Running Wild is one of the last of a dying breed – a band that keeps on chugging solely on the support of their fans. No big concert tours, no multi-page spreads in major magazines, no heavy rotation on “Headbanger’s Ball” – hell, nothing in America at all! Not even a record deal, which is why many people probably don’t even know about their latest release, Rogues En Vogue. Oh sure, you can catch a little something on Blabbermouth every now and then, but is it ever anything that would motivate a reader to search out any of their Pirate Metal? I guess the name alone can draw some curiosity, as it did for me way back in 2000 when I kept seeing the band in the new racks of the record store I worked at. This eventually led me to pick up Death or Glory on cassette for a mere dollar. I damn near wore that thing out. Still, it wasn’t for another year or so that I started to pick up more of their stuff, spurred on by some new kids at my radio station, and later none other than Matt from Exhumed, but I digress. Although they may have seen some modest stateside success in the early 90s, nowadays most folk surely only hear of this band via word of mouth, despite their 20+ year history. On that note, here’s a bunch of words from my mouth that will attempt to persuade you to check out their latest effort.
After some early work that dwelled in the realm of Satanism, Running Wild and leader Rock N’ Rolf Kasparek eventually turned their sights towards the equally as metal but not nearly as explored realm of pirates. The rest, as they say, is history. They found their niche, with songs like “Under Jolly Roger”, “Pile of Skulls”, “Tortuaga Bay”, and more tales of the marauders of the sea. Yarrrrrrrr. Their musical approach hardly changed much, continuing in a traditional metal with hints of thrash and power metal and of course a few folk elements thrown in for effect. Yikes – too much background information! Let’s get on to the damn album.
We start things off with “Draw the Line”, a mid-tempo number that is solid but perhaps not best fit to open an album. On the other hand, “Angel of Mercy” blows things apart with a nice little drum leading into their more signature thrash/boogie sound. OK, maybe “boogie” isn’t the best word for pirates – a thrash jig? Why not! Grab your bottle of rum and get down to it. “Skeleton Dance” falls somewhere in between musically but keeps the jig factor going. “Skull and Bones” is the first obviously pirate song, with a few moments here and there that give it a nice “tale of the sea” feel. The title track is a fun listen with some strong solos and tight rhythm guitar laying down the foundation for another yet another pirate tale. “The War” is the requisite epic this time around (they always have at least one 10+ minute track on every album). It’s no “Treasure Island” or even “The Battle of Waterloo”, but it’s a solid work that will leave you celebrating whatever war it is that they’re singing of.
Maybe I missed it before, but one thing I’m noticing this time around is the amount of Judas Priest influence in this band. Maybe it should have been obvious since their name is also an old Priest song, but I really started to notice it on “Angel of Mercy”, which sounds like it was built around the main riff from “Painkiller”, and “Soul Vampires”, which sounds more than a little like a reworking of “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”. There may well be more but I’d rather not nitpick. Heck, if you’ve got to invoke the spirits of a band, it might as well be one of the best, right?
So what we end up with here is a Running Wild album that will likely fall just below the “Best of Artist” level reserved for albums like Masquerade and Pile of Skulls. This is still a solid effort from these barnacle-encrusted Germans that show no signs of watering down. Yes, the material isn’t as great as it could be, but when you’ve already done some of your best work, you don’t have to match that to make a good album. Much like Motorhead, Running Wild doesn’t really make bad albums – they just make albums that aren’t as good as some of their others. For that, I raise a hooked hand in salute.