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Gotta give credit to Rolf for not only writing the same album for the fourth time, but for also making it one of the best in his career. Hearing Black Hand Inn is bittersweet, since although it is another album to cherish, it means one more in the last line of worthy albums. The band would still churn out other awesome material, but all of this feels so long ago that it is already a tale in the history. Next time you look in the history books, you’ll see Black Hand Inn therein, and a nostalgic sigh will emit thereafter.
Just to get it out of the way, the sound of the drums can be a little grating for some. The bulky, boisterous bonks battering the listener every instant gives mixed signals: click-ish double bass? Dusty snares? Rattling cymbals? Did “Angelo Sasso” do guest drumming? No, they’re real, and they aren’t as bad as “Sasso’s” contributions later on. Personally I think the drumming here fits just fine, and it’s the upbeat assault of double bass with complete rhythm precision that makes Jörg Michael stand well in the rabble of drummers. Like all the players on this album, you can feel his utter control over the instrument. Switching gears to the other rhythm maintainer, the bass support grumbles like a hushed boat rudder. I do miss Becker’s lead takeover, but I also love this low-end bubble-bass that compliments the refined speed / heavy metal attitude most present on songs like “Soulless”. So infectious and thick; kick back and get dragged and burned by bass.
Rolf and company (whoever that consists of at any given time) have never let us down when it came to the guitar department, even on the later albums (barely) were production was the main problem. Here I was given more of the crunchy, cherished, commanding riffs, leads, solos, and straight-up barrages of speedy force. Seriously, harmonies are abundant from the conceptual intro, to the title track’s riff-onslaught, and through the trilogy of monstrous anthems preceding the final closer. Every song has a tune that sticks with you for life, and I guarantee their warranty is a lifetime. It’s impossible not to go berserk listening to beasts such as “The Privateer” or the groovy, drum / bass oriented “Fight The Fire Of Hate”. The last track, “Genesis…”, is the most epic on the album, naturally, with a ton of Maiden-competing solos, vicious riffs, and insane vocals.
Vocally I’d say Black Hand Inn contains some of Rolf’s best moments, with the standard set at no less than awesome. He never sounds dull or exhausted, with plenty of those bellowing, gritty howls to encompass another three or four albums. The finale is the last straw, where the gargantuan scope and speed metal domination of the riffs collide with Rolf’s gruff barks to make one of Running Wild’s best tracks; track length be damned! Expect only authoritative, aggressive speed / heavy / power metal with crisp production, powerful (manly) vocals, and a plethora of cool, catchy riffs. There’s no ditching that tone of royalty though, so while angry, it’s still a chivalrous piece of work. I’d certainly rank this up there with Blazon Stone and Port Royal - maybe even slightly higher. Glad to know Rolf was able to muster a couple more novelties before meeting middle-aged burnout.
Running Wild typify both consistency and tenacity, maintaining their style of riff driven, catchy power metal in the vein of Accept and Judas Priest. You can not listen to a single song off of any of their classic albums without having an instant sense of familiarity, even during the dark age of the mid-1990s. It is understandable that many have come to love the albums that come from the 1990s because they underscore how a band can keep putting out great music in a time where in many places it is no longer to do so.
“Black Hand Inn” is among the most ambitious of Running Wild’s works, formatted as an epic conceptual story of a man who discovers a hidden truth about the history of mankind and ends up being burned at the stake. What follows is something of an original mishmash of a ghost story and an epic mystery. But interestingly enough, the music around it still mostly conforms to the metal worshipping format of the early 80s power metal scene typical of England, the US, and Germany before Helloween released the Keepers albums.
The format of the band’s albums since the pirate precedent set on “Under Jolly Roger” has always relied on an authentic sea shanty inspired instrumental overture to set the mood, but “The Curse” proves to be the most memorable of this line of instrumental works. Picture being on an age old pirate ship and sighting the Flying Dutchman bathed in it’s mythical ghostly light, coming closer and closer, and building to a climax where you see nothing on board the ship but lifeless skeletons and torn sails incapable of catching the wind.
Once things get going, a very methodical blend of speed metal and traditional 80s riff madness ensues and refuses to let up. The title track, in particular, is one of those speed riff monsters that likely helped jump start the recently deceased power metal genre. A similar riff popped up not long after on the title track of Gamma Ray’s “Land of the Free”, the album that many cite as Kai Hansen’s return to prominence after 8 years behind the shadow of either Michael Kiske or Ralf Scheepers. Similar glorious speed anthems include the album’s featured single “The Privateer” and the agitated sing along “Phantom of Black Hand Hill”.
