RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

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nightsblood
Posts: 2381

RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#1 » Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:00 pm

TL;DR
I like Running wild a lot. What do y'all think of 'em?

THE UNABRIDGED VERSION
Let's start by skipping all the obvious pirate cliches in this review and just hoist the anchor so we can set sail on this topic.....
Ooh, avoiding the pirate puns is gonna be harder than I thought.

Disclaimer: I consider RW among my 5 Most Favorite Bands Ever. So yes, I'm gonna be biased on some points. The other four, by the way, are Misfits, Riot, Blind Guardian, and Kai/Kiske-era Helloween. What can I say? Ich bin ein Deutcsh Power!
Why do I love RW so much? What sets them apart from Grave Digger, Rage, Stormwitch, and the 6,723 other traditional German metal bands not named Helloween and Blind Guardian?
Rolf just has the perfect metal voice. Rough but clear. the perfect bark for Metal music.
Killer guitar work.
Instantly memorable choruses.
Hooks! Dear God, the hooks in all these riffs are just crazy-catchy!
And finally, Consistency. Which leads to my next topic....

STAKING A BOLD CLAIM
RW may have the greatest streak of top-notch metal albums of any band ever. If you're not a fan, of course you disagree. Why are you even reading this? But if you are a fan, consider the run they put together:
Gates to Purgatory
Branded & Exiled
Under Jolly Roger
Port Royal
Death or Glory
Blazon Stone
Pile of Skulls
Black Hand Inn
Masquerade
Rivalry (getting iffy here, but I'll give it the nod for now)

That's TEN albums over the course of FOURTEEN years without a single bad album (or even an average one) in the mix! Now, compare that to the biggest names in Metal:

Black Sabbath: 6 (the first 6. If I needed to tell you that, go join the Justin Bieber fan club).
Judas Priest: 8 in a row, maybe, discounting their debut
Iron Maiden: 7, and that's giving 'Somewhere in Time' a free pass but OK, some dig it
Riot- you can make a case for 10+ here BUT you have to be a big fan of EVERY era of the band, which many people are not. Even i won't go that far, and I love this band (see disclaimer above).
Blind Guardian: 6, and that's IF you're cool with the first 2 (which I am, see the disclaimer).

I'm not trying to argue that RW is better than any of these bands, but that the consistency of their output is all but unparalleled in the course of metallic history. Even if someone doesn't like the 'pre-piracy' days AND you wanna call 'Masquerade' their last good album instead of 'Rivalry', you still get a 7-album span, surpassing all the Big Names except perhaps 'Priest. That is un-freaking-belieberable!!!!

And yet the band continues to be one of those acts that many, many metal fans just know as "that pirate band before Alestorm".

CONSPIRACY (Not King Diamond related)
What the hell gives? How does RW get so overlooked while other bands IN THE SAME SUB-GENRE get internationally recognized as 'pillars' of the Power Metal style?

Here are some conspiracy theories:

1- They don't seem to have ever been a great live act.
I've only heard a few live shows/bootlegs and I've never been impressed. And I've never heard anyone talk about their live shows as being among the best concerts they've ever seen. Their touring rep may have been stained early on when they toured with Celtic Frost and Noise made the unfortunate decision to bill RW as one of the heaviest bands on the planet.... while they opened for the band that brought you 'Morbid Tales'. This reportedly resulted in a lot of scorn/derision for RW on that early tour (source: Tom G. Warrior, 'Are You Morbid?').

2- They recorded their best material at the worst time.
RW started REALLY hitting their peak with 'Death or Glory' in '89, followed by Blazon Stone (91), Pile of Skulls (92), Black Hand Inn (94) and Masquerade (95).... exactly when 'traditional' Metal hit nadir in terms of popularity. By the time the hammer fell and reignited interest in Power Metal, 'the Rivalry' was wrapping up their classic period and album #11 (!) was in the works. So while everyone was losing their minds over 'Glory to the Brave', RW's ship had already sailed (you gotta admit THAT is a good pirate pun!).

