Avast, ye scurvy dogs.
It’s been almost two months since Running Wild released Rapid Foray to the world, and just a little bit longer since I heard it for the first time. After an initial tepid reaction resulted in zero written output, I took some time away and tried again. That time I was much more excited about it, but poor time management (among other things) and a detour into cavernous death metal derailed that attempt as well.
So now here I am with the sports season in my rearview, a trip to Disneyland in sight, and a Rock n’ Rolf Kasparek-shaped monkey on my back that I’d like to get off before embarking on the latter. Unfortunately, two months of even on-and-off listening to an album makes it incredibly difficult to review. Now you’ve gotten comfortable with it, enjoying it here, not so much there, and settled into a groove where you can no longer be truly critical…at least in a traditional sense. Then it occurred to me to combine this long-overdue write-up with my imminent vacation.
“But how?”, you may be asking. Well if you’ve been around the site long enough, you already know. For everybody else, and as a refresher, I’ll explain.
I love the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It’s fun, relaxing, refreshing on a hot day, and it’s got PIRATES. It has always been a must-do on any day at Disneyland. My wife used to take it a step further, though, and make sure we went on it 3-4 times a day. Multiply that by a 3-5 day park hopper, and it gets to be a bit much. Multiply that by annual (and sometimes multiple) trips, and you’ve got to find ways to manage. Thankfully, by the late aughts, Alestorm had entered my life. By the third time through on whichever trip it was, I began soundtracking the ride with their songs instead of the piped-in music and dialogue. It was a good bit of fun, but finite, given their limited output at the time. I tried to do the same with Running Wild to mix it up, but with a larger body of work, it was much more difficult, and never got very far. But by limiting my options…
…yes, let’s attempt to see how Rapid Foray might work as the audio accompaniment to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean.
As you leave the dock and float through the bayou…well, I don’t think there’s much you can do there. The sounds of night and a hint of banjo is suitable, plus it’s more filler than anything else, and doesn’t really need a pirate theme.
Then comes the splashdown and a bit of caverns and the familiar refrains of “Yo Ho (A Pirates Life for Me)”. The song doesn’t really fit either, but it’s the signature of the ride and sets the tone. We’ll go with “The Depth of the Sea – Nautilus”, a mostly mid-tempo instrumental number that sits at the midpoint of the album but works as a prelude to adventure. It picks up speed near the end which, if it were to coincide with the second, smaller splashdown, would work quite nicely to take you into the ride proper. Bonus catalogue choice: “Pirate Song” from The Brotherhood.
Soon you come upon a skeletal pirate, seemingly stranded on a desert isle with a seagull now calling him home. Quickly followed by another skeletal pirate captaining a ship through a storm, I think we have to have “Black Bart” here, a pirate tale that includes many of the elements seen here – and some we haven’t quite seen yet. Bonus catalogue choice: “Riding the Storm” from Death or Glory.
Ah, the tavern. I love this part. Who doesn’t love drunken skeletons, and seeing “booze” “flow” through a ribcage? Sounds like a great place to hear “By the Blood in Your Heart”. The sing-along parts lend themselves perfectly to a drunken chorus, and though there is no accordion (the preferred instrument of drunk pirates), the bagpipes near the end are a more than adequate replacement. Bonus catalogue choice: the title track from Black Hand Inn. SUPER BONUS ALESTORM CHOICE: “Nancy the Tavern Wench”.
Making a bit of a stretch here as I pick “Last of the Mohicans” as we pass the captain’s quarters. It’s a rather somber tale (“He became the last of the Mohicans/when his son/died in his arms”) though not entirely on-topic. Musically though it’s a great epic in the vein of classics like “The Ballad of William Kidd” (also this section’s bonus catalogue choice). OK, so it’s a little funny to see the skeletal pirate with an eyepatch BUT that’s the perfect segueway to…well, I’m going to cheat a bit here and use “Black Bart” again as we pass the treasure room since it fits thematically, giving a happy ending to the pirate who now rests eternally amongst his treasures. Bonus catalogue choice: “Diamonds of the Black Chest” from Under Jolly Roger.
As we leave the caverns into the open sea, we face a fog screen and the relatively ominous tones of “Blood Moon Rising”, taking us to a bit darker place both musically and physically. Bonus catalogue choice: “Into the Arena” from Port Royal.
That soon gives way to the big battle scene, and it’s a hard choice between album opener “Black Skies, Red Flag” and “Warmongers” which immediately follows it. So, we’ll go with a rotation there. Hey, gotta keep things interesting for the folks who ride 3-4 times a day, right? Beware of the cannonball splashes and the Spanish soldiers in hiding. Bonus catalogue choice: the title track from Under Jolly Roger (of course).
Floating through what I can only assume is supposed to represent Tortuga is the real adventure. I’d say it’s time to let “Rapid Foray” take us through for awhile. Now the tempo is a bit upbeat for the pace of the ride (which is anything but rapid), but it certainly has the necessary spirit to get us past the wench auction and pillaged, plundered, and burning buildings. Bonus catalogue choice: “Treasure Island” from Pile of Skulls, because no Running Wild experience is complete without it.
I’m not really sure what to do with the jail scene. We could do a bit of “Hellestrified” since it doesn’t really fit anywhere else. It would really just serve as background for the chatter of the prisoners trying to lure the dog holding the keys to their cell (which, as has been pointed out, is open anyway). Heck, that’s kind of funny – let’s make the bonus catalogue choice “Me and the Boys” from Shadowmaker.
Beware of drunken buccaneers with pistols and precariously hanging barrels of gunpowder. I’m taking the easy way out here with “Stick to Your Guns”, perhaps a bit too on-point but it also helps to wind things down before our final incline to civilization. Bonus catalogue choice: “Into the Fire” from Victory.
That just leaves “Into the West” to take us out. I didn’t think about it at first, but it does seem appropriate, even as Jack Sparrow serenades us in his own treasure room, and the disembodied voice of Davy Jones sends us on our way. Bonus catalogue choice: “Prisoners of Our Time” from Gates to Purgatory, because reality sets in that we are trapped in the present and can never really experience the time where pirates ruled the sea.
I didn’t think I’d end up using the entire album, but sometimes, things just happen that way.
All that aside, what we’ve got here is a pretty standard Running Wild album in context. It has a lot in common with Shadowmaker and Resilient , and like those post-reunion albums, it has found its place comfortably amongst the discography, the best material holding its own against the best…well maybe the “B” level of the rest. To me in that regard they’re a lot like Motorhead: not really any BAD albums, just ones that aren’t as good as others. But they’re always fun.
And remember…dead men tell no tales.