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The greatest injustice in the world of metal, to me, is the still-underground level of the band Running Wild. Sure, keeping bands within a tight, cult niche keeps things from going where they shouldn’t, but this band is too good to be true. If Maiden went to the dark side without making such abominations like The X Factor and Virtual XI, then they’d be Running Wild (not logically impossible). While I’m not all gung-ho when it comes to pirate themes, this sickly satanic image lends a lot to the early sound. Rolf turned the band into an epic powerhouse later on, but this debut focuses on the deliciously sadistic side of heavy metal – Satan, Hell, war, death, ignorance, religion, and everything that’d turn most people off. The music, needless to say, backs most of it up.
Shit-talking is one thing, shit-flinging is another, but when that shit is made out of a blood-curdling guitar tone, war-like drumming, barbaric bass, and possessed roars by a demon like Kasparek, then it’s shit-talking and shit-flinging that slays. The first album I heard was Under Jolly Roger (specifically the title track), and already I could hear the characteristics of black metal ala Bathory (not necessarily the debut). It wasn’t as fleshed out on that album, but going back one to Branded And Exiled I heard a more apparent form; this one does nothing to hide it. The guitar tone is grinding and merciless – far beyond the sanctity of life and all the bullshit that comes with it. The heavy metal attitude is all there in unopposed energy and rhythm, but the black metal traits give it a conceited purpose.
While mid-paced in formula, the riffs themselves are spry and fast, letting loose all sorts of aggression and anger but not delving much into thrash. The glory of heavy metal remains firm and powerful, most apparent and famously heard in “Soldiers Of Hell.” Every time I see an album cover of an album I hear nothing about, I always think that there might just be that one song that becomes one of my all-time favorites by a band. Gates Of Purgatory is chalked with a couple more, but “Soldiers Of Hell” is the shining gem of Running Wild’s debut – the main reason being the solo bridge. The Maiden-esque, harmonized ascent to paradise is something I wish I heard in more bands – a moment of pure bliss that I find myself repeating countless times (not even the whole song, just that minute long section!). The way Kasparek twists and turns his progressions and the catchiness reverberating off of the twin-harmonies extended twice makes for the most atmospheric and brilliant moment on the album.
While the rest of the album never matches up to this moment, the solos still mark the high point of their respective tracks (the latter half of the album in particular). The way the guitars charge with each song gives a feeling of competing against all odds or going against the grain. Much of it takes a little long to develop, even though many songs don’t even exceed five minutes. The groggy tone is fine for the songs themselves, but every song does tend to get a little boring since the riffs are a bit on the dull side. There isn’t too much between Rolf’s vocals and the solos to keep me very interested in these tracks – they’re great for rocking out, but as such they’re also a little primitive like W.A.S.P.’s debut (some standouts, mostly filler).
Vocally, Rolf has a very live-like wail and howl with grainy angst. His voice is clear and proud, with only certain points reaching Halford-high-notes. What I love is how demanding they are (that “proud” factor); you can tell he’s damn well serious and ready to put up a fight. They’re not operatic, so no real sing-a-long moments; the vocals eclipse the album with another layer of blasphemous hatred. The drums I’m still a bit mixed over; for the tone it isn’t anything to really berate, but they’re so bombastic and rough, especially the snares. They’re typical for the decade (with that echo and all), and for that I love them, but they’re too loud compared to the guitars and vocals. The patterns employed are fantastic and work well with keeping a consistent pace, so nothing overdone or technical; the toning down the drum mix is all I wish.
Even with the bass it’s just a grumbly old man underneath it all. More respect than most bands these days would give it, but still just a rhythm bobber that you can barely grasp. Doesn’t do much to bring on out the attitude or wretched nature of the music – leave that to Rolf and his eclectic leads next to Preacher’s profane riffs (how ironic). Compared to the best Running Wild albums, this is but a fly on the wall. Nothing amazing to be found other than that one section in “Soldier’s Of Hell,” but nothing I’d analytically pass up, either. You’re bound to treasure something on this debut, but be aware that the real treasure is on the other albums.
Running Wild- a band that until a few months ago I solely associated with "doing pirate metal better then Alestorm", or something along those lines anyway. While I still don't know whether they're better at pirate metal then Alestorm (although that's likely), I do know that they're one hell of a lot better at doing speed/thrash/whatever this is a lot better then basically everyone else.
