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Are you fucking kidding me? - 20%

Empyreal, May 16th, 2012

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.