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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.