Let’s not fool anyone here, these days a new Powerwolf album only means more of the music that we already know. This is a true statement to the point where today most of their albums are absolutely interchangeable and it is extremely easy to lose track of what song belongs on which one. All the usual suspects are here one more time: organ-like keyboards, operatic vocals, Latin chants, exaggerated grimaces, and more mentions of the words “confess”, “sanctify”, “sacrifice” and other pseudo-religious jargon than any other metal band has attempted, they all give us a brand new collection of the earwormy and bombastic Power Metal songs that we expect from these guys. All this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Powerwolf do know how to make a good and catchy metal song, and there is a reason why, alongside Sabaton, they are probably the biggest and most popular name in the Power Metal subgenre right at this moment.
The album opens with “Faster than the Flame”, a totally traditional Powerwolf song with a very catchy chorus and a fast-paced riff that makes a very good opener, but no surprises here at all. Next is “Beast of Gevaudan”, a very interesting choice for a 1st single, as this song has unusual pacing that is not expected but is welcome. With its breakneck riffing and a very headbang-able middle section it delivers. “Dancing with the Dead” is next and here we are treated to another by-the-book Powerwolf song, but one that has a great verse guitar melody and an anthemic chorus that will certainly sound amazing life. The next song, “Varcolac” reminds me very much of “Werewolves of Armenia” from 2009’s “Bible of the Beast”, both musically and lyrically. It almost feels like a sequel to the above mentioned. It is a perfectly OK song where the drum kicks lead the way, but nothing spectacular. “Alive of Undead” is next, and this one gets a bit more interesting. It is a dramatic mid-tempo ballad, sung beautifully by the always talented Attila Dorn. It stands out and feels different to the rest of the album. “Blood for Blood” is right next to change the mood completely with its happy bagpipes and its marchy and jumpy pace. Strong Sabaton vibes in this one, and as a side note, I love the sound of the bass in this bite-sized track. After this pair of interesting choices, we are back to usual Powerwolf sounds with “Glaubenskraft”, an excellent track that is totally sung in German. It has gothic vibes, catchy AF melodies, nice guitar harmonies and it is probably my favourite song on the album.
The last third of the album is not as memorable though, bringing us “Call of the Wild”, a radio-friendly track with 80s rock vibes and nice guitar harmonies. It is not a bad track but again a totally middle-of-the-road Powerwolf song. “Sermon of Swords” tries to mix things up a bit with its syncopated riffing, but in the end, it lacks the punch of the previous tunes in the album and ends up being painfully average. “Undress to Confess” is next, and it reminds me a bit too much of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from 2018”s “The Sacrament of Sin”, both in musical structure and in its tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Unfortunately, this one is not as memorable as “Diamonds…”. Fortunately the album closes on a high note with “Reverent of Rats”, a playful and dynamic Power Metal anthem. Everything in this closer song works perfectly, from its fast-paced rhythm to the super catchy chorus lines, it definitely leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
Production-wise, “Call of the Wild” is as tight as you would expect from a present metal powerhouse as Powerwolf. Everything is perfectly audible, and every musician plays its part with exceptional accuracy. The solos are never virtuosic but usually tasteful, the keyboards are as atmospheric as ever, the drumming is rock-solid, and as usual, Attila’s vocals are the highlight of this collection.
I happen to like Powerwolf and their songs, I think they play a very enjoyable mix of good riffs, amazing vocals and catchy hooks, and I admire their ability to keep writing earwormy songs every couple of years or so, but even the best of formulas wears thin after a while. Many bands, big and small, have made a full career out of releasing basically the same album year after year, but I’m afraid Powerwolf might be reaching the point where their formula and their gimmick are becoming too uninspired for their own good. If you like Powerwolf and don’t mind them doing more of the same, then you will definitely love this album, but if you’re looking for some sort of band evolution after 8 albums and 18 years of career, then you will be sorely disappointed. “Call of the Wild” is not by any means a bad album, on the contrary, it is a very enjoyable collection of Power Metal songs, but the band is starting to play it safe a little bit too much, and a more adventurous release would be incredibly welcome and celebrated by fans and newcomers alike.
Album highlights: Dancing with the Dead, Alive or Undead, Glaubenskraft, Call of the Wild, Reverent of Rats.
For fans of: Sabaton, Gloryhammer, Bloodbound, Orden Ogan
Release Year: 2021
Label: Napalm Records
Reviewed by Roman Ibarra