without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I must admit I lost track on Running Wild a while ago. I used to be a huge fan, but since "Masquerade" I felt Rolf Kasparek and his crew were losing tide, though they still knew how to deliver some engaging Power Metal. Since then, I simply lost interest really - and I must say I almost though it was a good idea to disband Running Wild in 2009, as Rock'n'Rolf would perhaps benefit from a change. But he couldn't resist temptation, you know, and soon returned to the comfortable waters of the very profitable Running Wild moniker (and I don't blame him for that, readers take note). Nowadays it's only Rolf and Peter Jordan (G) doing the rounds, with Rolf also playing bass and a (somewhat annoying) drum machine keeping the beat. And though I wasn't really excited about what they had to offer nowadays, I must say the listening experience was something of a surprise, for the wrong reasons.
"Shadowmaker" was supposed to be sort of a comeback album, a wind of fresh air taking their pirate ship out of the doldrums and back on full sail once more - but it sounds way more like decadence, like the days of searching for treasures are forever gone for the lads. Opening track "Piece of the Action" is not all bad, although its almost-poppy hard rock is hardly the most usual way for Running Wild to kickstart an album. The chorus is very catchy (someone compared it to Billy Idol, and it's not that far from the mark really) and Rolf adopts some whispered singing at times, which adds to the overall rocking feeling. Unusual really, but a good song IMO. Unfortunately, "Shadowmaker" starts to struggle from this point onwards, with the derivative "Riding on the Tide" being a very credible warning of things to come.
Songs like "I Am Who I Am", "Shadowmaker", "Sailing Fire", "Into the Black" and the aforementioned "Riding on the Tide" are not exactly bad, but Running Wild already wrote those countless times during their career and these "new" tracks sound almost immediately old and weary - and I don't mean it in a good way. Some songs fare slightly better, such as "Black Shadow" (some creative guitar work in places) and "Locomotive", where the band once again assumes a hard-rocking vibe with pretty acceptable results. But then comes "Me & the Boys", a plain embarassing cock-rock bullshit with brain-dead lyrics to match, and all goodwill is forever lost. And final track "Dracula" doesn't really help matters at all: its supposedly epic vibe sounds entirely unconvincing, like Rolf Kasparek just realized they needed an epic number to close the album and knocked it out just before entering the studio.
I don't want to be rude, but "Shadowmaker" is like a now-mediocre magician trying to relive old tricks to make a few bucks out of it. We all know how the rabbit comes out of the topper, but still many will pay the ticket out of compassion. Nothing wrong about that - but don't ask me to say it's amazing, because it's not.
- originally published at drequon.blogspot.com
I've been a diehard fanatic of Running Wild and Rock 'n' Rolf since the same moment that I bought "Black Hand Inn" almost 19 years ago and this is, for sure, one of those difficult reviews to make. After the brief separation announced in 2009, I, as a long time fan, received the news of Running Wild's reunion gladly, as I hoped that this 2 year hiatus would have let Rolf asses the evolution of the band over the last ten years and allow him to recover some of his past glory.
To be fair, we should say that Running Wild, as a band, really disappeared after "Victory" with the departure of Thilo Hermann and Thomas Smuszynski. And, even worse, just in that same album, Rolf decided to start a new musical path, that was only outlined in "The Rivalry", arguably the band's last moment of brilliance, which finally led to absolute mistakes as "Rogues en Vogue" (although I, myself, was unable to recognize it 8 years ago).
So, what can we hope of Running Wild's reunion album? Well, we can't consider this album a reunion. A reunion would have made sense if Rolf decided to give a call to Thomas, Thilo and Jörg Michael, just to name his last full line-up. But this seems far from Rolf's view as he just decided to pick things up exactly where he left them in 2009, just him working with Peter Jordan, a guy absolutely devoid of any heavy metal pedigree whom, I assume, doesn't really understand what Running Wild means. But, after all, this is Rolf's band, and he does what he wants.
The album has certainly some nice moments, as "Riding on the Tide" (despite its silly opening riff), "I am who I am", "Locomotive" or the title track, however, those looking for speedy hymns as "Blazon Stone", heavy rockers as "Bad to the Bone" or long epics as "Treasure Island", should know that Rolf is not pretending, by any means, to sound as in previous times. This seems quite clear since the very first seconds of the album with the intro to "Piece of the Action", which sounds as something that Billy Idol could have recorded in the 80's. Then, we can also find songs that may be even shameful as "Me & the Boys", which could had been easily included in an album as, for example, "Love is for Suckers" (yes, it's "that" bad!), or the terrible "Dracula", which closes the album as a sad attempt to create an epic song, but miserably fails to generate anything else than boredom. Fuck!, even the only two songs featuring pirate themes, "Riding on the Tide" and "Sailing Fire", would have just been mediocre numbers among their late 90's output.
