Released in September, the album by German metal band Powerwolf Call of the wild packs as many stories with mythical characters borrowed from fiction and wins with epic airs. So it’s no surprise to hear guitarist and songwriter Matthew Greywolf call it a âvisual albumâ.
Steeped in their now iconic heavy metal style, Powerwolf goes louder and louder through 11 tracks, singing about beasts, werewolves and even rats. They took their message a step further with merchandising. A limited edition Call of the wild came with a resin wolf bust, bearing the Latin phrase “Lupus Vobiscum”, which translates to “wolf with you”.
The idea of ââa two-kilogram bust – which is now out of print – packed with a fan album isn’t far-fetched for Greywolf. âAt first it’s always like a weird idea. It was like, ‘Whatever it takes, I want to have it,’ âhe laughs. It took them two years to bring the idea to fruition, right after the release of their previous album. The sacrament of sin . Greywolf adds: “I still have the first prototype here, which looked ridiculous.”
He compares these kinds of âextra projectsâ to the group that nurtures his inner children. âIt’s like being a kid who could develop their own action figure. It’s like a dream come true, âhe adds. While it might sound indulgent, it certainly keeps their fans in mind, while not straying too far from the group’s fantasy world.
In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Greywolf discusses making Call of the wild, their bonus album Miss a Cantorem [featuring guests from bands such as Soilwork, Trivium, Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth and more] and make accessible heavy music. Extracts:
Rolling Stone India: How does it feel to make an album in this context of a pandemic? How did this affect the processes and even the outcome?
Matthew Greywolf: Well, artistically, I would say that the pandemic had no influence on the album. We simply refused to let the pandemic influence what we do creatively, because for us the world of Powerwolf is this creative world, like an escape from real life.
I would say we were pretty successful in leaving out the circumstances of the outside world in the process of writing and arranging the album. As you can imagine, when it comes to studio production, things were a little different and logistically, and there had been challenges.
We recorded the main parts of the album in the Netherlands, and therefore we had to leave Germany to go to the Netherlands. In fact, two days before the check-in started, we still weren’t sure whether we could travel or not. The borders could be closed. And so it was kind of an adventure. We just had the attitude, ‘Let’s go.’
Work with Jens [Bogren, producer], was he traveling with you?
He was working remotely in the background. We recorded in the Netherlandsâ¦ originally we wanted to work with Jens in Sweden, but it soon became clear that traveling to Sweden would be next to impossible. So we moved to Holland and worked with Joost van den Broek, who is also responsible for the orchestrations and those kinds of parts on the album. We had Jens at a distance and he came over for the mix he did in Sweden. We had been connected via Zoom. I was a little skeptical at first but you get used to it pretty quickly.
There is so much on this record. Can you tell me how much you end up holding back if you do this at all? How not to overdo it when you are Powerwolf and you always build these grandiose songs?
I see what you mean. Indeed, this is one of the main challenges when it comes to mixing the album, balancing the ingredients. In the mix, we skipped a lot of thingsâ¦ sometimes we had to fine-tune the orchestration, just to not overload the song, so to speak. This album is very dense in detail, it was a very difficult process deciding what to leave out and how things would be balanced. I think we’ve found a really good way to balance them.
We’re basically a metal band, and it’s the song that counts. Orchestration is like the flavor in the soup, but it is not the soup itself. Jens is actually one of the best when it comes to things like this. It was quite pleasant.
Is it harder to roll back certain elements as you make more music?
I have to admit it got a bit higher on the last two albums. When we have expanded the feel of, say, cinematic things. There is a lot more detail in the songs than there were five or six years ago. At the time, it was even a little easier. But at the same time, I want to include all these more orchestral colorsâ¦ the album really takes advantage of these things.
Tome, Call of the wild is almost a visual album. There are so many scenes that come to mind when you listen to it.
There are a lot of cool characters that you created on Call of the wild. Like Beast of Gevaudan (Jayvodan), Varcolac, and Reverent of Rats. They’re story-based, but do you think you’ll ever have a plan for these characters in a Powerwolf video game or something like that?
Well that would be awesome. We haven’t ventured into that yet. Maybe someday it will be a very beautiful thing. I think it’s been two years since we released our board game, which was a blast to make. Actually, I never thought about it, but this game developer contacted us and he just had his adventure. He was awesome. So maybe a video game would one day be a good thing. Especially with the background of Call of the wild, where, as you mentioned, a few songs deal with real historical beast legends.
How do you decide which stories and characters will fit into Powerwolf songs? How do you decide what is a good fit?
That’s a very good question. We read stuff all the time, out of personal interest. I’m a total nerd for this kind of literature … looking for historical literature and interesting stories. I don’t do this so much for Powerwolf as it is my personal hobby. And every once in a while you come across a story where you think, âThis is just perfect material for a Powerwolf song. For example, “Beast of GÃ©vaudan” cries to be a song by Powerwolf [laughs].
But then again, sometimes it takes a while before you get the right musical idea for this. I came across the story of the Beast of GÃ©vaudan almost 10 years ago. I took a note and underlined it. I had this note in my studio and it took years. This kind of story just needs its time. Call of the wild had three of those songs that tell historical stories – “Beast of GÃ©vaudan”, “Varcolac” and “Blood for Blood”.
You’ve probably come to that point where sometimes fans come to you and come up with stories that could match songs?
Yes it does. A lot of fans send us interesting things. It’s a great type of interaction; be inspired by the fans. Maybe one day they will recognize their allusion in a song. It’s exactly the kind of direction that I really like about the heavy metal scene.
When you do this kind of heavy music which is so friendly and accessible, do you have people who like it even though they can say they don’t like metal?
In fact, yes. And I take it as a big compliment. A lot of people actually say, âUsually I don’t get into metal, but I get into Powerwolf. It shows that as a songwriter you know that a good song is a good song. If you play very hard, or if you play a little softer, it doesn’t matter.
What can you tell me about the bonus album Missa Cantorem, which came out in July?
The idea was quite spontaneous. At first, it wasn’t even the idea to create an entire album with it. In early 2020, just before a pandemic situation started, we were touring South America, with Amon Amarth. One evening, after a few beers, we thought: “Come on, let’s imagine what it would be like if Johan [Hegg] would sing our song “Nightside of Siberia”. It’s a song that has a bit of Amon Amarth vibe. After a few more beers we went to ask him and he said, âYeah, sure, let’s go. “
A few weeks later we heard the version he had recorded and we were so overwhelmed by it. We just said, ‘Come on, let’s ask a few other singers that we like and are friends with. Let’s just see what happens. And that’s what we’ve done. And here we are with an entire album with like 10 high class and unique singers singing Powerwolf classics. I am quite happy with the project.
Finally, what have you heard on the Indian scene and have you ever had offers to perform here?
I have to admit that so far I know very little about the scene in India. I don’t know if we have ever had any proposal to play in India.
But of course one of the greatest privileges of our job is that we get to know so many countries. We have never been to India and it would be a dream come true one day, playing in a festival or leading a tour. It’s one of the best things to meet metal fans from all over the world.