It's definitely an album that's a good deal more then the sum of its' parts, I think. A quick listen reveals some relatively simple riffing, short and catchy leads, the gruff, vaguely Lemmy-ish vocals of Rolf and the somewhat unremarkable but still competent rhythm section. Sure, that description doesn't sound terribly amazing, I guess- this is just speed metal with a rockier moments and a few thrashier moments when you get down to it- but daaaamn, it just works.
The whole thing is just catchy as all hell and forces you to drop whatever you're doing and just headbang until you crack at least 4 of your vertebrae. Indeed, this review is nigh on impossible to write mainly because it's just so hard to sit still while this album is playing! I guess it's just the fact that Running Wild manage to write unbelievable catchy tunes- if these guys hadn't got into metal it really wouldn't be surprising if they had ended up being songwriters for pop bands.
Every riff commands you to headbang, every vocal demands a sing along. Prisoners of our Time is more infectious then a blood filled syringe, catchier then an ABBA/AIDS hybrid. It's the shining example of that rock-infused metal anthem that every band has tried their hand at writing, but I daresay that no one has succeeded to quite the extent these guys have -and the fact that these guys manage to pull off the similar-and-almost-as-good Genghis Khan just one song before, well, it's just unfair. No band should be able to pull it off twice in one album!
It helps a fair bit that the faster tunes are equally awesome, though. Diabolic Force would be a personal favourite, full of fairly simple Judas Priest-on-meth riffs (chug on a note, play a chord or two, repeat), and well, that's pretty much a good description of every faster song here. Kind of reminds me of Priest's "Rapid Fire" tune- simple chugging riffs, rarely used but super effective lead work. Everything- the simple but effective rhythm work, the excellent vocals, the perfect mix of a dark, sort of black-ish atmosphere- Preacher, in particular, is strangely dark and oddly reminiscent of Bathory- but yet the said darkness is mixed in with the drunken good times that only thrash and speed metal can bring. It's just perfect. Perfect!
It's hard to really say that much more about this album, really. It's this simple but awesome speed metal that is really catchy and leaves you grinning and nursing your neck gingerly. Straightforward, fast, heavy, efficient and ruthless heavy metal- what more could you ask for?
Running Wild is a band that most people recognize, but they rarely get all the credit they deserve. That may partly be because they got a bit too predictable in the mid 90's to catch people's attention, and because they (or maybe I should say Rolf) have gone a bit reclusive lately. You don't hear much from him nowadays.
Back in 1984, though, they were still a band, young and hungry. And they did a lot of things differently. The pirate image didn't exist, instead they wore spikes and pentagrams as part of a more satanic/paganic image. The lyrics on the debut album, Gates to Purgatory, are also mostly about those subjects. Rolf was yet to discover the awesomeness of excessively tremolo-picked riffs.
The sound really is very different on this album from the rest of RW's catalogue (except for the sophomore Branded & Exiled). One major reason is Rock N' Rolf's singing style. His singing on the early material is sort of an arrogant, raspy snarl, which is probably supposed to sound evil. It mostly fails at that, but nevertheless it sounds cool. Also, the instrumentation on this album isn't all that tight. Hasche the drummer, for example, has some problems with the timing, and the leadguitar-work is sloppy on some songs. The production is also too weak to fully do the songs justice. But the songs on this album are very enjoyable most of the time, and that's what counts, isn't it?
The material itself is well balanced between mid paced and fast numbers. The former category include Black Demon, Prisoners of Our Time, and Genghis Khan. Black Demon is a sinister song with some cool vocals and leadwork, but unfortunately the main riff is way too boring to catch my attention. Nevertheless a fully decent song. The two other midpaced numbers are friggin' awesome, though. Genghis Khan's riff is about as heavy as it gets, and the vocal melodies on top of it are just great. Despite some semi-ugly tempo changes (Rolf rarely got them done as well as Maiden, which was probably his intention.) this is an early classic. Prisoners of Our Time is even better. It's guitarist Preacher's most important contribution to the band, and remains a live staple to this day. The chorus is probably one of the most catchy things to come out of Germany in the 80's.
We also have one slow number, Preacher, but unfortunately it's by far the worst song on here. It's got the most annoying drum beat I've ever heard, and the chorus is just ridiculous. About halfway into the song, a cool Sabbath-ish riff shows up, but it's not enough to save this boring song.