This time, again, we are forced to suffer a terribly unimaginative drumming courtesy of Rolf's drum machine (previously know as Angelo Sasso), something that makes "The Shadowmaker" their fourth album after 15 years of recording without a real drummer. What the hell are you thinking?
Rolf and Peter have just released an album as a band called Giant X which deepens in this hard rocking vibe present in the last Running Wild albums. I'll just vainly hope, again, that this new experiment would wake Rolf up from his long lethargy and let him concentrate in what he does best. I'm not very optimistic though!
Originally written for Ample Destruction 'zine.
Ah, Running Wild, one of the forefathers of german heavy metal. The band was formed as early as 1976 under name of Granite Heart, which then took the name we know today in 1979 and changed into Running Wild. Rolf and the boys however had long run before finally coming out with their rather satanic debut even – Gates to Purgatory – in 1984. Although Rolf always claimed that “Satan” was only used as symbol of freedom, anarchy and such. I don’t remember the exact word for it but you get the idea.
Long are the days gone when Running Wild’s early career released included furious speed and even Venom-like roughness in their sound, or pure speedy german power metal at it’s finest, started by Port Royal album in my opinion. For me Rivalry was last of the great albums, and sort of a crossbreed of the newer style and older style. One could argue that even Victory still had remains of the great 90’s Running Wild power metal sound – though the sound was more “mechanized” with totally programmed drum sound.
I have huge respect for Rolf’s back catalogue with Running Wild albums. Several of the band’s releases belong to my very favorite albums of all times. But I’m going to be brutally honest when reviewing Shadowmaker anyway. Rolf put Running Wild on hold for several years, and the band was ment to be finished, but the man decided to reunite the band just recently. After years of waiting, have Rolf and the boys managed loaded their cannons of destruction, and come up with something fresh after the “creative break”?
Well, not really. Shadowmaker continues pretty much along same lines than previous Rogues En Vogue, with some Rolf’s another band project’s (Toxic Taste) party-like hardrock influences thrown in, and that’s not something I was looking after the grand break really. How does Shadowmaker compare to Rogues En Vogue and say, Brotherhood? I think those albums had share of their hardrocking, uplifting, more groovy tracks in addition with some elements from Running Wild’s 90’s prime german power metal left. In Shadowmaker the 90’s power metal sound is ever more distant than ever. Stylewise there’s no songs like Phantom Of The Black Hand Hill, Privateer – or say something fast paced from the Rogues such as Angel of Mercy or Libertalia. And that’s kinda shame.
It brings me to the point that Shadowmaker generally is too laid-back, too party-hard rock, too Toxic Taste, too slow. I’m not to say that this album plain sucks - it doesn't. There's some nice moments here and there, solos work, vocals are mostly good as ever, and sing-along choruses are there like before. It’s actually not that bad when you take it what it stands for. It’s more Accept/UDO and AC/DC worship than any previous Running Wild album. The difference is not even that big compared to Rogues, but you can hear it definitely, this one is more rocking, less fast paced. Shadowmaker is not bad album, but it’s not particularly good either – it’s just fading into mediocrity. There’s just too many songs similar to Running Wild's average mid-paced chuggers such as Soul Vampires from “Rogues” to make album stand out much.
Lets take a look on some good points. Sound, well it’s noticeably better than on any previous album, perhaps best ever since Rivalry. Drum sound is almost decent this time actually, guitar tone is quite sharp and biting, pretty nice, not digital sounding porridge like in few previous releases. Guitar production is crisp and clear, and surely deserves thumbs up. Despite including several more hard rocking songs than one Running Wild album should carry, some of them fall on the “good” category. Opener Piece Of Action is one of them being very uplifting, tight rocking track with very nice solo melodies and bit varying vocal styles from Rolf. He uses sort of hoarse half-whisper and it works well as a lead-in to the chorus. This song is a GOOD ROCKER.
