March 24, 2023
Photos by Alan Snodgrass
Standing in the middle of the crowd on Friday night as Powerwolf strode onto the stage at the Regency Ballroom, one was struck by the sheer amounts of energy and excitement emanating from the crowd. If lead singer Attila Dorn had not pointed it out a few songs into the set, one would have never known that this was the first ever Powerwolf show in San Francisco.
While the band has been active for nearly twenty years, pumping out anthemic and soaring power metal, this year marked their first ever appearance in North America, let alone the West Coast. With the crowd going nuts as the first chords of the raging opener “Faster Than the Flame” began, Powerwolf motored through an impressive 18-song set of epic power mental anthems.
With plenty of Christian trappings and songs steeped in European traditions (namely werewolves), there is plenty of juicy metal for fans to sink their teeth into, as evidenced by the nearly sold out crowd at the show. As Dorn remarked during a break in the set, this was the world’s only “heavy metal mass” and it was easy to see why given the rapturous audience response and the classically influenced vocals/composition in most Powerwolf songs.
The following song, the surging “Incense & Iron” featured a massive crowd singalong midway through the song, which soundly impressed Dorn. Next up was another fan favorite, “Army of the Night,” arguably one of the band’s most well-known songs. And it’s easy to see why: catchy vocals along with some totally epic organ-style keyboards from Falk Maria Schlegel made it super easy to sing along to. Paired with some epic guitar soloing from Matthew Greywolf, the song was one of the more memorable of the evening.
A few songs later the band slowed down the tempo just a bit for the driving “Dancing With the Dead,” which had plenty of interlocking guitar harmonies between Matthew and Charles Greywolf. Again, the piece was highlighted by a stellar vocal performance from Attila Dorn, who demonstrated his impressive range. Later on, the band performed another fan favorite in the form of “Stossgebet,” which despite being sung entirely in Latin/German, did not stop the crowd from singing along to every word.
One moment that stood out more than all the other highlights during the set was the band’s performance of the speedy “Fire and Forgive,” which started out at a crawl, only to pick up speed, seeing the band play at some of the fastest tempos of the evening. Anchored by a furious double bass rhythm from Roel van Helden, the piece also featured plenty of interesting guitar harmonies and speedy chugging riffs from the Greywolfs.
After a short break from the stage, Powerwolf returned for a rousing three-song encore to cap off the night. Beginning with another big sing-along song in “Sanctified With Dynamite,” the band kept the intensity going through “We Drink Your Blood” and finally with “Werewolves of Armenia” to close out the night.
It’s easy to see why the band has become so big despite no touring on the other side of the Atlantic: their songs are just really good and really memorable. And while some metal bands struggle to translate their studio recordings onto the live stage, Powerwolf have no such problem. Hopefully they’ll be back for another epic night of power metal sooner rather than later.
Seven Kingdoms were the perfect opener to set the stage for Powerwolf. Sabrina Valentinek powers through the vocals with a wide range and emotive intensity, the strength of her voice standing up to the twin guitars of Kevin Byrd and Camden Cruz. The guitarists shred everything in sight while drummer Keith Byrd followed every change with complete control. And Sabrina’s hamburger slippers, which she told the crowd were “fucking comfortable,” rounded out the whole experience.
Setlist: Faster Than the Flame | Incense & Iron | Army of the Night | Amen & Attack | Dancing With the Dead | Armata Strigoi | Beast of Gévaudan | Stossgebet | Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend | Fire and Forgive | Where the Wild Wolves Have Gone | Sainted by the Storm | Resurrection by Erection | Blood for Blood (Faoladh) | Let There Be Night || Encore || Sanctified With Dynamite | We Drink Your Blood | Werewolves of Armenia