3- Silly rabbit, pirates are for cheese-loving nerds.
The pirate theme seems to be just too cheesy for some folks. I just don't get how this is possible.
Dragons? sure!
Medieval warriors? Awesome!
Monsters? Cool!
Swords? Love it!
Drinking? Cheers!
Partying? Party on!
Pirates? Oh, that's too silly.
Forget all their songs dealing with history, fighting the oppression, riding free on the wind, conspiracies, religious hypocrisy, corrupt leaders, and all those other metal cliches that people eat up when sung about by any other band.... some pirate songs cross a line. Real Men play on 10, not on the gangplank.

4- Rolf dragged the sails through the mud for too long.
Yeah, hard not to argue that by 'Victory' things took a turn for the worse. Rolf spent more time on his costumes than on his songwriting. We won't discuss the drum machine controversy. I ain't arguing against any of that stuff.
However....
Bands overstay their welcome all the time, and folks usually still hold the old material in high regard. Perhaps when combined with Conspiracy Theory #2 above, people missed all the good stuff and thus just used the later, weaker stuff to affirm Conspiracy Theory #3 above: "gee, the 12th RW album isn't very good, so I'll just assume the previous 11 albums are equally bad".

ON THE HORIZON
So is there still room in port for this old rust bucket of a band?

Well, direct copycats BLAZON STONE seem to have gotten some positive feedback in recent years, so running up the ol' Jolly Roger doesn't automatically get you hanged, drawn, and quartered these days (ok Alan, easy on the pirate puns. Deep breath. Pretty blue butterflies. Exhale. OK, back on track).

And then there's 'Rapid Foray', which shows Rolf returning to form, at least somewhat. No more shadowmaking garbage that apes the worst Accept & Priest material from 1986. No more Beatles' covers. While it may be derivative of their classic albums, RF demonstrates that there is still some wind in those leathery old sails (ooooooh, the puns, the puns...).
It also begs the question: if Rolf can still play and write in this style, what the hell were the past ~20 years/5 albums about? Doing that one 'experimental album' to get something out of your system is one thing; blowing two decades writing stuff like "Me and the Boys", that's a fucking problem man! It's what drove me nuts about 'Siberian Winter'; it clearly demonstrated that Rolf COULD still write insanely great material, which begged the question, why the hell was he wasting time penning chum like 'Detonator'?!

So where do we go from here? Well, I've spent about an hour total crafting this diatribe, so it's long since time I opened the floor up to everyone else. Thoughts? Favorite albums? Trivia that others don't know? Theory #5 about GUN Records being to blame for the decline in album quality once Neat dropped the band?

Have at it, ye scurvey dogs!
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"
-Becky

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Khnud
Posts: 2273

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#2 » Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:40 pm

Interesting read!

I'm not that much into Masquerade, thought it was pretty forgettable. Still love Victory though (except the Beatles cover), perhaps because I bought it right after I saw Running Wild play live for the first time, in 2000. I have yet to check out their latest albums, last one I bought was The Brotherhood. I have no real explanation as to why they're not rated higher, to me they're one of the most consistently decent-to-good-to great metal bands out there without any real let downs in their catalogue.

When I turn 50 I think I'm gonna have a Running Wild party. We'll all dress up like Johnny Depp, watch Pirates Of The Caribbean on repeat (those movies will feel almost as old as I probably will by then), listen to Running Wild all night and drink tons of beer.
Laugh at you in ecstasy, wallow in the gore.
Blast you with their twisted minds, behold the Dogs Of War.

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Cochino
Posts: 1709

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#3 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:41 am

I could only ever get into their first two LPs, so in my view, King Diamond still has the winning streak with his 2 MF LPs and first 5 KD LPs (plus MF's self titled EP and Return Of The Vampire compilation).
That being said, Gates to Purgatory might be one of the catchiest metal albums ever. How that one isn't considered a much bigger classic is a mystery to me.

wicked keeper
Posts: 261

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#4 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 3:24 am

Cochino wrote:
Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:41 am
I could only ever get into their first two LPs,
Spoken like true NWN forum regular....:lol:

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Cochino
Posts: 1709

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#5 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:36 am

wicked keeper wrote:
Tue Nov 20, 2018 3:24 am
Cochino wrote:
Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:41 am
I could only ever get into their first two LPs,
Spoken like true NWN forum regular....:lol:
:P
But actually, I've been more of a Corroseum regular for most of my metalhead life (I was even a mod for a while here), it's just that this place went down and rather inactive for a long time. But yeah, it was never a secret that I was always more of an "extreme" metal fan than most people around here and not a huge fan of the most melodic strain of Power Metal. I've always liked my Metal dirty and ugly and that's exactly what early RW is. But as I said, it's also incredibly catchy and almost all of the tracks are impossible to listen to without singing along.
From time to time I do listen to some of their other stuff, hoping that some day it'll click but so far it hasn't happened.

