After collecting a rampant UK fanbase following their appearance at Bloodstock Open Air 2011, Powerwolf return to the UK at Camden's Underworld. Having been on the calendar for many a power metaller in addition to the sole UK date on a weekend, the gig sells out on the door. Not surprisingly, given the unflagging quality of these German metallers.
Opening with 'Let it Roar' Finland's Battle Beast explode on stage with heavy metal fervour. Although playing to a crowd who are largely unfamiliar with them, the six-piece's heavy metal with pop keyboards goes down a storm, particularly new vocalist Noora Louhimo who sounds like a female Udo Dirkschnieder from Accept. The audience who cannot get enough of the music obey each of Battle Beast's crowd participation requests, throughout the packed venue.
Most of the set is from this year's self-titled effort, with selections such as 'Kingdom', 'Black Ninja' and 'Neuromancer'. The sound is not the clearest and the six members on stage are very restricted in movement thanks to Powerwolf's drum kit but their energy is addictive and those unfamiliar with the songs are singing along as enthusiastically. Closing with 'Out of Control', these Finns leave behind a storm of a performance fit for a headliner.
Ashes of Ares have a fair amount to prove having risen from the ashes of Nevermore and Iced Earth. With Matt Barlow, the longest vocalist for US power metal legends Iced Earth on vocals in addition to guitarist Freddie Vidales who enjoyed a brief stint in the same band and Van Williams from prog metal maestros Nevermore, the trio are making serious sound waves in the metal scene. The new self-titled album is all that they offer tonight, opening with the serious power metal track 'The Messenger'. The audience are slightly sedate, unsure as to what to expect. Barlow's vocals are slightly off key but his falsettos are still as sharp as ever.
Songs performed include 'This is My Hell', 'What I Am', 'The Punishment' and 'Deadman's Plight' and despite the strength of the music, the contrast between Battle Beast's party –style of heavy metal contrasts more heavily to the serious nature and somewhat more complex arrangements of Ashes of Ares' material. The professionalism of the individual musicians shines through and Barlow looks confident on stage. When the set concludes, the audience reaction is solid but not as formidable as ovation secured by Battle Beast.
With the temperatures reaching boiling point in the venue in anticipation for Powerwolf,the atmosphere could not be more celebratory. Opening with 'Sanctified with Dynamite', the power metal outfit are visually surprised at how a vast portion of the audience sings along to each track word for word. Vocalist Attila Dorn's sturdy voice roars through the venue alongside ecclesiastical sounding metal. His rapport with the audience is immediate, with plenty of crowd participation to keep attention spans alert.
The setlist is largely drawn from 'Bible of the Beast' and 'Blood of the Saints' with 'We Drink Your Blood', 'Dead Boys Don't Cry' and 'Resurrection by Erection' . New album 'Preachers of the Night' receives a modest airing with prime cuts 'Kreuzfeurer', 'Coleus Sanctus' and 'Amen & Attack'. Despite the rabid attention each song receives, admittedly the reaction is a little more muted for these newer tracks but certainly due to unfamiliarity as opposed to quality.
A fun drum solo from Roel van Helden is a welcomed feature of the concert, particularly with the incorporation of Judas Priest's 'Painkiller' drum intro. Keyboardist Falk Maria Schlegel frequently vacates his keyboard position to become a second frontman and creating a jokingly competitive dynamic with Dorn.
Finally 'Lupus Dei' seemingly closes the set but the roar of the crowd demand the wolves return to the stage for an encore, consisting of great renditions of 'Raise Your Fist, Evangelist' and 'In the Name of God'. The sold out crowd are reeling at Powerwolf's performance, and with Dorn mentioning the band could return to these shores next year, the audience begin to chant "Next year! Next year!" As for Powerwolf, they could not have been happier.