For my maiden voyage in this section, I chose one of the biggest heavy metal bands of all time and one of the most influential: Running Wild. Created in 1979 by Rolf Kasparek, Running Wild needs no introduction from me and certainly rests in the heart of most headbangers across the world. First band to use pirate themes in the heavy metal scene, Running Wild is responsible for a few of the best albums of the heavy genre and even had a prominent role in the black metal department. So, raise the banners high, grab a bottle of rum and come with me in this voyage to the starting point of the pirate metal world. Ready for boarding!
- ‘Death or Glory’ (1989)
The epitome of what Running Wild represents for the heavy metal scene. An unbelievable level of creativity, maximum attention to details and crystal-clear production are just a few of the elements that made ‘Death or Glory’ so special. Fun, profound, critical and, most importantly, made with passion and respect to the fans and the heavy metal community.
- ‘Black Hand Inn’ (1994)
My favorite Running Wild album and one of the best heavy metal albums of all time, in my opinion. The frantic and at the same time epic pace of the album makes ‘Black Hand Inn’ one of the most accessible albums of the German pirates career, with absolute classics such as “Soulless”, “The Phantom of Black Hand Hill” and the best Running Wild tune of all, “The Privateer”.
- ‘Port Royal’ (1988)
The solidification of Running Wild as the masters of pirate metal and the reason why Rock ‘n’ Rolf is one of the best composers of all time. Make this challenge to yourself: try to find a bad – or even mediocre for that matter – song in Port Royal. Had any success?
- ‘Blazon Stone’ (1991)
The most versatile album of Running Wild’s discography. With magnificent lyrics and captivating atmosphere, ‘Blazon Stone’ introduced to the fans the intelligent side of Rolf Kasparek, from critical and political compositions like “Slavery” to epic anthems like “Little Big Horn”.
- ‘Gates to Purgatory’ (1984)
Remember when I wrote that Running Wild had a prominent role in shaping black metal? Well, this is it. A powerful and almost perfect beginning of a career, ‘Gates to Purgatory’ has memorable tracks, complete honesty in its sound and full-on metal attitude. Definitely respected by all headbangers, from the more casual to the most extreme one.
- ‘Under Jolly Roger’ (1987)
The most striking album to a big chunk of Running Wild fans. The considerable change in the band’s style and the adoption of pirate themes, allied to a unique atmosphere, made ‘Under Jolly Roger’ one of the most important albums of the 1980’s for the European market, which started a dynasty by Rolf and friends that would last for a long time.
- ‘The Rivalry’ (1998)
Considered by most (and myself also) as the last great Running Wild album, ‘The Rivalry’ delivered classics such as “Kiss of Death”, “Return of the Dragon” and “Ballad of William Kidd”. It is, curiously, the favorite album of many fans due to its range and versatility music-wise, from mid-pace to fast tunes.
- ‘Pile of Skulls’ (1992)
‘Pile of Skulls’ was released a little more than one year after the critically acclaimed ‘Blazon Stone’, and it’s an extremely technical record. With production and mixing ahead of its time, the album kept the high level of musicianship of what we call “Running Wild Golden Era” and held itself nicely in the peak of Rolf’s creativity.
- ‘Branded and Exiled’ (1985)
The album marked the end of a more serious and anarchic cycle for the band, and contains tracks that will forever be classics such as “Chains and Leather” and “Fight the Oppression”. A very good starting point to the band’s discography.
- ‘Masquerade’ (1995)
‘Masquerade’ replicated the formulas adopted in ‘Pile of Skulls’ and ‘Black Hand Inn’ and maintained an almost-perfect sequence in the 1990’s for Running Wild. With a strong title-track and full of nuances, this album is an awesome example of the beloved German speed/power metal, and could easily be featured above in this ranking.
- ‘Rapid Foray’ (2016)
Here it is, the “return to form”. Rapid Foray is easily the best Running Wild album in more than a decade – which is more than enough reason to be happy – but has a lot of issues, like the electronic drums and glimpses of simplistic and soulless performances, such as in “Stick to Your Guns” and “By the Blood in Your Heart”. There are, though, top-notch tunes that will make us eager for the next album like “Black Skies, Red Flag”, “Warmongers” and the awesome “Black Bart”.
- ‘The Brotherhood’ (2002)
‘The Brotherhood’ managed to rescue, in some way, Running Wild’s prestige, which was hurt in ‘Victory’. Featuring worthy tracks such as “Welcome to Hell”, “The Ghost” and, curiously enough, one of the best songs in the band’s history with “Pirate Song”. However, there was a strong hard rock influence rounding the album and Rolf clearly wasn’t the same than before, which we would be sure of in the following albums.
- ‘Victory’ (2000)
For many of us, this was the beginning of the end. Just two years after a beautiful album in ‘The Rivalry’, ‘Victory’ took us by surprise and poured cold water in our dreams. This is a mediocre album with very few good bits, and the complete change of direction music-wise, with more cadenced and slow songs in detriment of the classic energy provided by the band on the earlier albums, proved that Rolf was in a pretty bad place.
- ‘Shadowmaker’ (2012)
Would ‘Shadowmaker’ be the triumphant return of one of the most beloved metal bands of all time? That was the question we all asked when Rolf announced the return of Running Wild just 3 years after calling it quits. Despite small glimpses of the old Running Wild in “Sailing Fire” and “Dracula”, the hard rock atmosphere adopted in the 2000’s took over once again of Rolf’s (lack of) creativity, resulting in a mixed album that does more harm than good.
- ‘Rogues en Vogue’ (2005)
Well below average and inspired by the lunacy of a once genius frontman and composer, ‘Rogues en Vogue’ was largely criticized and, until today, is widely viewed as a bad album.
- ‘Resilient’ (2013)
This is it, the bottom of the pit for Running Wild. Considered by critics and fans alike to be the most mediocre work Rolf has ever recorded, it’s easy to why when “Adventure Highway” or “Desert Rose” are playing on your stereo. Weakest, most polemic, and definitely one of the most disposable albums of the 2010’s.