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Pirate Shmirate. I don't know why everyone else finds it so hard to spell it out: This is Thrash/Speed Metal the way every other band at that time would dream of playing it. Just compare it to the Bay Area material that came out the same year. What was the most recent Metallica release of that year? Master of Puppets? Compare it to "Gates to Purgatory" and it will be like comparing the latest In Flames abomination to Carcass' legendary "Symphonies of Sickness", Running Wild is harder than Metallica, Running Wild is faster than Metallica, Running Wild is meaner than Metallica and Running Wild is - leave it to me to point out the obvious - *wilder* than Metallica. Just hear how the opener "Victims of States Power" starts off, a riff quality only matched by Canada's Razor, and not in this consistency. No matter how "fanboy-ish" it sounds, but I simply have to say that this "will make you start banging the moment you touch the cd's jewelcase - or even earlier, better have your neck prepared for the moment you first look at the cover".
Alright, I get it. I might be going overboard with the overdone praises. But damnit it couldn't be more justified and hey, do I really need to justify myself to you? Why would I anyway, listen to it once and you'll agree anyway. This isn't like the bands you usually hear off that are either "love it or hate it". This one is either "bang to it or bang to it". I'm going overboard again, I really don't know what's gotten into me. I must be running wild...
Okay, a third try of attempting that objective description and not basically writing an ad thing. Running Wild are best known for their later "Pirate Metal" thing, very melodic and competent and everything, and yes, if you're into it its quite good too. Good riffs and everything, something I definitely enjoy listening to every now and then. Their early career however is something entirely different. That was when inverted crosses and a whole lot of other occult things adorned their artworks, and their music was a tad bit faster, simpler, rawer and heavier. And sorry, no One-Eyed-Willy. Here you hear basically very few leads, most riffs progress through a number of chords you can count on the fingers of one hand, the typical very-old-school-Thrash/Speed style with chord progressions and coordinations between open chords and palm-muted chords that border total and absolute perfection. Oh my, the "writing an ad thing" is shining through again. Don't worry, I'll pause the album, smoke a cigarette, calm down and go on with the attempt of being objective again.
There, that's better. "Gates to Purgatory" varies nicely between uptempo thrashing and midtempo grooves, sparked with ingeniously composed little solos, mostly short, but sometimes long, and always spot on. The vocals are a nice mixture of mostly (lets say 80%) very-old-school-Thrash style shouting/yelling and a decent influence of melody. Take James Hetfield back into the equasion and you're back at the comparison between In Flames and Carcass, Rock'n'Rolf's voice on this album is basically the definition of perfection in its genre. Okay... I give up on the objectivity this way, let me just add that the sound is entirely perfect, then attempt the whole thing again with a song-to-song description.
01. "Victims of States Power" - "Uptempo hell" Speed Metal neckbreaker. As I said before, the only thing that gets remotely close to this is Canada's Razor, especially an opener of their own, "Cross Me Fool" from their Evil Invaders album. And are you a Razor fan unfamiliar with the first Running Wild? Let me just say that this is like the same thing wired through a magical metalizing device that makes everything sound a hundred times more Metal. Backstreet Boys through this device sounds like Iron Maiden, and Razor or any other great Thrash or Speed Metal band through this device sounds like Running Wild. You don't believe me? Just listen to this, but don't say I didn't warn you when your blood starts to boil and rupture open your arteries. Perfect verses, perfect chorus, perfect solo. And that ending with the whistle and the "No!!", you wouldn't believe it. Pirate Shmirate, *this* is the peak of Running Wild's carreer.
This is exactly what an opener should be, it catches several hundred percents of your attention and thrashes the hell out of you, drawing you into the rest of the album like a gluey piece of yellow paper catches those nasty little black beetles.
02. "Black Demon" - It gets dark, blacker than black, when Running Wild turn from the normal very-old-school-Thrash routine to proto-Black Metal. This song is one of these occasion, and it certainly gets close to being a competition to Bathory in its raw, dark and hellishly evil proto-Blackness. Stand-outs are Rolf’s hellishly sinister vocals in the chorus and the bridge leading up to the guitar solo.
03. "Preacher" - Did someone in a prior review call this a filler? I've got this feeling that I've heard something like that, getting ready to prepare someone's flogging just in case.
Yes, this isn’t quite a straight-forward thrashing Metal hammer, its more “laid back” than most of the other material on this album, with a Rock’n’Roll sleaze to it, but perfectly counterbalanced by its sinister feeling, particularly in the chorus. At times you get the feeling Rolf is chanting mystical verses invocating an underworldly creature of some kind or the other, that’s how chilly his vocal performance in the chorus can get, especially when you are in the right mood for it. Besides that, yes its slow and somewhat monotonous, but it works perfectly.
