By David E. Gehlke
The prospect of touring North America is a double-edged sword for melodic European metal bands. While metal of this variety has maintained its validity in Europe, it remains on the fringe in North America, relegated to pockets of fans in major cities and uncertain prospects in the continent's heartland, meaning there is a chance of playing in front of smaller audiences and losing income in the process. It has either delayed or minimized the presence of many of the style's top-tier bands throughout the 1990s and 2000s and is now doing the same to Germany's POWERWOLF.
Despite repeated offers and pleas from their fanbase, POWERWOLF has yet to play a show in North America despite their relatively strong standing overseas. And with each passing studio album (their most recent being last year's "The Call Of The Wild"),the demand steadily grows, something keyboardist Falk Maria Schlegel was happy to discuss when he connected with BLABBERMOUTH.NET to talk about their new live album release, "The Monumental Mass: A Cinematic Metal Event".
Blabbermouth: You released "Call Of The Wild" last year but didn't play any shows in support immediately after that. What was that like?
Falk Maria: "Normally, when we release an album, we start touring and do it for one-and-a-half years or two. It was a little a bit of a strange feeling. This time, I was always thinking, 'Come on, some concerts will take place, right?' In the summer, we recognized it would be very difficult. Then, we had the 'Monumental Mass' idea in mind — a movie or a music video. We've had it for years. We thought, 'Let's do it now. Now is the right time to make it and to play the songs from the 'Call Of The Wild' album.' That was the starting point. It wasn't really a substitute. We wanted to do it for years and now was the right time. We don't consider the 'Monumental Mass' a live concert or show. It's completely different. It's more film or theater based on the visual work of POWERWOLF. We brought the theater scenes to life for the songs we chose. Classical theater has always been a source of inspiration for us. It was not so unusual to go this way."
Blabbermouth: Where did you start, then? With the songs or the production?
Falk Maria: "It was the songs. We had chapters: 'Temptation', 'Sin', 'Confession' and 'Forgiveness'. These are the major thematic concepts of the Christian faith, especially the Catholic faith. These chapters have determined the imagery of the 21st century. These topics are the source of inspiration and tension at the same time. Then we chose the songs for each chapter. For example, we never played 'Venom Of Venun' from the 'Sacrament Of Sin' album. This song fit perfectly in the chapter 'Temptation' in the Garden Of Eden scene. Our Garden of Eden was burning in the end. We had different backdrop designs — we wanted people that when they saw the show for the first time, they didn't know what was coming next, that everything was a surprise."
Blabbermouth: All things considered, was it odd not having the crowd in front of you?
Falk Maria: "It was my main question. It was a little bit like, 'Oh my god. I need a crowd!' But, as I mentioned, it was easier than I thought. I was really into the scenery, like, 'What is going here?' And that's the POWERWOLF universe. It was like a second world, like in 'Stranger Things', the 'Upside-Down'. Then it was more interactive with myself and my bandmates. It was great to make this experience, to act like someone on the stage, but, of course, to be honest, I always missed the audience. I am super happy to see them again. Nothing can replace that."
Blabbermouth: POWERWOLF has a very layered and dense sound. Surely that poses a lot of issues when trying to replicate it live or in something like 'Monumental Mass'.
Falk Maria: "We consider ourselves a live, not a classic studio band. Okay, we are working very hard on details and orchestrations, but in the live situation, we have enough room or space to interact with the audience. That means, for example, we have a break in the song to have a sing-a-long with the audience. Then they decide how they will long they will sing. That's our approach in the live situation — it's quite spontaneous but also planned with certain elements. That's completely different from the studio or a streaming event. I love both, but I love playing live more than in the studio because it's less detailed. I consider myself an entertainer for the audience. If the audience entertains the band, then I guess everything is achieved."
Blabbermouth: Where else can POWERWOLF go with its sound then? You've carved out a pretty successful formula that appeals to a European audience. How do you keep it fresh?
Falk Maria: "There are two answers to that question: We are happy that we created a very unique sound. That isn't so easy. It's really tough to have your own trademarks. If you don't know one of our songs and you hear us, you know it's us. You can see the guitar solo; it's not shredding. That's one thing we're proud of. There's always development between our albums. 'Sacrament Of Sin' wouldn't sound like it did if we did 'Blood Of Saints'. On 'Lupus Dei', I used the church organ. Now, I use a Hammond Organ. I'm sure there's always development in our sound, but we don't want to deny our trademarks. We will never be a progressive rock/metal band. [Laughs] We will have our trademarks and continue to use them. You have the same thing with IRON MAIDEN or AC/DC. They have developed their trademarks. I don't want to say people are expecting something like that. That's our credo. Ten years ago, I never thought we would do a ballad, but we did on 'Sacrament Of Sin'. I told people we would never do a song with German lyrics, but now we have three. There's always development, but I'm quite sure when we write the next album or our tenth album, it will still sound like POWERWOLF. We don't want to betray our roots."
Blabbermouth: The million-dollar question, though, will POWERWOLF ever play North America?
Falk Maria: "I'm quite sure it's going to happen. Two years ago, we did a South American tour. Then, we started to plan for shows in North America and the pandemic started. Then our plans were gone. So there were concrete plans to come over and to play finally. We would love to play in North America. We need to plan it again because there was an unforeseen break for everyone in the music industry. I know that we have a lot of fans over there. We get so many reactions. We're quite sure that with this kind of music that people are waiting for us. I want to come over and play. It's a plan."
Blabbermouth: What's been your reasoning for not coming? Has it been more important to build the band in Europe?
Falk Maria: "It was a little bit about that and building the band in Russia. We toured a lot of Europe and did South America. We focused more on this area. But, we recognize that a lot of people would love for us to come over. We will feel it out with our booking agency. I really want to do it. I don't know why we haven't so far, but the time has come."
Blabbermouth: Are the long drives, spotty club conditions and the risk of losing money some of the reasons?
Falk Maria: "There's always a risk of losing money. If you're producing a stream like the 'Monumental Mass', there's a huge risk in losing money because it was expensive to put together. You don't know what's going to happen. It could have been like, 'No, I don't want to see another stream.' There was never a discussion about whether we do this or that or we lose money. Of course, it's our job to as a band to earn money. That wasn't the reason. When you go to a country for the first time, you're not going to play huge venues. We started playing in small pubs here. That's normal. My impression is that there are a lot of fans in the U.S. I'm sure we won't start with ten people. I'm sure of that. We will do it. I'm the guy in the band who organizes the live shows. My word is the law. [Laughs]"