In 2013 Powerwolf shook the world with the release of their critically acclaimed Preachers of the Night. Despite always appearing as an underdog in metal circles (you’d be surprised at the amount of metal fans, particularly across the Atlantic, who don’t know anything about them) the quality of their output has not only remained constant since the very beginning, but actually increasing with every new release.
Still celebrating their 10th Anniversary as a band, we met with Powerwolf at the great Hellfest 2014 right before they took the main stage by storm.
Metal Blast: You recently celebrated your 10th anniversary at the Out and Loud Festival. How do you feel you guys have changed in these 10 years?
Matthew Greywolf: I don’t think that there are any changes; for some people it might look like we suddenly appeared where we are now, but these 10 years have been a period of constant work. With every release and every tour there were more people who were interested in the band, much more so in the last 3 or 4 years. It wasn’t a sudden thing for us, it was more of a constant development.
It was really exciting for us when somebody asked us what we were planning for our 10th anniversary, since it made us realize we had been doing this for 10 years. It really feels like we just released our first album, because we’ve been constantly working since then. I was surprised to see that we’re that old! [laughs]Falk Maria Schlegel: We’ve written a lot of music, played a lot of tours; the most important thing has always been to present our music to the audience. Although we now play in bigger stages, we haven’t changed how we write our music.
MB: 2013 and 2014 have been great years for Powerwolf. Number 1 in Germany with Preachers of the Night, nominated for several awards, etc. Do you feel that there was something about this new release that set it apart from your old material, or is it just part of the band’s development?
Matthew: It’s hard to say from our perspective, because with every album you try to outdo yourself and write something that is ahead of what you did before. Of course, we’ve gained a lot of recognition with this album, but I think that it was probably due to the fact that with the previous ones we got a lot of new fans who were just waiting for our new material to come out.
With Preachers of the Night we didn’t consciously change, or try to change, anything; as Falk said, we never changed our attitude towards writing the music and performing on stage. I think that our fanbase has just increased a lot with the last two albums, so that definitely played an important role.
MB: Do you think that the visual aspect of Powerwolf, the “corpse paint”, the religious paraphernalia, etc., are essential to the band, in a way that things just wouldn’t work without it?
Matthew: If we wanted to lose it, we could, but we don’t want to. Although for us it has always been important to deliver this visual side of the band, I always say that you have to divide things. There’s obviously no make up and no shows on the album, so the music itself is clearly the most important part, because if you don’t like it then you simply won’t come to the show. If you like the music and do come to the show, however, we want to deliver something special; this is what we do with the live performances. The music is the most important part, because without it you can stand on stage and do whatever you want, but nobody will listen to you.
Falk: It’s important that you can entertain with your music, not just play it on stage. This visual aspect has always been very important to us, from the very beginning, and we really love being able to celebrate this “metal mass” on stage.
MB: In an article that he wrote for Metal Blast, Michael Kiske criticized what he sees as the influence of “evil” in metal. Considering that Powerwolf does use a lot religious imagery, etc., in the music, do you think that “evil”, “Satan” or whatever you want to call it, plays a role not just in your band but in the genre in general?
Matthew: In a way, he is right, the whole imagery of heavy metal is indeed inspired by “evil”, if that’s what you want to call it. In the end, however, it’s entertainment; I mean, horror movies are inspired by “evil” too. I’m really convinced that 95% of all heavy metal bands singing about Satan simply use that sort of thing to deliver the kind of music they want to play, and I think that also goes for a really big part of the audience. After all, heavy metal bands singing about nice flowers on a meadow would just not fit.
Still, it’s a difficult question, to be honest. We use this kind of imagery and we write about religion, but we don’t try to convince anybody of anything. We write about historical things, like the Crusades in Preachers of the Night, but it’s never about making a statement.
MB: Speaking of Michael Kiske; Do you think that calling Powerwolf “power metal”, as many do, is appropriate?
Matthew: I don’t care; it’s up to us to write the music and up to you to describe it. I’m fine with being called “power metal”, “heavy metal”, or whatever you want. I tell people to just listen to it and see if they like it.
Falk: I think no power metal band uses a church organ though! [laughs] I prefer “heavy metal”; German power metal is a little bit different to what we sound like.
MB: Since Return in Bloodred you have released a new album every other year. By this standard, can we also expect something in 2015?
Falk: Yes! [laughs]Matthew: That’s the easy answer; yes [laughs]Falk: We just started the songwriting.
Matthew: We are at a very early stage, starting to plan the next release, but you can probably expect something in 2015.
MB: And what is the writing process for Powerwolf?
Matthew: We need the feeling of getting together, because all the members of Powerwolf inspire each other. Working via Skype, e-mail or anything like that is just not a way in which I can expect us to have fun. For us it’s really important to just enjoy what we do. I think that in this way we are a very traditional band, meeting each day and working on new song ideas.
MB: Considering the fame and size of the band, at what time did you guys realize that things were starting to get this big?
Matthew: One of these moments was probably Wacken 2008. It was a small show compared to what, for example, we played there last year, but it was one of the first times we realized that even in a very big festival, with many other bands playing at the same time, we could gather a considerable audience. That’s one of the first times I realized that the work of the previous years was starting to pay off. Of course, our first headlining tour was also one of such moments, since it showed us that we could do it on our own.
MB: From the very beginning, you have worked with Fredrik Nordström as producer; how much do you think he has influenced the sound of the band?
Matthew: I’d dare to say that very little. We are a band that knows very well what we expect from a song, so it’s more like he really understand what we want to achieve. It’s not that his impact in the music changes it, since what he does is truly realizing what we have in mind. Of course, by being able to realize our visions he has affected our sound, but not by giving his input because we come to his studio with very detailed visions of what we want to do. This is what makes him the perfect producer for us.
MB: What can we look forward to in the next year and, why not, the next 10 years?
Falk: The next album, the next tour… bigger stages? [laughs] We can’t plan ahead, we can only plan to make the new album and tour again.
Matthew: I’m very grateful for having been able to be around with these guys for 10 years, writing the music we want to write and having the privilege of writing music that a lot of people like, so I can only hope we can continue this way, everything else is secondary. It’s nice to have high chart entries, but that’s just a bonus. On a personal level, what I expect and wish for on a personal level is to be able to continue with what we do.