Oftentimes, if you see a band at a festival and they impress you enough times, you start to want to see them at clubs gigs as well. Powerwolf is one of those bands for us. Having caught them at Tuska Open Air in 2014 and RockFest in 2019, we realized that it was time we caught them headlining at long last. When it was announced that they were partnered with the ridiculously cheesy yet delightful Gloryhammer, this became one of the must-see events of 2019. The tour brought them to The Circus in Helsinki on November 19th, 2019.
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Listen along to the setlist as a playlist on Spotify:
We came to The Circus and found ourselves surprised by the overwhelmingly active crowd for a Tuesday night in Finland. We did miss the intro and first song, but fortunately made it in time for “Angus McFife,” everyone’s first Gloryhammer song. It was everything it should have been: silly and fun and just a bit more crazy and upbeat because it’s live. The band were all dressed up in their medieval space armor and in full character as Angus McFife and company. Thomas Winkler greeted “the land of lakes and woods and eternal darkness” and offered to take us to a land of mysteries and wonder with, “The Land of Unicorns.” Straight-up, these guys had one of the loudest and craziest crowds I’ve seen all year.
We’ve been hearing that the sound quality at The Circus has been a bit hit or miss recently, and Gloryhammer’s set was sadly a miss. There was a bit of synth, loud drums, and murky vocals, and you had to really strain your anus to hear any guitars. The quality of the band’s performance could be heard if you listened closely, so it was a shame that the venue didn’t reflect that.
It was Gloryhammer’s first time playing in our “beautiful city” but they claimed to have waited until they had written the best album ever, and then got the crowd to chant “hoots, hoots” for a minute or to introduce “The Hollywood Hootsman.” Winkler, throughout the night, explained that they are fueled by neutron stars, which are made of alcohol, introduced a random fellow from the crowd: Peter from Vancouver, Canada, talked about having invented sound in space, fought a goblin with a giant (glory?) hammer, and also asked how everyone got here and claimed that someone on stage came here in a flying submarine for “Hootsforce.” They went on to cast spells and offered us one last song about unicorns towards the end.
Gloryhammer had a fun and energetic stage presence, but after a while, all of their songs blended together a bit and they could use a bit more diversity in their overall sound before they really kick things up to the next level. These guys might be a bit too over-the-top silly for us, but nevertheless, we certainly wouldn’t pass them up at a festival, so just throwing it out there for the 2020 festival scene (hint, hint). As well, knowing that Zargothrax is played by Christopher Bowes regularly, it’s interesting to note that Michael Barber, their touring keyboardist, tends to stay back in the shadows.
Into the Terrorvortex of Kor-Virliath [intro]
1. The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust)
3. Angus McFife
4. The Land of Unicorns
5. Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress!
Also Sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss song) [interlude]
6. The Hollywood Hootsman
7. Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy
9. Masters of the Galaxy
10. Universe on Fire
11. The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee
The National Anthem Of Unst [outro]
The stage changeover seemed very swift and efficient, which we suspect had something to do with the German crew. Their stage props seemed big and heavy and we thought it seemed unrealistic that they get the sound and stage set for 21:00; however, at 20:59, the lights dimmed and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” played as an intro, so color us impressed! We relocated to behind the sound booth where we could see a bit more of the stage, though it was nice that they had such big risers as it made it easy for everyone to see the performers throughout the show.
The sound was more balanced as Powerwolf began, but remained somewhat murky on the whole. Fortunately the guitars were more audible this time around. The riffing feels very traditional old-German power metal in style, but their hint of black metal and funny lyrics make them into a fun event. We were again shocked at how many people were at the show, chanting and clapping raucously between each song. After the first song, they the audience us to celebrate the “holy metal-mas” with Powerwolf. They asked for a heavy metal army, and the crowd willingly enlisted right away.
Unlike the unfortunate case last weekend where the opener outshined the headliner, Powerwolf was able to match Gloryhammer point for point in every performance category. Dramatic speeches between songs, costumes and stage presence, energy and chemistry, technical performance… they had it all on top of generally better songs. We had been a bit disappointed by their setlist at RockFest, and they immediately seemed like they were trying to make it up to us with “Fire and Forgive” and “Incense & Iron.”
Much like at RockFest, keyboardist Falk Maria Schlegel couldn’t stay still and appeared to take up part of the frontman mantle every time he wasn’t playing. They had the full crowd put their arms into a cross overhead for “Killers with the Cross” as yet another cross lit up in the backdrop. After they played the single, “Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend,” there was an overly long and very difficult singalong, followed by “Armata Strigoi,” where the crowd put the complicated singalong training to work. This was admittedly a bit tedious as it took a pretty long time. It was funny the first time, but the second time it just felt exhausting.
The crew took away the back-lit cross halfway or so through the show and the band announced that this was a special night as over 1000 people had come to the show, which was a record for them in the Finnish clubs. During the set, they only took one break to slow things down with “Where the Wild Wolves have Gone,” which was actually a nice change of pace to regain some energy as the show passed the 1-hour mark. “Blessed & Possessed” was another crowd-favorite, followed by the newest old single, so to speak: “Kiss of the Cobra King.”
Attila Dorn announced that they had two more songs left and got the crowd to properly roar for more, and getting the crowd to clap along with Schlegel, for “We Drink Your Blood.” The crowd chanted “Powerwolf” and Dorn dramatically sang, “Dear ladies and gentlemen, raise your metal fist in the air and let us thank heavy metal for making us what we are today,” and so on, praising the holy metalness, and then fully tripped over his tongue and fumbled his speech. Luckily, the crowd was fully on the band’s side and gave Dorn a laugh and big cheer. He then got back into it and they finished up the main set with “Lupus Dei.”
They came back for three more songs, “Sanctified by Dynamite,” “Coleus Sanctus,” and “Werewolves of Armenia.” There was a disappointing lack of “Sacred & Wild” in their set yet again, but admittedly, their songs all start to sound the same after a while as well, so if we missed out on one song, at least we heard similar material. The performance itself was also fantastically executed with precision and flare, so we can forgive the loss of one song.
Ozzy Osbourne – Mr. Crowley [tape]
Lupus Daemonis [intro]
1. Fire and Forgive
2. Army of the Night
3. Incense & Iron
4. Amen & Attack
5. Killers with the Cross
6. Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend
7. Armata Strigoi
9. Resurrection by Erection
10. Where the Wild Wolves have Gone
11. Blessed & Possessed
12. Kiss of the Cobra King
13. We Drink Your Blood
14. Lupus Dei
Wolves Against the World [outro]
I mentioned this already, but I genuinely can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such an active and vocal crowd on a Tuesday. The Finnish audiences have been a bit lethargic the last few months, but the whole floor was alive with energy and roaring cheers all night long. Both bands delivered a fun and upbeat performance, and while neither band exactly sits at the pinnacle of song composition, the night was full of catchy music and more audience interaction than was strictly necessary. It seems these guys are wildly popular in Finland though, so hopefully we’ll be seeing more of them soon, and maybe in a bigger venue next time!
Photos: Marco Manzi