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mordred
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Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#6 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:48 am

I for one wouldn’t count the first two albums as part of such a streak. They’re good enough in their own right, but don’t stand out enough compared to all the other German metal bands of the era. There is not one song on Branded and Exiled that’s good enough to be on Black Hand Inn or Pile of Skulls.
In some lost corner of the world there sits a leprechaun laughing merrily atop a mountain of mysteriously lost LP innersleeves

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Noisenik
Posts: 2316

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#7 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:23 am

nightsblood wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:00 pm
(ok Alan, easy on the pirate puns. Deep breath. Pretty blue butterflies. Exhale. OK, back on track).
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Pretty blue butterflies.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

This has made my day. Alan, I certainly admire your sense of humour. :D

My faves are the first two - yeah, keeper, I seem like another NWN forum regular, though I was never there - but perhaps simply bcs I invested a little more time into them and almost none into all others, save DoG, which hasn't clicked (as of yet). What worries me, though, is that I will hardly ever find enough time to invest in their music.

As a Rock Hard subscriber, I always thought they are/were huge in Germany and perhaps in Greece and Czech R. I could be wrong, though.
I am ... the One you warned me of

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Spinal
Posts: 64

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#8 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:01 pm

mordred wrote:
Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:48 am
I for one wouldn’t count the first two albums as part of such a streak. They’re good enough in their own right, but don’t stand out enough compared to all the other German metal bands of the era. There is not one song on Branded and Exiled that’s good enough to be on Black Hand Inn or Pile of Skulls.
No love for "Mordor" on Branded and Exiled?

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mordred
Posts: 1696

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#9 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:51 pm

Spinal wrote:
Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:01 pm
mordred wrote:
Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:48 am
I for one wouldn’t count the first two albums as part of such a streak. They’re good enough in their own right, but don’t stand out enough compared to all the other German metal bands of the era. There is not one song on Branded and Exiled that’s good enough to be on Black Hand Inn or Pile of Skulls.
No love for "Mordor" on Branded and Exiled?
A bit of love for sure, just not the same kind of love I feel for Black Wings of Death, Treasure Island, Whirlwind, Phantom of Black Hand Hill, Freewind Rider, The Privateer, Dragonmen etc, etc.
In some lost corner of the world there sits a leprechaun laughing merrily atop a mountain of mysteriously lost LP innersleeves

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nightsblood
Posts: 2381

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#10 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:00 pm

Glad some folks found this ramble interesting and funny :-)
Sorry I didn't follow up sooner, been very busy at work AND breaking in a new computer too.
Been working my way back through the RW catalog in recent weeks, so let's do some quick hits.....

GTP
Is indeed a very catchy album, and better than I tend to give it credit for.

B&E
Always liked the very 'dark' sound on this one. I think these 1st two albums are a cut above most of the coeval German releases. But yes, the best is yet to come...

UJR
I view this one as a transitional album. While it does include the first obvious forays into piracy, it also contains a lot of the same themes as on earlier albums (fighting the oppression and what-not). The 'satanic' themes- such as they were- are dialed down a bit, but there's still that undercurrent of defiance against Corruption in Established Bodies that runs (wild) through most of their catalog. While I like this album (and it has a great, energetic, noisy production), it may be a tad overhyped based on the strength of the title track.

PR
So this was my first voyage (geez, it is REALLY hard not to slip into pirate pun mode when writing about this band!) and I still really like it. Sound could be a little better, but maybe it's just my ancient Noise CD pressing. But a lot of classics here and they're developing their soon-to-come trademark sound.

DoG
Cited by many as their favorite, sometimes I love it and sometimes I feel like it hasn't aged as well as other records. But even on its bad days, it's a great album and ushers in their Golden Age

BS
Historically I've been kind of down on this album, but I think I've been unfair. It had a hard act to follow, and it had to do so at a time when this style of metal was rapidly falling out of vogue. But revisiting it, it always performs well for me.

