REVIEW: RUNNING WILD – “Blood On Blood”
It’s was hard to get excited about Running Wild’s new album. The band took to the trade like a duck to water and from 1987 onward they’ve kept the pirate’s flag flying (almost) nonstop rough seas, but have been sailing half-mast for a long time now since their sound fully transitioned from a speed/power outing to a hard/heavy snoozefest. ‘Blood on Blood’ is the fourth release since their 2012 “reformation” and as on the albums before it, they’re not looking to reinvent the rum. Led by founding marauder and one of the most legendary metal musicians of all time Rolf “Rock n’ Rolf” Kasparek, what we have here is a mix of more of the same old school raider anthems and the hard rock vein that people are so offended by since the days of ‘The Brotherhood’ came upon us.
This time around, though, there’s a small lighthouse in the land ahoy. Rolf appears to have listened to all the tantrums directed at the band’s latest entries and took a few steps back in the right direction by digging that juicy pirate booty from the heydays. The awesome “The Shellback”, for instance, actually revisits the atmospheric theme of 1994 classic ‘Black Hand Inn’, serving as a prequel to the story of that album, in music and lyrics alike. “The Iron Times (1618–1648)”, which delves into the Thirty Years’ War, is also a good example of how Rolf’s creativity and songwriting can still be relevant and refreshing while also paying respects to his past glory.
While most of the songs here are about a specific topic, like “Wings Of Fire” and “Say Your Prayers” being about the prophecies of John of Jerusalem, co-founder of the Order of the Knights Templar who predicted organ trafficking back in the Middle Ages, and “Crossing The Blades”, that tells the story of the three musketeers from the 17th century, some tracks are just plain “party rock” nonsense such as “Wild & Free” and “Wild, Wild Nights“. Sure enough, these are the weakest moments in the album.
Rolf is a limited singer but his rough voice works fine as always. Running Wild’s long history of catchy, distinctive riffs deserves respect and he once again delivers some quality leads across this endeavor. Peter Jordan is again aboard to provide solos and even though we now have a proper drummer in Michael Wolpers, the mix still sounds programmed (but then again, I’ve heard worse).
In an interview earlier this year, Rolf commented that “The result (of ‘Blood on Blood’) is an album that in my opinion is probably the best in Running Wild’s career to date. Every one of the ten songs sounds exactly as I had it in mind when I composed it. I’ve never been happier with a Running Wild record before.” If he truly believes this, it’s easy to explain why Running Wild have fallen so grandly since 1998. How can I endorse this ludicrous affirmation when faced with songs like “One Night One Day” and “Wild Wild Nights” when I know that the very same guy wrote “Port Royal”, “Riding the Storm” and “Prisoner of Our Time”, just to name a few?
‘Blood on Blood’ doesn’t hold a candle to Running Wild’s classic records so it’s definitely not the best in their extensive and winning career, but it’s a good album. Hell, if you take into consideration musical delusions like ‘Shadowmaker’ and ‘Resilient’, for instance, it can even be great. If you enjoy the latest entries in Rolf’s discography, then by all means buy this because it’s miles better than nearly everything the band did since the comeback; if like me, you always expect more from what was once one of the best bands in the world, this album can give you mixed feelings. At the end of the day, nonetheless, it has more qualities than deficiencies.