Naturally Running Wild doesn’t take the one dimensional route that some later 90s acts would take and offer up some variety, while maintaining the catchy flavor of their sound. “Soulless” and “Freewheel Rider” are the best examples of simple Judas Priest and Dio inspired 80s goodness. Simplicity has always been a winning formula in this style, though naturally the lead breaks get about as busy as you can expect from any seasoned metal act. The overriding factor in all of this is how characteristically un-90s it all sounds, something that will always be a positive as far as heavy metal is concerned.
Naturally this album isn’t quite perfect; it is simply the best of what you can hope for in the days of Pantera’s “Far Beyond Driven” and Sepultura’s “Chaos A.D.”. The closing epic “Genesis” is way longer than it needs to be and extremely limited in ideas for its time length. Running Wild is not what you could call an epic band in the sense of late 80s Iron Maiden or Helloween, though some of their songs exhibit epic qualities at times. They are a German outgrowth of the NWOBHM, and like most of that persuasion, do their best when they keep it to 5 minutes of less.
When you compare this album with the entire history of the band, it definitely makes the top 5, but I think calling it the best of their works doesn’t take into account the pioneer history of the band nor some underrated albums that popped up before and during the 1990s. It has a place in heavy metal history as being one of those albums put out by an artist during the hostile takeover by the groove outfits and in the thick of the grunge rock craze, and that definitely counts for a lot. Definitely a must have if you like any of this band’s 80s albums, Accept’s “Russian Roulette”, Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” or anything of the 80s power metal persuasion in Germany.
Being a huge Running Wild fan, I'm going to have to call this another one of their crowning acheivements right after Death Or Glory (this being my second favorite release from them) and easily one of my top favorite metal albums of all time. This is Running Wild at the very top of their game. There's so many incredible things about this album, I don't even know where to begin, but I will try my best to get some points across without simply saying "Just buy it!"
Consistency. Right after the fancy intro that is "The Curse" (one of the coolest intro's to boot!), you've got an hour of non-stop completely in your face powerful metal here. Often people have complained that Running Wild's fault is repetition, but there's no sign of that at all here. Each and every song is distinct, yet connected together perfectly like bread and butter. The riffs on here are some of the most melodic riffs I've ever heard, and they never seem to stop coming. Once they grab you, you're almost forced to start headbanging and you just can't stop until the album is over. The solo's are completely over the top and earth shattering as well. Simply put, this is one of, if not THEE catchiest album I have ever heard. You could randomly pick any song on here, listen to it, and instantly get hooked and probably wouldn't be able to stop yourself from headbanging. There are absolutely no fillers here, not even close.
Rock´n´Rolf Kasparek. Again, Kasparek shows his virtuous skill in both his guitar work, and the vocals. If you've heard other Running Wild albums then you know what to expect here, though the power and energy emitted from his voice seems to crack the Earth on this album more than others. He's got that semi-what raspy voice, along with quite a devastating range. His voice is too perfect for his band, I could see it no other way.
Production quality. This is easily one of Running Wild's most well-produced albums. Though its not at all too over the top and not too fancy, which seems to drag some bands and albums down for some people. This is still the raw Running Wild from their previous efforts, just more clearer I'd say.
Jörg Michael. His drumwork on this album is the reason I see this album as "Running Wild, injected with Nitrous!", The drumming speed has been stepped up quite a lot from their previous works. Expect some seriously tough double bass galloping here. Although this seems typical for a lot of Power Metal bands, the drumming by Michael here is so immensely dynamic its not even funny. They're mixed up quite a bit, and the rhythm's and patterns he pulls out are just insane. When I think of good drumming, this album always comes to mind. The drumwork on here is hands down some of the best I've ever heard. You'll never get bored of it, you'll galop your way to the top of the highest mountain with it!
Beyond these perfections, this album sadly marks the end of Running Wild's true reign. Most noticeably because of the lack of drums. After this, you can only expect the tedious, horrible, repetive drum machines that honestly bring down their later albums quite a bit. This is another reason why I believe I love Michael's drumwork on here so much. I'm sure you'll come to respect it just as much.
If you've never heard any of Running Wild's works, regardless that I prefer Death or Glory by just a hair, I'd say this is the best album to start with. Its the perfect example of their Pirate feel, their unstoppable melodies, off the wall work with the instruments, insanely awesome vocals, and so forth. And as I have said before, along with just about every other person who's reviewed this, this album is hands down one of the catchiest metal albums of all time!
As a band, Rolf Kaspareck's Running Wild need no introductions. Now synonymous with the term "pirate metal", the band had essentially been doing the exact same thing for close to a decade by the time this album was released. Of course, the old adage proves to be true - practice indeed makes perfect, or as close to it as you can get. Now over a decade since the release of Black Hand Inn, Running Wild haven't ever topped it, only really coming close on the subsequent Masquerade. In fact, with this release, Running Wild basically set their own bar so high that the inevitable disappointments were sure to come. Regardless, Black Hand Inn stands as a masterpiece of this unique style, an album that anyone with even a passing interest in traditional or power metal should be sure not to miss. If the term "fun" ever did apply to a metal album, it applies here. Black Hand Inn is a sheer joy to listen to.