PoS
While I've always liked this album, it's even better than I recall. The issue I used to have with it is that it gets off to a slightly rocky start. 'Whirlwind' has a really monotonous beat (foreshadows of Angelo), and a couple of the other early tracks on here are merely OK. But once this sucker gets going, it's a monster. It also includes their best epic track ever in the incredible 'Treasure Island', which- let's face it- is one of those songs this band was just destined to write.

BHI
Fuck me with a gangplank, but this album is good! My favorite and for good reason; RW at the height of their speed metal prowess. The title track is among the best metal tunes ever laid down. If I have to nit pick, I really don't get what Rolf was trying to do with 'Genesis'. For a band known for its themes of piracy, history, and fighting the oppression, an epic-length sci-fi alternate to the biblical creation story is, uh, kinda out of character. Musically it's alright, but a real head-scratcher in terms of lyrical content

Masq
I think this album gets a lot of crap and I honestly don't know why; seems to me that folks who have loved the DoG-BHI era should like this one alot too. Yes, the production is kinda cacaphonous, but I don't think it detracts in any significant way. And the band is still absolutely blazing through a lot of top-notch German speed anthems. Love it!

Rivalry
...and here's where it starts to get a little wonky.
Overall it's not a bad album and it still has several really good songs. But the number of mediocre songs is starting to creep up. The length continues to stretch out but the quality is stretched thinner. This is a good album and better than I sometimes give it credit for, BUT I would say the band is past their peak at this point.

Victory
...and then the baby shat the bed.
There are so many things wrong with this album. The lame, Nintendo 64-looking cover art. Rolf posing in some kind of fucking Marching Band uniform. We went from pirate captain to tryouts for the color guard in about 2 albums. And before someone replies trying to claim, "hey nutsack, Rolf's actually wearing an 18th century Prussian military outfit representative of the 32nd mounted cavalry division".... shut the fuck up- it's a goddamned band uniform. You know, I know it, and everyone else knows it too.
Where was I? Oh yeah, other flaws- very stale, flat production dominated by very stale, flat drumming gives the album a very stiff, staccato feel. Instrumentals in the middle of the album, and cover songs in the middle too- these are not things RW does. These are not things any veteran band should do. I don't know if Rolf was bored, felt stuck in a niche, was prodded in a new direction by the label, or what, but the album's a mess.
....and yet, like your never-do-well brother who's been in and out of jail for cooking meth and can't ever seem to locate a laundromat, I just can't quite bring myself to hate it. Maybe it's b/c I managed to find the album in a freaking shopping mall FYE store back when it was released (for those of you not in the US, finding RW in an FYE store is about as likely as finding nude photos of Lemmy inside a My Little Pony notebook). But there are just enough songs that manage to be just catchy enough that I willingly, if reluctantly, will give it a pass.

Brotherhood
....but not for this one. I ordered this piece of crap and still regret it. While the production and drum, uh, 'work' was much better than on Victory, overall this album is seriously lacking for quality tunes. You know things have gone all pear-shaped when a power metal band puts an instrumental at Track 5 and it turns out to be the best freakin' song on the album. See, I don't like instrumentals all that much- most of the time they're just throwaway intros and interludes. While some exceptions exist if you venture deep enough into the unfathomed tower, in general I can do without. And putting one at Track 5 is especially bad.
You see, years ago I developed a theory that, on power metal albums, track 5 is the most important track. Hear me out. Power metal albums typically follow a pretty standard blueprint, or at least they did in the mid 90s-early 00s:
Track 1- an instrumental intro
Track 2- blazing fast anthem to kick things off right
Track 3- a strong follow-up song, not as fast as Track 2, but fast enough to keep the heads banging and the fists in the air
Track 4- the band takes their foot off the gas with a slower number so everyone can catch their breath. You settle down and settle in. You wonder "hmmm, is the speedy stuff all done, or is their more speedy goodness to come?"
And that's why Track 5 is the most important. The smart bands who made the best albums knew to step on the fucking gas and light it up on Track 5 with one of the album's highlights so as to wake folks up and allay their fears that the album was slowing down. If an album screwed up track 5, however, that meant that the scoreboard now read 2 Good tracks, 2 average tracks, 1 instrumental, and you go into Track 6 feeling like the album is quickly slipping into mediocrity.
And so here's RW, starting the album with a bunch of pretty average fare, suddenly burning the fucking barn down on Track 5 with an instrumental. And while it's one of the few instrumental tunes I truly love, part of me really hates this song too. It's because 'Siberian Winter' CLEARLY demonstrates that Rolf was perfectly capable of continuing to write incredibly good songs in the style of DoG, BS, PoS, BHI, and Masquerade..... so he's actually, intentionally CHOOSING to fill this album with shit like 'Detonator' and 'Dr Horror'. I KNEW you could still crank out the good stuff Rolf, I knew it! So why bury us in a bunch of songs Blackie Lawless rejected for 'Helldorado'? Why Rolf, why?!