Anything else falling noticeably on “good” category? Well yes, Locomotive is another highlight. In my opinion it’s very UDO-like mid-fast track, chugging riffs pump on like juggernaut made out of tons of steel. Great heavy ‘n simple bassline really crushes. I Am Who I Am is bit of a rocking side, and another uplifting track. It manages to pack some energy and riffs work - especially very good lead riff melodies and nice sing-along chorus.
Riding On The Tide is regular newer style Running Wild pirate song such as “Pirate Song” (lyric-wise), and it’s quite cheesy, which in Running Wild’s case is usually more compliment than negative thing. Running Wild’s “cheese” has usually been good sort, but Riding On Tide falls somewhat bit short on it’s efforts – not bad, not so impressive. Chorus is quite uplifting and works though. Same goes for Sailing On Fire, another pirate related song. Chorus is nice – and few melodic lead riffs bring that "majestic" sound from 90's releases for your ears, to enjoy for a too short moment.
That’s about it. Sadly the title track falls into total mediocrity. It’s quite fast paced track and tries to be energetic, but riffs don’t do much. It’s bit too repetitive. Into The Black is like Soul Vampires pt. II and falls into mid-fast category with bit dragging riffs and too much groove. AC/DC worship doesn’t really impress here since the energy level isn’t up where it should be and there’s no enough innovation. Black Shadow is quite unmemorable, it has no good hooks and it just kinda chugs and plods onward – afterward you don’t remember much out of it. Mediocre.. so mediocre.
Overly cheesy, overly uplifting, Me & The Boys rocks on with mid-fast pace. This total party-hard rock worship in veins of Toxic Taste album hits to bottom and at least I didn’t feel like listening it again. Dracula is another definitely below-mediocre. It’s one of the most dragging and boring songs Running Wild has released this far. The song is over 7 minutes long horror themed track and aims to be another epic track – but it fails miserably. Dracula’s riffs are just unmemorable, repetitive (in part of riffs AND lyrics), plodding, and vocals sound sort of strange in it in some parts. Not one of Rolf’s best vocal deliveries. Only the guitar solo parts are sort of cool, and do not use the same scale what is Rolf’s trademark – bit freshness – but the rest of the songs, just forget about it.
So what we have here with Shadowmaker is two very good songs, one decently good, several mediocre ones and two actually bad ones. It’s bit of a letdown as a Running Wild album. While sound is better noticeably than in “Rogues In Vogue”, songs are just not as memorable generally speaking. If you take this as UDO, AC/DC, and Saxon worship album and look it that way – it’s still quite mediocre. Shadowmaker is not bad album, but shows signs of slowing down, and ditching the original Running Wild’s sound’s trademarks – while increasing recent hard rocking material from Brotherhood & Rogues En Vogue even more than before (and Toxic Taste influences in that matter if you’re familiar with it). And personally I don’t think it’s a good thing. The main complaint is that even though even rocking tracks could well be good, they are mostly too generic and uninteresting for the album to be memorable. This may well be Running Wild’s worst album up to date. Not by far, not by a disaster, but still.
Obviously Rolf doesn’t give much about public opinions but keeps doing his thing – which just tells about his passion to music, since otherwise I’m sure he would had ditched Running Wild years ago. It’s respectable thing on it’s own, but it’s another thing to put out good albums – which Rolf clearly doesn’t manage to do on part of Shadowmaker. Simply put – to create good-great album next time – Rolf needs to be up for some changes or have miraculous “creative awakening”, and right now I feel like I’m not seeing either one coming. But we can always hope for the best. Shadowmaker is not good, or bad, it’s just plain average. Thinking it just as a heavy metal album without it’s trademark name, it’s enjoyable for a few spins but afterwards you pretty much remember just perhaps rocking Piece Of Action’s cool uplifting and energetic feeling and crushing Locomotive: “hey what was that track that reminds me of UDO’s heavy hitters?”, or uplifting choruses from either pirate song “Sailing Fire” or “Riding on The Tide”.
If you're hardcore fan you're probably going to buy this album anyway (and perhaps be glad for a few good songs but generally bit let down) - but if you're new with Running Wild, then I'd recommend starting up with something else - Black Hand Inn for example.
Rating: 66 / 100
(Average as an album, slight letdown as a Running Wild release, has it's moments)
Running Wild's last effort, after some years of supposed breaking up of the band, looks even more than their 2005 full-length "Rogues en Vogue" a solo project of founder, vocalist and guitarist Rolf Kasparek, who has - moreover - always extensively criticized the aforementioned "Rogues en Vogue" for being too uninspired and hurriedly-written; in addition, in some interviews the same Kasparek told that the writing process of this "Shadowmaker" has been fast and natural - just the opposite of "Rogues en Vogue"!