To start things off we get a nifty little intro piece. Most bands would have stopped after the dialog, but Running Wild took it another step, tossing in a nice little melody that assuages any fears that Running Wild may have changed styles even slightly after 1992's Pile of Skulls. Following this is the classic title track, a double-bass-driven monster, one of the best songs Running Wild ever did. Things continue much in this fashion throughout the album - good song after good song after... Seriously, I wouldn't consider anything on here to be filler, though obviously some tracks are better than others. For instance, take the massive fifteen-minute epic "Genesis". I've often seen this dismissed as Rolf's semi-successful attempt at another "Treasure Island", and honestly I'm not sure why. Okay, the into and outro speaking parts are somewhat silly, but the remaining thirteen minutes are some of the best I've ever heard. A lot of bands get away with fifteen minute songs by having lots of padding, whether instrumental passages or just ambient noise (five minutes of blowing wind? That's cheating.), but this thing just smokes from start to finish and has some of the best melodic guitar work you'll ever hear. A true underrated classic.
All of the band members are in top form as well. Rolf sounds like he always has, which is a definite plus. Drummer Jorg Michael likewise is very impressive behind the kit. If you've heard later Running Wild releases (the ones with the drum machine), you can appreciate how much of a dynamic Michael is, how much power he brings to a release like this. Holding everything together is a great production job (well, I have the remaster, not sure about the original) that largely accentuates the vocals, rhythm guitars, and drums. Of course, Running Wild were never about a heavy bottom-end or noodly bass work, so the bass guitar is buried pretty deeply.
There's really not too much more to say about this disc. If you've never heard Running Wild I would argue this is the best one to start with, though obviously not everyone would agree. Running Wild are the type of band where just about every song sounds the same (not exactly, but you know what I mean), so if you like one you'll like them all. Also, if you liked any of their previous four or five discs, Black Hand Inn is sure to please as well. Very few bands playing anything that falls in the bounds of traditional forms of metal (power, trad, thrash, speed, etc) can be said to have a truly unique sound. Yeah, there are a couple of bands who sound mildly like Running Wild, but Rolf and crew were the originators, true pioneers of the "pirate metal" sound and imagery, and Black Hand Inn represents the ultimate perfection of this style. A blind purchase recommendation of the highest order.
This is Power/Speed at its most consistent. Running WIld has a tendency to get creative with their melody lines and song structures (and don't even get me started on those weird-ass interludes), but here we have some FUCKING INCREDIBLE and thoroughly consistent USPM that sets the standard for music of the genre.
Running Wild has two things going for it, aside from the idea of being a Pirate Metal band, which is incredibly metal and automatically makes this band kick ass. The first thing is the incredibly consistent guitar work. There are very few mindblowing solos or incredible feats of musical perfection. Not that the solos aren't awesome, but they tend to be solid headbangers with some predictable meedlemeedle. No, the real work here is in the UNSTOPPABLE RIFFAGE which goes from one song to another without any signs of slowing down. Running Wild has really hit a groove here with their music. They're comfortable with their sound and they know what's good and what isn't (a sure sign of experience), and here they make a solid album full of songs that fall into the former category.
The second thing going for this band is Rolf Kasparek. I won't call him Rock 'n' Rolf, because that's really fucking retarded (like, I don't know, Lex Icon), but I should point out that his vocals are AWESOME. His voice is always strong and powerful, never offensive or too high. It's just right for the music, and it never slows down. Often the weakness in a true Power/Speed band is the vocalist, who doesn't always complement the sound (see Primal Fear for a good example of this affliction). Kasparek is perfect, however, and his talent seals the deal for an all-around solid band.
I must also mention the title track, which makes the list of OSheaman's Top Ten Power Metal Songs of All Time. This song fucking owns in every sense of the word. It runs on nothing but PREMIUM RIFFOLINE from the opening riffage to the incredible shredded melody to the kickass vocals and absolute asskicking headbanging motherfucking RIFFAGE OH MY GOD to the incredible guitar solos and the AMAZING finish for the epitome of USPM. This song is a true work of art.
An absolute must-have for USPM fans.
Just when you thought Running Wild couldn't get better, they put out this masterpiece, which in my opinion is tied with Death or Glory for their best album ever.
The songwriting is very much in the vein of Pile of Skulls but continues the Running Wild tradition of taking it one step further. Black Hand Inn is an all-out offering of incessant speed-metal, and it's just about the best speed metal I've ever heard.
