she is soon led to ‘do the Morning Star’. Perfectly in keeping with the band’s subversion of Christian imagery, this probably the most blasphemous an act a nun can commit: the Bible describes both Lucifer and Jesus as the Morning Star. [3]

Meanwhile, ‘Let There Be Night’ is the album’s triumphant finale, continuing the tradition of operatic album closers such as ‘Lupus Dei’ and ‘Ira Sancti’. A twist on the story of Genesis 1: 3-5, [4] the band are clearly subverting the most famous phrase uttered by God: “Let there be light.” The song actually pays tribute to the night that was then separated from day, damning the Sun in a rousing paean to darkness. Dorn is at his best here, his powerful vocals soaring over Falk Maria Schlegel’s keyboard-organ to bring forth a truly majestic moment that I would give blood to see played live.

Powerwolf_-_Blessed_&_Possessed

As with previous albums, the music often takes a back seat to Dorn’s phenomenal singing. Though this has served them well, the instrumental moments where the music really shines through aren’t given as much attention as they deserve, and riffs are more often than not simply a repetition of the main melody without a vocal line. This is certainly true of the interlude at 3:20 in ‘Sacramental Sister’: though it is the album’s stand-out musical moment by dint of being slower and more thoughtful, it could do with being longer. Schlegel’s organ is also much quieter throughout the album than it deserves to be, with more prominence given to the guitars; if the band are aiming to capture a pseudo-Catholic sound, the organ should be given more of an airing. His crowning moment on this album is the resounding intro to ‘Let There Be Night’, which is all too quickly overshadowed by the guitars.

Despite the fun they have clearly had writing the lyrics, and the majestic music on display, Powerwolf have not managed to conquer their one weakness: their distinctive sound does get somewhat repetitive, especially towards the end of the album. While the songs on Blessed & Possessed are all consistently strong, each standing well enough on its own, the unrelenting pace and relatively similar style for each song means they tend to merge into one on repeated listens. Previous albums may have had some forgettable songs, but they made up for that with a wider variation in terms of pace and style. A more mature, tongue-in-cheek style has helped lyrically, though more of the sillier songs like ‘Murder at Midnight’ from Blood of the Saints would be fun, and further exploring the pace of ‘Kreuzfeuer’ on Preachers of the Night would certainly help musically to avoid their uniquely brilliant sound and style becoming stale.

That said, if the only failing of an album is suffering from a slightly repetitive sound, it’s still a triumphant success. Brimful of tongue-in-cheek wickedness, playfully subversive imagery, and bombastic power metal, Blessed & Possessed is without a doubt the best Powerwolf album to date.

Footnotes
1. Sadly, due to the Satanic influences wrought within me by my love of heavy metal, I can no longer step onto consecrated ground and enter a church.
2. http://vampires.monstrous.com/Strigoi.htm
3. http://www.gotquestions.org/morning-star.html
4. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1

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Nick is talking about music. It's best just to let him.

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