So, what we have here is a great, catchy and simple hard rock album with some remnants of the "pirate metal" past of Running Wild; the songs themselves are pretty similar in the structure, always featuring some great clean vocals by Rolf - more melodical and clear than ever, catchy choruses, simple, fast and well-written guitar riffs and amazing guitar solos, a sign that Kasparek's creativity (since he writes everything!) has still many things to say. At the end of the whole album, I have frankly found the guitar solos - probably along with the choruses - the best part of "Shadowmaker" - some amazing, clean guitar pieces that I was missing since their 2002 album "The Brotherhood".
The first song that rises above the whole album is Riding on the Tide, a song that - not randomly - calls back the long Running Wild pirate metal tradition; it's yet a pretty canonical track for the band, featuring a great and catchy chorus, enjoyable guitar riffs and an equally good guitar solo. Sailing Fire (another pirate-themed song!) starts with a bass intro and a guitar riff that reminds some old tracks of the band such as Conquistadores, ending into another catchy refrain and yet again an enjoyable guitar solo. I Am Who I Am is no pirate metal at all - rather, it's a fast and heavy track, with a chorus that reminds me more an old-school sound (many cited Saxon as an influence on this album!). The same goes for another good song, Into the Black, slower but still featuring a good chorus and an even better guitar solo. The opener, Piece of the Action, features instead an interesting intro, with some low vocals by Kasparek, bursting out into the same pattern, crowned by some nice (more hard rock than heavy metal) refrain.
In the end, I found this "Shadowmaker" a great and catchy (thus not "complex" or particularly brilliant) album, having its own best parts in the "pirate"-themed tracks, featuring great and clean vocals by Rolf Kasparek, many catchy choruses and riffs, even more brilliant and inspired guitar solos. "Shadowmaker" is, in any case, more versed into hard rock rather than in the heavy/power metal which has been Running Wild's trademark since at least 1987, thus following the steps created by "Shadowmaker"'s predecessor, "Rogues en Vogue", but adding more inspiration and, above all, more "catchiness", more diversity in the guitar playing and a general feeling of light-heartedness and fun.
So, "Shadowmaker" does not frankly stand comparison with the band's epic pirate albums like "Port Royal", but it's still a fresh and catchy full-length, surely more enjoyable than "Rogues en Vogue", full of pleasant songs and showing that Rolf Kasparek - while he considers the band a solo project more and more in my opinion - has still plenty of creativity and writing skills, along with a great voice and, more than all, a trademark guitar style. I would suggest "Shadowmaker" to anyone who likes Running Wild (or who has liked Running Wild in the past), and to anyone who likes hard rock mixed up with heavy/power metal, since apart from some slightly boring episodes (like the long Dracula) the whole album is fully enjoyable and well-written - as always, I would say, when it comes to Running Wild's long career, which will probably not come to an end soon.
This album got quite a load of negative reviews. I can understand some of the reasons. First of all, the artificial drum sound always quite sounds the same and is a quite negative factor for the dynamics of the songs. The vocals sound as if the band recruited a guy from a more or less convincing Blaze Bayley cover band. Overall, the production lacks power and a better job could have made the final result a lot more energizing. These things are all right.
But at the end of the day, I think that this album is a hell load of fun. Most of the songs are quite catchy and immediately invite to sing and bang along. Nevertheless, there are different atmospheres, styles and topics on the record from mid-tempo rockers like "Into The Black" over simple but efficient feel good party rock songs like "Me & The Boys" to rather epic and dark vibes as on the closing "Dracula". The changes are often small but no idea is too clearly copied from the past or even used twice as on the critically acclaimed and quite overrated "Stalingrad" from Accept that came out around the same time and where the same riffs are used over and over again on the same album.
Each time a song starts I already have a little smile on my face and find the track quite addictive, memorable and old school. The tracks are predictable, lack of deepness and are not innovating. But the band simply gets back to the basics and does what it knows best. It simply works for me. It's definitely better than many other bands of the same age that desperately try out the two extremes by changing nothing at all and releasing the same kind of music over and over again as Saxon do or by desperately trying to sound progressive by adding endless pointless introductions and solo passages to their songs as Iron Maiden do. The record we have here sounds cool and relaxed as if the band would play without any pressure and would give a damn about critics and expectations. This light feeling makes this album quite enjoyable despite its big production flaws. This kind of sound has become a rarity nowadays and it’s enjoyable to still stumble over this kind of music from time to time.