The songwriting on Black Hand Inn is absolutely unbelievable. The fast and furiously heavy backbone is provided by bassist Thomas Smuszynski and the brilliant drummer Jörg Michael. The guitarwork is better than ever before, and some of the finest and definitely fastest riffs, leads and solos in the bands career are spawned here by Rock N' Rolf and Thilo Hermann. And the excellent songwriting is perfectly backed up by the best production they've had on any of the albums I own. The drums are so insanely heavy, thunderous and powerful. Just check out the double bass on tracks like the title track.
And the guitar tone, which is probably the most harmonized and least raw they ever had, but it still maintains a very heavy edge, and it goes perfect with the melodic and instantly recognizable sound Running Wild have created for themselves. And Rolf's semi-gruff vocals are just as amazing as ever.
This is also the most consistent album by the band of those I own, as it is the only one with not a single weak song on here. Everything from the intro The Curse which leads into the title track to the epic closer Genesis (The Making And The Fall Of Man) is thoroughly kickass metal, ranging from pretty fast (Soulless, Dragonmen) to very fast (Mr. Deadhead, The Privateer) to fast as all fucking hell (Black Hand Inn, Powder & Iron). Only Freewind Rider and Fight The Fire of Hate are kind of midpaced- but they're just as excellent as everything else on here. The former is a pretty atmospheric tune in the vein of Uaschitschun, with memorable bass-driven verses and a great chorus as standout factors. The latter is a pretty long but insanely catchy tune with a fist-pumping beat and very infectious vocal melodies.
All the songs on here except those in the categories "midpaced" and "pretty fast" are quite similar- thunderous drumming, lightning fast guitarwork, and catchy, powerful vocals. It's what they do best, and here they do it better than ever. Songs like Black Hand Inn, The Privateer, The Phantom of Black Hand Hill and Powder & Iron all kick infinite amounts of ass from start to finish, there isn't really much more to be said. They're quite similar in construction (although The Phantom of Black Hand Hill has that ingenious atmospheric buildup added) and style, but when the construction and style is this great, I'm not complaining. The four tracks mentioned above are in fact the best ones on here, but as previously stated everything else is completely unbelievable as well.
Soulless for example has some really catchy riffwork in the traditional metal vein and killer vocals, and just overall rocks like there's no tomorrow. And of course the epic closer Genesis. It's true that at times it tries too much to be Treasure Island even though it definitely is not, but this has some killer vocal melodies, guitar riffs and leads, and a very majestic chorus. "The firestorm will rage on the day of the falling!" Hell yeah. Many interesting tempo changes abound, eventually resulting in another brilliant epic Running Wild song.
Black Hand Inn proves why Running Wild is one of the best metal bands around. This album, Death or Glory and Pile of Skulls compile the three absolutely immortal metal classics found in the bands excellent catalogue, and these three are essential to any fan of metal.
This also seems to be one of those albums that gets better with each listen- I've been abusing it quite badly for the last couple of weeks, and I'm not tired with it at all. In conclusion, pirate metal owns you all.
This is probably their most creative effort. It's generally considered their best, but I tend to differ - while it is very, very good, the sheer intensity of "Pile of Skulls" and "Masquerade" and the slightly more consistent songwriting of "Blazon Stone" beat it out slightly. Nonetheless, this is quite excellent.
This album is more power-metal than the all-out speed metal of "Pile of Skulls", with more variety in the song writing, and the riff construction - more Accept than Judas Priest at times. We start with "The Curse", which leads into "Black Hand Inn". Nice speed metal, very well done, with the generally fast verses over efficient slicing riffs that Running Wild is known for, and some great soloing too. "Mister Deadhead" is more power-metal, with an Accept-ish chorus. "Soulless" is a bit faster, and more reminiscent of Judas Priest. "The Privateer" continues in the same general vein, and then we have the bit more experimental "Fight the Fire of Hate" - a bit longer, more involved, and also the next song, "Phantom of Black Hand Hill" are about 6 minutes each. Generally effective, but the songs aren't quite as intense as some of the riff ideas become a bit repetitious.
"Freewind Rider" is back to the straight-ahead singalong power/speed stuff. Typical Running Wild. Same with "Powder and Iron" for the most part, and "Dragon Men" is a bit more power-metal, before we get to the closer, "Genesis", which tries to be Treasure Island but comes up just a bit short. It's 15 minutes long, and sometimes it does drag on just a bit. Not bad, but just not quite as great as their previous epic work.
But overall, really a very good album. Most of the stuff here is pretty much what you would expect from Running Wild. Great power/speed metal without getting too silly or flowery. And besides, they sing about pirates, that rules!!