Sound — 3
Bands naming themselves with the image of wolves in their inspirational frame seems almost as common as those who think of bears. There's Wolfmother, Wolf Alice, Turbowolf, and Wolves Like Us among others, but it's Powerwolf that holds the wolf inspiration closest to heart. Founded by brothers Charles and Matthew Greywolf, Powerwolf's subject matter drew directly from old European legends of werewolves in their classic heavy metal debut album, "Return in Bloodred," and the power-metal-adjacent follow-up album, "Lupus Dei." Wanting to gravitate further towards that orchestral-laden power metal style, Powerwolf impressively hit the mark with their third album, "Bible of the Beast," showing more intriguing songwriting in both the metal aspects and the neoclassical aspects; not to mention that vocalist Attila Dorn started to use more of that opera-style voice he had practiced in college.
Having found a new and satisfying style, Powerwolf have continued delivering that brand of power metal in their following albums, which is starting to lose its fervor for being formulaic. In their sixth album, "Blessed & Possessed," this is still the case, where songs are built together with the same kind of operatic intros and orchestral breaks paired with basic power metal riffs (whether constant uptempo chugging, like in "Christ & Combat," or rocksteady midtempo riffs, like in "Sanctus Dominus"). Aside from the fact that the guitar solos are noticeably better than they were in their previous album (see "Blessed & Possessed," "Armata Strigoi," "We Are the Wild"), the album's sound hasn't moved an inch forward from that heard in 2013's "Preachers of the Night."
Homogeneity in sound has always been a liability that many power metal bands face, but what makes things even worse for "Blessed & Possessed" is the fact that there are several cases of recycled compositional elements from previous Powerwolf albums. The reused chugging riffs may be excusable (like the triplet stampede chugging in "Blessed & Possessed" and "All You Can Bleed," or the gallop chug patterns in "Armata Strigoi"), but the more uncanny cases are when songs wield distinct songwriting pieces that have recently been done before. The vocal melody in the chorus of "Dead Until Dark" is synonymous with that of the "Blood of the Saints" song "Son of a Wolf," the ending song "Let There Be Night" uses the same kind of atmospheric outro of rain and church bells heard in the "Preachers of the Night" outro song "Last of the Living Dead" (which was also used in the opening and ending songs in "Bible of the Beast"), and several elements in "Higher Than Heaven" make it sound the same as the "Preachers of the Night" song "In the Name of God (Deus Vult)" - from the peppy vocal melody in the chorus and the gallop chugging verse riff, to the same melody-rich halftime that comes in the middle.
Lyrics — 5
After tackling the classic werewolf legend of "Thiess of Kaltenbrun" in their concept album "Lupus Dei," Powerwolf's lyrics have continued articulating stories centered on the theme of divinely-dispatched werewolves fighting for the Lord - the same style of lyrics are found yet again in "Blessed & Possessed." A quasi-concept can be found spanning throughout some of the songs, with "Blessed & Possessed" laying the foundation of a convent of werewolf warriors fighting in the service of God - this is reinforced in "Army of the Night" and "We Are the Wild." Powerwolf also use the myth of undead werewolves who drink the blood of the fallen in "Dead Until Dark" and "All You Can Bleed," though this subject matter has been used before by the band in the "Blood of the Saints" song "All We Need Is Blood," and the blood-drinking imagery in "All You Can Bleed" is as boilerplate as all the other Powerwolf songs about blood-drinking.
That's not the only case of subject matter repetition. The catchy crusader theme of "Christ & Combat" is synonymous with the "Bible of the Beast" song "Raise Your Fist, Evangelist," and even cribs the same kind of alliterative title as the "Preachers of the Night" song "Amen & Attack." And the topic of carnal lust overwhelming the righteous warriors in "Higher Than Heaven" is recycled from the "Preachers of the Night" song "Coleus Sanctus," though that topic is also given a different take in "Sacramental Sister," which tells the story of a nun who deceits with her promise of purity ("Lamb on the alter and werewolf in bed"). Nearly the same case can be made about Powerwolf recycling their lyrics in parallel to their music, but as a band that's always been set on the topic of werewolves and other Middle Age themes, it's an infraction that's easier to tolerate.
Overall Impression — 4
For a band that showed an impressive amount of growth within the first half of their catalog, the past couple of albums have displayed Powerwolf idling by on the same formula. From the general homogeneity in sound to the tangible reuse of compositional bits done before, the output in "Blessed & Possessed" is a weaker echo of "Preachers of the Night," which was a weaker echo of "Blood of the Saints." This evident growing of staleness proves yet again that a band can't just keep doing the same thing on each album without sounding tiresome, no matter how well the formula originally was.