The guitar solos are short but very well done. The vocals sound down to earth, grounded and natural and simply fit to the somewhat simplistic music. The record has no true highlight but no true stinker as well and ultimately sounds very coherent and enjoyable to me from the beginning to the end without being repetitive. This record surely is no highlight in any metal collection and doesn't come close to the band's classics but it's definitely not the downfall many people claim it to be and better than what might have been expected after so many years of confusion within Running Wild. Just don’t compare this to the band’s earliest outputs and take it as an unexpected new start for a band that still enjoys what it plays – a solid dose of catchy hard rock and heavy metal that I really like to enjoy from time to time.
The year is 1980-something, I'm cruising around Miami in a convertible listening to the hard rock station on the radio, rocking out and singing along to the chorus of every semi-anthemic song. This album makes me reminisce of those days. While those days weren't a part of my life, I think I heard this album in that situation while playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The game even had a fictional cock rock band named Love Fist, who had two generic 80s hard rock songs that played on the radio during that game. While an album's worth of song titles by Love Fist are named, one only heard two songs by them. It's an odd similarity that a fictional band managed to do what Running Wild are doing these days ten years before they did it, because it has historically been that other bands did what Running Wild did, but ten years after them.
The album starts off with a generic 80s-style hard rock song with a catchy chorus and some filler in between the choruses. Actually, the album starts off with five of those songs. Tracks 1-5 are, as far as I can tell, all the same song.
"Me and the Boys" is an all-out rock sing-along song, the band's anthem expressing that they chose to rock and roll. It's cheesy, not too bad, but nothing special. Running Wild tried to do what Motley Crue and Quiet Riot did much better than them. "Shadowmaker" is more aggressive and thrashy, but it doesn't really stand out.
Tracks 8 and 9 also contain the first song as the first five, perhaps Rolf, in his old age, made a mistake while emailing drafts of songs to others and sent them the same song seven times and they just rolled with it. Technology can be difficult to grasp, it is already apparent that Rolf is not very good when trying something new.
The last song, "Dracula", has a dramatic intro, a soft outro, and between them is filled with something halfway between "Shadowmaker" and that other song that appears seven times. Wouldn't want to stray from the formula, if it was much different people would probably wonder why they didn't do that for the rest of the album. Something more interesting or varied might also make it difficult to pull off a track-by-track review, but if seven of the tracks weren't the same song, I would probably have more to say about the music rather than talking about the review that I'm writing.
At no point is the music offensive nor unpleasant, but it does become painfully repetitive, and it is consistently dull. The standout track only stands out because the rest of the album is the same thing, not because it is in any way spectacular. The cover represents the album well - it is mediocre and it shows very little effort.
This is seriously just awful. I’m not the hugest Running Wild connoisseur out there, and I don’t have all their albums, but I respect them and whenever I do listen, I really enjoy it. They were a classic heavy metal band with some of the best chops around at what they did, and albums like Death or Glory and especially Black Hand Inn will forever remain classics. But THIS SHIT…I just don’t even know what to say.
Shadowmaker, released an astonishing 3 years after the band’s supposed break-up, didn’t sound too bad from the 30 second samples, alluding to a more laid back rock template for the album. The riffs were way simpler and Rolf’s once mighty howl now sounded more like a Biff Byford-esque hard rock sleaze machine, and none of that was necessarily BAD, but…I didn’t expect the sample (of “Riding on the Tide,” mind you) to be the BEST SONG ON THE WHOLE ALBUM. I mean, it’s only one of the great classic metal bands. I don’t think we were exactly being greedy expecting something with a little bit of inspiration or drive or God forbid, actual quality, to it.
But no, Shadowmaker is full to the brim with dry, repetitive and unimaginative song structures – oh, are you going to repeat the main riff and chorus again with no variation whatsoever? Color me super excited! – and a really weak production, as dry and bland as the underside of your grandpa’s car seat. The whole band just sounds enervated, and none of the performances stand out or create any kind of fire whatsoever. I get it, Rolf likes hard rock; I do too. But this is really, really bad hard rock, and there’s really no excuse for how bland the performances are or how powerless these songs are.