The fast songs are probably the most enjoyed songs by this album's general fanbase, since they all seem to be into the album just for the speedy songs. And yes, most of them are very cool, but a bit overrated. The opener, Victim of State's Power, is a nice slab of speed metal that should have you headbanging within the first listen, despite the extremely silly lyrics. Adrian S.O.S. is yet another highlight, the fastest song, and it's quite insane. It also reminds me of Venom's Witching Hour, which is of course good. Soldiers of Hell is an immensely overrated song, nothing else can be said about it really, because it's got nothing at all that makes it special. Diabolic Force has achieved appreciation from RW's fans because of Rolf's falsettos between the verses. And yeah, those are really rare, but honestly, Rolf isn't very good at falsettos. He sounds like a wounded cat when he belts them out. But they make the song entertaining, and it's hard to turn down such a cool song.
All in all, with a few exceptions this is a very entertaining album that should be picked up by every fan of classic german metal, despite it's underdeveloped aura and forced satanic lyrics (it's quite clear that these guys weren't serious with that). And of course, you should track down a copy with the two bonus tracks Walpurgis Night and Satan, as they're nice additions to the album.
“…witches are dancing around the altar, praying to their master to celebrate the holy war…”
Would you believe that even though I’ve had this lp since ’84 I’ve seen the cover maybe five times? With the real album out of stock at the store, I was forced to purchase the picture disk (poor me) with the exciting visual that’s the same as the Walpurgis Night ep (also known as Victim of State Power and vice versa). With the collector’s savvy of a walrus at the time, I was actually disappointed it’s all they had.
Running Wild was a recommendation from the same kid who fed me my initial breath of Hellhammer, Slayer, Venom, Anvil and Mercyful Fate among other perception-quaking material. He was usually on the money with his picks, so when ten bucks appeared in my pocket one day and I got a ride over to the shop, Gates to Purgatory was the album I was able to cross off my list. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with these guys at the time if it weren’t for his counsel. I recall already being burned by the diabolically-named, but sonically wobbly Demon, Witchfynde, and Crucifixion, and let’s face it, a moniker like Running Wild was lighting an even less vivid path to the future…and Rock n’ Rolf? Sure, the song titles were colored an occult black, partially making up for the uneventful name, but that promised nothing. Short story even shorter, I bit the bullet, hit it with the needle, and sparks flew just like on the original front cover I hadn’t yet seen.
While Noise’s Death Metal sampler wasn’t the birthing ground of this band, it ran circles around Raubbau Records' Debut No. 1 compilation in distribution and availability (which still wasn’t saying much), sounding the distant horn of four relatively solid bands as well as Noise’s upcoming direction. The two songs featured there are fairly noodle-armed compared to 80% of the material on the debut, then when power lifters like “Victim of State Power” and “Adrian SOS” hoist them at the collar and shove them against the wall…well, it’s safe to assume the more people who heard Gates to Purgatory first, the better.
Running Wild do a formidable job with song placement here, thoughtfully scattering the speedy, the sinister, and finally the small amount of standard stuff across the album’s landscape, and with a leg-flying kick off return like “Victim of State Power” starting the album, it’s difficult to ignore this from the get-go. From start to finish this rages fluently, quickly picked and momentous that coalesces into a triumphant, white-knuckled chorus that wouldn’t be the same without a certain set of pipes with an identity all their own. Powerful in the manly, tactfully gruff low-end range, Rolf himself is a main ingredient of this quartet’s success, by ’84 already sort of a dinosaur in the scene and around long enough to witness firsthand the NWOBHM clean shaven vocal approach and the hundreds of bands who’ve beaten it to death.
From there speed is fractured by “Black Demon”, an unwavering mid-paced tune that would come closer to filler material if it weren’t for the echoing pre-chorus and innocently contagious chorus. The degrees of velocity are finalized with the menacing “Preacher”, a chugging, ton heavy chunk of blackened cement that’s so blueprinted in its simplicity, yet quite unorthodox with its stop n’ go interlude toward the center. “Soldiers of Hell” weighs anchor, an up-tempo rate once again an invigoration, and even though Running Wild were never really considered sonically part of the monumental British scene, it’s apparent Rolf can solo with the best of that bunch.
