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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