Pretty much all of these songs sound the same, just uninspired rockers riding out tepid riffs with vocal lines that you could literally copy and paste into any of the other songs and not notice a damn difference. Now, that’s something Running Wild has always done, and they have never been the most dynamic band in the world, but the difference is that they used to actually write good riffs and vocal lines that you wouldn’t mind hearing in multiple songs, and now they just write drivel. If I showed you a song like the dragging two-left-feet drone of “Black Shadow” or the faceless “Sailing Fire,” would you say “yeah, that’s Running Wild”? No, because these songs are crap, plain and simple – I don’t know how else I can say this. On “Dracula” they try an epic, but instead of epic they just hit ‘boring.’ Running Wild is boring. I never thought I’d see the day.
Oh, and I really have to mention “Me and the Boys,” which is probably the worst on here, although it really isn’t much lower than the rest of this, but yeah, that chorus is pretty fucking awful. ”Me and the boys, we love that noise!” Oh, please, no…this is just embarrassing. Maybe if they belted this shit out like a classic Running Wild song I wouldn’t mind the silly lyrics, but it’s sung in this really high pitched 80s soft-rock anthem kind of way that I wouldn’t want anyone to overhear me listening to for the life of me. Blegh.
It’s really hard to even articulate what is so bad about this, because it’s such a generalized kind of bad, without any one aspect sticking out as the worst part of this whole shamble. Every aspect is equally detrimental to the album’s quality. It’s a cheap shot to sit here and say this album sucks because it’s not as good as their classic work, but really, I think there’s a big enough dip in quality for that to be the main issue. If your favorite world-famous chef, renowned for creating beautiful filet mignon dishes and fried lobster and all kinds of mouthwatering masterpieces of culinary art, suddenly decided he just wanted to cook peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of his life, and average ones at that…you’d be pissed off, right? You’d think it was a waste of his talent. Just like this is a waste of Rolf’s and Running Wild’s talent.
I mean God, this is shit. You don’t even know how shit this is if you haven’t actually listened. Seriously, this wasn’t even worth as many words as I have done in this review. I only did it because it needed to be said – and I’m not even the biggest fan Running Wild has, so I can only imagine how their die-hard, hardcore fanbase is feeling right now. Easily the disappointment of 2012.
The old saying rings true no matter what year it is; you just can’t teach an old pirate new tricks. It’s not quite clear if that is the expectation amongst the growing crowd of old school fans turned detractors who haven’t gone for much of Running Wild’s output since “The Rivalry”, but it would make the most sense given that stylistically there isn’t a whole lot of distance between Rolf’s latest output and the roots of the band going all the way back to “Gates Of Purgatory”. The same old format of crunchy rock riffs, droning bass lines that are only slightly more complex than those put forth by Accept, and straight forward beats at mid to up-tempo rates stand behind a husky, deep set of pipes that is just a bit more old school and limited in range than most of his German contemporaries.
Perhaps the biggest liability standing between “Shadowmaker” and the approval of the average German metal fanatic is the somewhat overbearing yet overly simplistic drum sound. Accusations of using a drum machine have been dogging the band since they stopped naming their real drummer on their albums, though to be fair, Starship had a live drummer when recording their infamous “Knee Deep In The Hoopla” album and a similarly loud snare and arena-like reverb mix was employed with similarly processed sounding results. There is also a somewhat more rocking, 80s character to this album that is not as intense and epic as the majestic “Pile Of Skulls” and the 3 subsequent albums that would feature Jorg Michael of Stratovarius and Axel Rudi Pell fame on the kit.
Nevertheless, while this isn’t quite the masterwork of the band’s 80s and 90s output, it’s a pretty rock solid collection of songs that leans a bit more closely to what one would expect from Saxon. Catchy anthems in the mold of “Piece Of The Action” and “Locomotive” are a bit more bare bones than the riveting work heard on “Black Hand Inn”, but they are reasonably appealing. Some of the elaborate elements of “Dracula” and “Shadowmaker” hint at past glory while still featuring that mechanical sounding drum tracking in the background. Rolf’s vocals are perhaps the safest they’ve ever been, but they still have that characteristic blend of attitude and smoothness that fits well within the band’s niche, and his riff work, though a bit less strong on here, pulls out a few stellar moments.
It’s a foregone conclusion that not many will break out their tri-fold hats and wooden legs for an album like this, but anyone who thought “Rogues En Vogue” was a decent listen will find a similar story on here. Despite all of the indications that Rolf was going to hang it all up and retire to some backwater port in northern Germany, it looks like the only retirement fit for a diehard metal craftsman like him will be the one he is forced into at the moment of his death. Opinions may vary, but this old buccaneer may yet have another classic opus up his sleeve somewhere down the road, though he’s mostly playing in the realm of adequacy at present.
