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Powerwolf - 'The Metal Mass Live' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/64/d1/d4/powerwolf-the-metal-mass-73-1480885065.jpg Hot

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A "thank you" to those thousands of faithful acolytes who have driven the band to the level they now enjoy and, as such, it's a jolly good romp.

Powerwolf have always known how to instil a sense of the melodramatic into their particular interpretation of Power Metal, with their lyrical blend of religious and Pagan themes (not to mention singing in Latin) and their use of BM-style corpse and face paint during their live shows. Now, thirteen years and six albums into their career they have brought their sense of the overblown to this, their second live offering and first DVD package.

It features three live shows – their headlining performances from the 'Masters Of Rock' Festival in the Czech Republic last July and 'Summer Breeze' a little more than a month later alongside a show from Oberhausen in September – there is also a short 'A Day In Life Of...' piece featuring behind-the-scenes footage from the '...Breeze' escapade, four of their videos and a fifty minute retrospective documentary entitled 'Kreuzweg – Of Wolves And Men', as well as an audio disc of the last-mentioned gig.

The first disc, featuring the 'Masters...' and '...Breeze' shows back to back, captures the full breadth and depth of Powerwolf's live show. The latter is an especially historic one for the band, as in 2005 they played their first ever festival show in the opening slot; a decade later they were back headlining, showing what hard work, dedication and building a loyal fan base can do.

The 'Monsters...' stage is transformed into the interior of a Gothic cathedral, with the obligatory wolf featuring prominently in the main fake stained glass window, and the band clothed in priest-like garb. They bring plenty of fire and brimstone to their energetic performance, especially in the virtually nonstop flamethrowers which explode throughout their energetic eighty-two minute set. Attila Dorn shows himself to be a polished front-man, knowing how to both interact with and cajole his audience, bringing the most out of them and thus allowing the band to feed off the energy of the thirty thousand massed souls – or should that be the blood of their Metallic hearts? The '...Breeze' set is somewhat less dramatic, with a fraction of the pyro used in the Czech show, placing the emphasis on the power of the band themselves, which is no less impressive in its energy and intensity. There also are some rather interesting camera angles for those who might be interested in how bands use triggers and backing tracks during their live shows.

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Oberhausen is the only indoor show of the three, recorded in an Opera house style setting, thus giving Powerwolf the opportunity to unleash their full theatricality in a more intimate setting. The impact is all the more dramatic for this, even if the cameras are often, surprisingly, a lot further away than during the festival recordings. It is made more impressive by the fact that this recording has the most accurate and powerful of the three, with the muddy guitar sound which plagued the previous shows replaced with one which is precise and clear.

Once you look past all the faux werewolves-overthrowing-the-altar theatricality, the performances across all three live shows are tight and accomplished and highly entertaining – and you can't ask for much more than that really!

The 'Kreuzweg...' documentary is relatively straightforward explanation of the band's history, complete with the sort of dramatic voiceover that the likes of MTV and VH1 previously would have employed if it was part of their programming. It's a fairly basic but sufficiently detailed exploration of the development of both the band's sound and their image – although it's a pity that the German language interviews with everyone except guitarist Matthew Greywolf, aren't subtitled. It does, however, demonstrate the insane level of devotion they invoke (sic) among their fans.

Overall, 'The Metal Mass Live' probably will not earn Powerwolf many new fans, but it is very much as a "thank you" to those thousands of faithful acolytes who have driven the band to the level they now enjoy and, as such, it's a jolly good romp. If you want to see/experience Powerwolf in all their insane, over the top, Gothic glory, they play the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire on Friday 3 February.

Mark Ashby

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