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I still haven't heard Running Wild's first two albums, but the ones that came after were pretty fucking solid in their own right. But released just one year after Port Royal, 1989's Death or Glory forges its way right to the top of all my Running Wild albums.
Death or Glory is built on a core of traditional heavy metal, but with elements of speed and power creating atmosphere and power far surpassing the two previous albums. The songwriting is more developed and thought-out, which you'll notice right from the unbelievable nearly 2 minute long instrumental intro to the opening track Riding The Storm.
The songwriting highlights the melodies far more than the rawer material on the two previous albums, and the production reflects this well, in being cleaner yet still maintaining a razor sharp harsh edge to the guitar tone. The drums at times seem slightly less powerful and prominent in the mix, but the bass is still as audible and striking as before.
This is probably their most diverse albums of what I've heard, and definitely the best.
Renegade is true heavy metal tune with the shout-along chorus, fast-paced but non speed metal riffwork, catchy drumming and general atmosphere and feeling. Bad To The Bone is more of the same, and is made completely legendary for that one godly main riff which alone is worth the price of this album.
Evilution is built on a series of atmospheric and powerful riffs and leads, and is totally kickass despite the somewhat boring vocal section.
Then we have the even more atmospheric Marooned, which is total speed metal and about one of the best songs they ever did. The riffs on this one are beyond amazing, it must be heard to be believed.
Tortuga Bay is also a very interesting tune, which varies between the classic heavy metal riff-style of Renegade with the speed metal and atmosphere combination of Marooned, and some really memorable vocal lines.
And of course the epic masterpiece The Battle of Waterloo, which is yet another song that must be heard to be believed. Everything from the bagpipe intro to the heavy-as-shit bass that gets things going to the mindblowing melodic main riff to the anthemic mid section to the fadeout ending is absolutely divine. But that's still not the best song on the album.
Riding The Storm wins that prize, and is the best Running Wild song ever. The long intro features these anthemic and powerful riffs and leads showcasing that feeling that only Rock N' Rolf & co can create more perfect than ever before or after. And his vocal performance is absolutely intense. Not to mention the crazy solo and mindblowing chorus. Yeah, this song, and album, owns you.
The three standout tracks here are as you might've figured Marooned, The Battle of Waterloo and Riding The Storm. But the rest is all pretty much equal in terms of quality and songwriting. But the feeling they all give off is entirely different, alot thanks to the more melodic and professional production job, which gives room for much more variety.
There are however two songs that stand out as being kinda sub-par and keep the album from being practically flawless. First, we have the instrumental semi-filler Highland Glory (The Eternal Fight), which has some nice melodies and prominent basslines, but is a bit too long and seems to go around in circles after one and a half minute. Then there is also the closer March On, which is completely unnecessary filler. "I know, let's not end the album with the epic masterpiece but rather a mediocre filler song." Nuff said about that.
Still, with two fillers we still get 9 totally awesome songs. And this is not Screaming For Vengeance-awesome. This is Painkiller-awesome. It's that good, I tell ya. And anything pirate-related in metal has to own.