I once thought news of Running Wild's return would lead to clear seas and smooth sailing, but the promised loot has been lost and storms have pushed Jolly Roger beyond her limits. Oh yes, hard times have fallen on Port Royal. "Shadowmaker" came from the surprising depths of Running Wild's initial disbandment after sailing the high seas for over three decades; the sudden announcement of a new album was shocking, yet certainly excited me, a longtime fan. I was expecting a monumental shift away from the dull songwriting that damaged some of the band's previous albums like “Rouges En Vogue,“ which probably influenced the faction’s demise in the first place, but yikes, the curse of the "Shadowmaker" has its talons deep in the gut of legend. "Shadowmaker" really doesn't sound like Running Wild. However, it does sound like Rolf covering a bunch of mundane cock rock songs from the 80s, only these aren't covers; this effort emerged from the author of ripping classics like "Gates to Purgatory" and "Death or Glory," and it contributes precisely nil to Running Wild's rampaging tale, now reduced to a static, flat rotation of insipid songs lifelessly floating between the wreckage of this once-excellent project.
"Shadowmaker" tanks because it doesn't feel like a Running Wild album. The amazingly epic guitar work has been reduced to cheap 80s rock chops, and the fantastic songwriting wallows in poorly forged choruses and predictable arrangements. Hearing something like "Piece of the Action" made my jaw drop; there's no way this lifeless dud has anything to do Running Wild...right? Wrong, it does. Sadly, about seventy-five percent of the record moves on without making a dent at all. I still can’t remember a thing about "Into the Black" or "Locomotive," and the other songs that at least made a fracture in my memory deserve to be lost in the infinite waves of my unconscious, because that's precisely how terrible I feel when I hear the banes of "Shadowmaker." Other winners include the crawling title track and a mediocre roast called "Sailing Fire," just mid-paced flops offering not a cell of decency. "Me and the Boys" is an annoying, chirpy number that makes me picture a bunch of bros slamming their dicks together before they go out and act like total douchebags, completely unaware that the joke is indeed on them. It's so upbeat and poorly written that I feel my testosterone levels and respect for Running Wild crashing...why in the Hell does this exist? It's just awful, inexcusable garbage.
It would be rationally unfair to go berserk on the whole album because some of the tunes are fairly substantial compared to most of the spoils throughout "Shadowmaker." A chunk of the lead guitar work throughout the record gives it some color, and Rolf sometimes shows flares of a former glory during "Riding on the Tide" and "I Am Who I Am," probably the only truly beefy tunes "Shadowmaker" can offer. The album's epic, "Dracula," has some cool riffs and ideas within its corridors, but it only manifests itself properly for maybe four or five minutes before the blood runs dry, and it can't hold a fraction of a candle to the magnificent epics Rolf previously penned such as "The Battle of Waterloo."
The crew knows Running Wild as a blistering, energetic badass that charged into the gates of Hell and returned unscathed, not some cheap Kenny Logins knockoff playing one-dimensional happy crappy. "Shadowmaker" makes me ponder a number of concerns: Why did Rolf come back at all? Is this really what Running Wild deserves? Is it possible to change my sexuality back to the way it was? I think the questions answer themselves. "Shadowmaker" is just a bad album; there's no excuse for its detrimental qualities. So the next time you stroll down to the Black Hand Inn, never mention the forlorn curse of the "Shadowmaker." Jolly Roger rots a little faster now that this has a place in the captain's quarters, and its presence casts a thousand shadows on Running Wild. A thousand rainbow, fruity, dancing shadows.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Who dissolves a band just to have it put together a year after? I guess on the bright side there really wasn't the schmaltz of a protracted reunion. This was pretty much a hands on deck comeback. The band has also hopped on the bandwagon of putting up all of these songs for streaming, which of course is no terrible bandwagon to actually jump ship to, if you choose to do so. Well, is it reflective of an undying commitment to their fanbase or just another ploy to stay relevant in times when the band's image is waning and waning fast? If this record is even a minor indication, it really is more of the latter. Though the utter lack of inspiration on this even renders that a rather half-assed attempt.
