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Running Wild in the early days were so wicked and raw that they bordered proto-black metal (Venom style). The atmosphere brought about by the velocity of the riffs by Preacher and Kasparek could only be achieved in a dungeon of ghouls, and the solos hidden around were the divine liquid dispersed in human blood. The furthest back I had gone was the Death Metal split, and that alone literally sounded like it was recorded in a dungeon. This one, however, doesn’t fool around – if this is Running Wild in 1983, then I can expect only good things in 1981 (the furthest anyone other than Rolf and co. can go back).
Immediately, I become aware that the production is very quiet and muffled; it still isn’t on Mayhem’s level in terms of fuzziness. Actually, it’s quite clear in that respect, but it has a raw demo quality to it, which is expected. By this time, the band already had a few songs together that would later become part of the full-lengths, but they weren’t yet perfected. Nonetheless, they’re essentially the same songs as their full-length counterparts – the final four tracks of this release – but just imagine them with less refined production. “Adrian S.O.S.” starts off with a sweet, vintage intro with ringing bells and cryptic atmosphere (straight out of a 1930s horror flick), which is unlike its debut full-length counterpart.
The guitar tone on this compilation is what I love the most, even though Rolf’s vocals aren’t focused and the songs are sloppy. That doom-distortion is so sharp that it could shred through paper, and adding this grubby tone gives the songs a badass attitude. The live tracks, “Genghis Khan” and “Soldiers Of Hell,” are included, with guitar tones so prominent and thunderous (better quality than the other recorded tracks), though the solo section on “Soldiers Of Hell” is too scratchy and high, so it doesn’t even come close to the one on the debut album. Bass often gets mixed with the double bass from the drum kit, but most of the time I never heard it (same goes for the live tracks). The exceptions are “Hallow The Hell” and “Warchild” because of the certain production allowing the booms to reverberate.
While these songs have atmosphere and style, the sloppiness does show, and Rolf is the first one to become a victim. For a lad in his early 20s (at the time), Rolf has (and always has) sounded older until he got to middle era albums. Here, his performance is akin to the one on Gates To Purgatory: crude, grouchy, kind of throaty, and as if he were speaking with a scorched throat. His timing is fine, but he gets submerged by the guitars, and his performance gets shoddy occasionally. “Chains And Leather” is probably where his vocals shine the most, as it’s a mid-paced sing-a-long track without any problems like the other songs – even the solos are nailed perfectly.
Running Wild fans, check this one out to get some insight on the demo days of the band. It’s a quiet, cryptic compilation with grainy intros and production that’ll make you feel like you’re in a creepy castle, so watch out before you switch back to a song without such quiet production (lest you blast your music loud anyway). This 1984 compilation is an interesting release, but it isn’t a keeper; whatever, the more you hear from the band, the more you’ll admire the band.