ReV
Ah, the much maligned closing act to their pre-retirement days. You know, I think, possibly, there are some good songs on this album...well, decent songs anyway....but you just can't hear them b/c of the messed-up production. You see kids, this is what happens when you spend all your royalties buying band uniforms from around the globe... you don't have enough money left for gear and end up playing a Fischer Price guitar plugged into a Walkman amp. I'll never understand why Rolf thought this was a good sound to go with. Get some real equipment, play on 10, and cut the album length by 20 minutes, and this might have been alright. THen again, that same formula might have made SLAVE RAIDER alright too.

Shadowmaker
Even overlooking all the "oh look we're already back!" eye-rolling cynical blahblahblah, this album fucking sucks. It breaks my streak of buying hard copies of all RW albums. I will never own their full discography because I will never buy this piece of crap.

Res
Well, at least it's slightly better than the last one

RF
.....you see, things like this irritate the crap out of me. This band was toast. Done. Over. There was absolutely no reason to ever think that anything worth listening to would ever be released under the RW banner again.
And then this came out.
And it's actually pretty good.
You see, the problem is that now, for the next 5 years, every time some tired retro act lumbers into the studio to record another quick cash grab to pay for their hernia surgeries, I will feel compelled to give it a listen because hey, RW finally turned things around, so maybe these guys did too! Maybe that next Witchfinder General reboot will be the next 'Rapid Forays' and we can all pretend 'Resurrected' was some terrible dream brought on by repressed memories of being inappropriately touched by a clown puppet at our cousin's birthday party when we were 9 years old. And I'll listen to it and it'll be horrible and I'll never get those 56 minutes back and it's all RWs fault, because they had to go and make another good album after all these years.
No, RF isn't their best.
Yes, it's highly derivative of past efforts.
Yes, I know one of the songs is essentially 'White Masque' all over again. BUT THAT'S WHAT I WANTED THEM TO DO! It's why I was playing albums by copycats BLAZON STONE. I don't care that they're scavenging their old catalog for riffs and tunes on RF, b/c their old riffs and tunes were some of my most favorite things EVAH!!!

And so here we are, with my hopes all worked up that Rolf has gotten over that 'difficult teenage phase' or menopause or whatever the fuck happened for about 15 years there and has come to grips with his legacy and can do it proud moving forward. And I'll be here, anxiously waiting on the shore, eyes scanning the horizon for signs of sails bringing my beloved RW back to shore for their next visit. I'll light up a candle for hope to be found as I await my next batch of sailorman's hymns.
And so help me God if the next album contains another goddamned BEATLES cover.

That's all for now. Hey, bonus points if you caught the CANDLEMASS and KAMELOT references! Yo ho ho
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"
-Becky

wicked keeper
Posts: 261

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#11 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:25 am

You have far too much time on your hands.... :lol:

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martinsane
Posts: 93

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#12 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:11 am

Reading this makes me want to dig up and listen to those "buried treasures" (your right the puns are rather easy) and listen to this band again.

Fun read and thanks for taking the time to jot it all down.

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Noisenik
Posts: 2316

Re: RUNNING WILD: Not-So Rapid Forays Into Their Catalog

Post#13 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:23 am

Hey Alan, I like your "track nr. 5"-theory, and would love to have time to prove it or disprove it. Alas ...
I am ... the One you warned me of

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