No, this isn't a sellout. Not entirely anyway. All of these songs are crafted almost entirely with the fans in mind, you know, the kind who'd like something to sing along to with his beer. Of course, a lot of music would be relatable in that aspect, it's just that this is so utterly devoid of creativity and energy on every possible level that it pretty much only serves that function. You'd never hear this and be surprised, not in the least. Every single moment on the album is utterly predictable after it sets in. You hear the intro, it's almost always something good or at least decent. And then it settles into this mid-paced groove that just grates and grates on. And what is really up with Rolf? The vocals on here are insipid, lacking any character whatsoever, and sometimes border on a 3rd grade Blaze Bayley rip-off, which begs the question, why revive the band at all if all you want to do is break even on every possible aspect of its sound? Hard times with the dole, I guess.
I understand Rolf's going a lot more for British Steel here than Painkiller, it's just that the character is missing completely. And there's nothing to cut in with that monotony, either. 'Me & The Boys' is a lot like 'United', if 'United' wasn't just 3 minutes long and was trying real real hard to sound like something you'd hear for a singalong at a tavern. It's weak, with nothing in the way of histrionics, just stark incompetence that almost feels painfully self-conscious on listening. There's also a rather sad attempt at redemption tacked on towards the end in the form of the "epic" 'Dracula'. Well, lets just say what takes a whole 7 minutes to get through could very easily have been accomplished in...4, and the only thing it actually accomplishes is to heighten the ever-increasing annoyance with the plodding nature of the whole album itself. The relief, of course, being that it does end, and the band were honest enough not to take a stab at making this their magnum opus of sorts.
And lastly, two songs with the word "shadow" in them? Now we all get "black" or "dark", and that too can be incredibly contrived. But two? Yeah, this just doesn't get anything of any significance at all. The Jolly Roger's in tatters.
One should not underestimate the love I harbor for most of Running Wild's extensive catalog. The traditional metal powerhouse's absolute golden period stretching from Port Royal to Black Hand Inn competes with metal's best works in any arena, demolishing all revivalist wannabe bands with little effort and besting even competent modern attempts at creating their swashbuckling sound. It is with a certain degree of sadness, then, that my first write-up for this legendary group of pirates must come in the form of reviewing a release as shoddy and halfhearted as Shadowmaker. After a seven year absence, little has changed since previous contemporary Running Wild albums; the flame that inspired masterworks like Death or Glory is once again nowhere to be found, and the listener is left wondering what Rock'n'Rolf came back for at all.
To be honest, Shadowmaker isn't quite the irredeemable disaster it could have been, but if it weren't for occasionally entertaining and catchy tracks like "Riding on the Tide," this record might have fallen into the same chasm that Morbid Angel and Queensryche's latest 'efforts' now fester in. Where are the awesome riffs? Where is the gritty tone and atmosphere? Most importantly, where did the inspiration go? One thing remains certain: it's not here. The numbingly clean production and upbeat songwriting only serve to make the overbearing sense of "jolliness" here more prevalent. The painfully awkward brotherhood anthem "Me and the Boys" is the most overt display of this. This song is easily the nadir of the album, and frankly, it's simply embarrassing to listen to. Seriously, who thought this whole comeback thing was a good idea again?
The mediocrity doesn't stop there, though. Another tepid trend in Shadowmaker's musical direction is the constant lack of speed. Sure, I don't need every track to be booking 240 beats a minute, but this album is almost depressingly slow. Songs like "Black Shadow" crawl so free from haste that I nearly fall asleep before they reach their midway points. Speed up. I'm pretty sure Running Wild was in a contest with itself to see how boring they could get when they wrote this drivel. They won. "Dracula" would like to trick you with its 7-minute length that it follows the bloodline of the band's brilliant epics, but let's just say this isn't another "Battle of Waterloo." The song does nothing to justify its length or existence, plodding along linearly, and the most I can say for it is that it finally delivers the end of a misguided, diluted album.
I know I've been hard on Running Wild here, but they deserve it. This squad has shown the capability to deliver material of quality far superior to that found on this disc. About as much thought was put into this music as the amount of effort given to create its sub-par cover art. For every decent track like "Piece of the Action," there are three more bargain bin "Locomotive"s waiting right around the corner. Shadowmaker gets worse as it goes on, and each listen becomes increasingly tedious and difficult to bear. It only raises one all too appropriate question: what was the point of coming back if this is the final product? Having heard the album more times than I would have liked, Shadowmaker has convinced me that it is little more than the work of an aging Rolf seeking another check. After all, there is little inspiration to be found here to my ears aside from the quest for more green. Perhaps it's time to hang it up and go home.