04. "Soldiers of Hell" - Oh yes.
Sorry, but you will have to excuse me, you won't get a more accurate description of this song from me but "Oh yes". Everything that can be done right about a Heavy Metal song has been done right in this one. Perfection incarnate.
05. "Diabolic Force" - Pretty much the same as the previous song, we're still at the peak of this album, as if the first few songs weren't enough of a peak. Still Heavy Metal at the top of what it can be executed at, flawless, perfect. Like the previous song this is so close to entering an otherworldly realm of songwritership that you won't be able to squeeze much of a description out of me. Rock'n'Rolf's high pitched yelling between the verses, then the guitar solo, then the yelling again, then in one instance the yelling changes, then another time into a "yeah!"... Just "wow!"... Personally I've known this album for almost fifteen years and I still have trouble catching my breath hearing either "Soldiers of Hell" or "Diabolic Force". The energy of it, the songwriting, the perfection. Just flawless and perfect, nothing more to say really.
06. "Adrian S.O.S." - "Uptempo hell" Speed Metal neckbreaker times three. Suffice to say that if your neck doesn't hurt like one thousand needle pricks after this you should better listen to Wolfsheim and Placebo. Fag.
And that isn't one perfectly composed guitar solo? Go dig a hole and bury yourself under your homosexual Prog cds. Three songs in a row Running Wild demostrate perfection when it comes to composing guitar solos, its almost impossible, I don't know what drove them. As I've said in a paragraph above, all their other stuff is pretty good, great stuff to listen to, but this? It must be from another world. I'm sure I can dig out some conspiracy theory about how they got to writing stuff like this. It must have been former inhabitants of Atlantis, living in the hollow earth, coming to the surface in flying saucers, teaching these particular men about how to achieve total perfection in writing Metal. There is no other explanation. There just isn't. And these half-growled vocals in the end... superior to any proto-Death Metal of that time.
07. "Genghis Khan" - This demonstrates how exactly a great song should start off. Marching beats with a neat effect, pounding rhythm guitars of war, slowly moving over to a battle hymn that makes you want to put your pagan war paint on and fight whatever lowly creature enemies you may find. This is "Gates to Purgatory" at its most belligerent, and just the kind of anthem this album needed to reach total perfection and immortality in Metal heaven.
Now while I'm listening to the guitar solo I'm trying to imagine Manowar attempting such atmosphere with their so-called "Battle Metal". Bullshit. Wimps and posers go back to England where you belong.
08. "Prisoner of our Time" - Kicking you out of the offical playing time of the original version of the album (minus the bonus tracks) with a slower song, a low-to-midtempo groove neckbreaker with much palm muting and a pissed-off rebellious old-school Rock'n'Roll attitude the way Lemmy & company could barely do it better. A shout-along chorus rounds it all up to be one of these songs that will make a crowd of any size go crazy in a drunken mania of destruction. If Metal can change the world this song is how - we drink our beer, listen to this and tear the world to pieces.
09. "Walpurgis Night" - The first of the two bonus tracks. Kicking off with a high pitched scream we get somewhat of a Rock'n'Roll/Heavy Metal hybrid. I'd almost dare to call it "commercial" compared to the official/original material, and its definitely calm in comparison. Just a nice song to listen to and I guess one I desperately needed to recover my body. If most of the rest of the songs weren't already *above* one hundred percent (despite that being mathematically impossible) this would probably drop the rating, because, well, its still a great song, but its not on par with the rest most definitely. A nice Heavy Metal song, nothing more, nothing less. Surely with a great guitar solo, but well, as I said... and anyway, what's with that ending?
10. "Satan" - The second bonus track and well, they at least destroy all worries that the bonus tracks could both be neato Rock'n'Roll "calming down" songs. For the most part we're again not quite on par with the offical/original material, but a lot closer than the previous song, I'd say its 99% of being good enough to be on the original album. And then that short middle part with the effects on these hissing vocals, well, that kicks it all the way up there. Sure, Venom, Hellhammer and Bathory were already gathering quite their status back in that year and even Mayhem had already formed in that year, but if anything in 1984 sounded as close to Black Metal as any proto-Black Metal possibly could it would be that middle part. What a hellishly sinister and evil feeling, breathtaking.
Who am I kidding? This albums gets one hundred percent and that's my final offer. Sure, in my carreer as a reviewer on Metal Archives that's the third time I dish out a hundred percent, but for a third time its well deserved, fully living up to the "best of its kind" status that warrents a hundred from me. You don't believe me? Listen and you know what Heavy Metal is.