Side two doesn’t curtail the power scale with “Diabolic Force” and especially “Adrian SOS” in the first two lanes. I totally apologize for my incorrect statement in this band’s section of the Death Metal sampler review where I state vocal high notes do not exist on this lp. Yes, Rolf throws a few into “Diabolic Force”, a track sober straight with a temperate gait, meanwhile the short and muscular “Adrian SOS” rivals that of “Victim of State Power” in aggression, speed, and choral might nearly pound for pound. If anyone really wants to know whatever happened to Rosemary’s baby, he got sucked into this song. With more than half the songs gone, it’s clear these guys could write compellingly if only on the mere outskirts of simplicity, and that once a song’s momentum is set in stone, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s staying on that course. In fact, one of two songs even in danger of a mid-track pace change is “Genghis Khan” and its ornamental braking chorus, though rightful finale “Prisoner of Our Time” comes close with a chorus that spills out the hymn of a forgotten anthem, a chin-raising crest of arms most teenagers could find a handhold on if only for the final verse.
Along with not being the most structurally flexible band in Germany, there’s something less dirty about their sound despite the fact most of their lyrics dwell within the pentagram, and whether that’s good or bad is up for grabs. A lot of the cleanliness has to do with a production most unpolluted, background noise banished, and the music plows through clearer than anyone could’ve expected.
Aside from a lack of limberness, Running Wild had cylinders firing well enough to unload a respectable skid mark not easily washed away by the rain of time. It may not be as wide, dark or crazy as those left by other bands of the day, but when you realize that most bands couldn’t even break their tires loose, it’s not a bad achievement at all.
“…we are prisoners of our time but we are still alive…fight for the freedom, fight for the right, we are Running Wild…”
Wow this is completely different to what they play these days. This is classic speed metal, the early more thrashy less melodic type (a lot less melodic then there later stuff) Rolf’s vocals are much harsher also, I think it has something to do with him drawing influents from Cronos (venom) as many early speed metal act’s in the early eighties did.
But don’t be fooled the Satan lyrics and harsh vocals don’t make this any less of a speed metal killer, its just a few years before Rolf discovered the awesome pirate idea the riffs are still fast as hell and there’s even a few harmonized Judas priest styled solo’s here and there.
The album starts of with there 220 mile per hour Victims of state power, this song rules it has great riffs and a awesome chorus:
“How long do you want to be a victim of states' power and force, Stand up and struggle for freedom, and be Lucifer's friend”
Total head banging madness and after an opener like that it would seem hard to keep the pace for the rest of the album. But running wild strike back with a track of equal value, the mighty “Black Preacher” with a chorus that might even be catchier than “victims of state power” but still not quiet as fast as the mighty opener. After hearing these two tracks “preacher” comes at a bit of a shock, it’s a good song but mediocre compared to the first two songs. Enter “Soldiers of hell” and “Diabolic force” two more speed metal killers, “Soldiers of hell” has one of those awesome Judas priest harmonized solo’s that I was talking about earlier, pure classic stuff, a great song.
Are you ready for 2 minuets and fifty four seconds of SPEED METAL MADNESS??? Then you’ve come to the right place, “Adrian SOS” it’s even faster than “Victims of state power” it is what most bands would of made a five minute song out of, but Running wild somehow managed to fit it into two minutes, INSANITY!!. Then we have “Genghis Kahn” often referred to as the best song off Gates to purgatory, It’s a N.W.O.B.H.M. flavoured song, think the first two Iron maiden albums or the first Angel witch or Diamond head album. Personally it’s not my favourite song on the album but it offers something different from the songs up to this point. Then we come to the album closer “Prisoner of our time” and what a closer this is, it’s also the only song they play on a regular basis to this day. It’s slower than most of the songs up to this point more of a crowd sing-a-long, with one of the catchiest choruses in the world. The Rolf/Preacher solo battle in the middle of the song is genies defiantly the best solo section in the album.
Overall this is one of those great early speed metal albums, but like most early eighties albums it has the eighties production to go with it. I’ve heard much wost (e.g. Living death: vengeance of hell - 1984) but I’ve also heard much, making this album somewhere in-between in the production scale.
I also recommend buying the cd version with the two bonus songs: “Walpurgis Night” and “Satan”, great value since the Victims of state power ep is so rare and expensive.
01. Prisoner of our time
02. Soldiers of hell
03. Adrian SOS
Overall score: 8.2/10
It seems to me that Running Wild do not get the attention that they deserve, often being shrugged off as a “silly Pirate Metal band.” Arrgh, me mateys, while there is nothing wrong with Piracy or Pirate Metal, Running Wild are much more diverse than they are perceived.
This nifty little debut album of 42 minutes (including bonus tracks 9 and 10) is a good mix of traditional heavy and speed metal. The opening riffs of “Victim of States Power” alone probably carried enough weight to catapault Running Wild into legendary status from the beginning. This is top-notch Germanic speed metal that will rip your face off if you are not cautious. “Black Demon” is not as fast, but the riffs are so thick and powerful to create a very full sound at a slightly faster than mid-pace, and the lyrics wander into a little light Satanism. Skipping over the uninteresting “Preacher,” we move to “Soldiers of Hell,” with somewhat of an Iron Maiden-ish gallop and about a minute of extended soloing right smack in the middle of the song. “Diabolical Force,” at just over 5 minutes in length is one of the longest songs on this album of concise tunes. The way it builds from straight-forward speed metal to one hell of a melodic close is simply excellent. Now comes “Adrian SOS.” Holy sweet mother of fuck! SPEED FUCKING METAL all over the place here. The chorus is quick, catchy, and simple enough for a quick break before launching full-on into the greatest speed metal onslaught of the disc. I hope you had your pen and paper handy, ‘cause that’s precisely how speed metal is done. “Genghis Khan” is an Iron Maiden cover...wait...no it’s not. It’s a solid little tune with some head-bangable short riffs. “Prisoners of Our Time” is somewhat of a less-intense, though fist-in-the-air closer before we move into the bonus tracks. “Walpurgis Night” and “Satan” sound like rough-mix demos, but are consistent in sound and quality with the rest of the album. Unfortunately, “Walpurgis Night” is cut short (Is it a crappy press of my CD, or is it really just a demo track that was thrown on there?). I wish I had better packaging here for more details, but the CD booklet is extremely sparse.
There you have it, kiddos, Running Wild’s debut. The Running Wild sound that would become legendary is all here, though there is still plenty of room for growth before the golden albums like PILE OF SKULLS, DEATH OR GLORY, or the uber-essential BLACK HAND INN. If you like Speed Metal (who doesn’t?), check it out.
(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, September, 2003)
Like that picture circulating around the Internet with the fat kid with no shirt on raising his arms... this album RUUUULES!!!!
This is classic speed metal. Imagine a really polished, Teutonic-sounding Venom. This is from before Running Wild decided to get all 'Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum' on our ass (not that that era is bad - most everything they've done is pretty fucking great). This is actually rawer in production than their later efforts, and that's actually quite appealing. Sometimes their later efforts seem to have the drums cranked up a bit too much (see Blazon Stone, etc) but on this one, the guitars are well in place and the riffs are spectacular, and every once in a while they throw in a solo or a riff-set that is totally reminiscent of Judas Priest or Accept.
And then, you have to realise, that for 1984, this is actually pretty fast and heavy. Who else was blazing out stuff like this at that time? Freewheel Burning, Fast as a Shark, and really not much else. There were bands like Venom, but Venom never threw in cute little Screaming for Vengeance style solos like at the end of Diabolic Force - man, that song RUUUULES!!! From that ending solo, to the awesome shriek in between verse lines - YEEEAARRRGGHH!!!! - to that blazing Highway Star on Amphetamines riff under the chorus.
And the dragon comes in the night!! Oh yeah... and that's just one song. There's also the ultrafast (I mean really fucking fast) Adrian, Son of Satan - that's four minutes of music squeezed into three minutes of physical time. Insert here something about the relativistic effects of playing so fucking fast. Also, the opener is very very speedish as well. How! Long do you want to be! A victim! Of state's power and force!
Stand up! And struggle for freedom!!
AND BE LUCIFER'S FRIEND!
Fuck yeah!!! Then, don't forget the midpaced anthemic numbers. This could've been a Judas Priest album, except Judas Priest didn't sing about BLACK DEMON!! But Prisoner of Our Time is a total answer to the unasked (at the time) question. Rock Hard, Ride Free?
Rockers of the underground - black and heavy is our sound!! Then throw in Genghis Khan and Soldiers of Hell, which also sound like they were heavily influenced by the Killers LP, as well as the obligatory Sad Wings through Screaming, the first few Accept, Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg, etc etc. All that good stuff.
Even the two bonus tracks are nifty and all that. They sound a bit less well-produced and just a tinge more NWOBHMish (especially that Diamond Head meets Iron Maiden riff of Walpurgis Night) but in general, they fit right in. Satan is another speed blazer with lots of single-note under-verses fury combined with a squealing solo that's straight out of Hell, and even a thrash break!
Should you get this album? Nah, classic metal sucks. Keep jerking off to Opeth.