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Most of the same problems that plagued Victory carry over onto this album. Rolf continually lowers the bar for himself in order to write more mediocre songs, and the push from power metal to rock tracks is beginning to show. These traits existed on previous albums, but Victory hinted at that direction as it stood out for having a batch of great power metal songs while catering to Rolf’s desire for something else. That something else effectively breaks The Brotherhood down to being Victory with less cohesion. The stronger tracks thrive, but the weaker ones are numerous enough to make this album inferior to the already inferior album from before.
Making his return is Angelo Sasso, a douchebag drum machine that adds practically nothing. The monotonous drumming makes me beg for some variation or a pattern that goes beyond typical beats. I’m not asking for anything technical, but spice up the rhythm and work with the riffs on making things more interesting instead of the same mid-paced cymbal and snare hits. The drum bass rolls almost the same way on every song, and only at certain times does its simplicity work with a riff to make a moment catchy (the riffs usually accomplish this on their own). This same problem was on Victory, but there were more drum fills to not even mention the issue beyond the sound of the pliable, robotic bonks that the two albums share.
On the respectable side we have power / speed / heavy metal goods to enjoy. “Welcome To Hell,” “Crossfire,” “Siberian Winter,” “Unation,” “The Ghost,” and the two bonus tracks “Powerride” and “Faceless” carry the passion of Running Wild one last time (without the bonus tracks that’s only half the album). “Crossfire” is really more of a rocking song, but it has the catchy choruses, grand leads, soaring vocals, and zeal that the others have. If only the production allowed these songs to have the same crunchiness and punch that the pre-Victory albums had. The values are much of the same as they were on Victory, so don’t expect much of a bite with the guitars or Rolf passionately singing as gruff and proudly as he once did. He tries, but the vitality heard here is a very close replication to the actual thing. Rolf attempted to bring back an epic sound that was underutilized on Victory. With The Brotherhood, songs like the instrumental riff-tsunami “Siberian Winter,” the leisurely anthem “Unation,” and the grand “The Ghost” go for something extra. “The Ghost” gets drawn-out a little too long, but it has some of the last savage riffs and solos Rolf had left in reserve.
On the poor side we have the mediocre and flat-out shitty tracks that Rolf settles with (on here) and lives by (later on): “Soulstrippers,” the title track, “Detonator,” “Pirate Song,” and “Dr. Horror.” The title track and “Pirate Song,” while not the worst, aren’t as properly arranged or catchy as they could have been, and thus descend into complete mediocrity. The other three songs are dogshit – or the new standard for the following albums. They’re boring, pointless songs that show Rolf for what he truly is now. The uninspired rocker “Detonator” especially reeks of blandness and amateurism, which scars the presentation of the album.
What’s left is definitely a brotherhood of resilient songs brought down by others that suck. Take away those and what’s left is a pretty good full-length – the last bastion, if you will. With The Brotherhood, Rolf lets loose the last of his creative abilities. He goes from a band member to a band manager and destroys what integrity this band once had with abysmal presentation and shitty songs to back it up.
In the world of metal bands are either criticized for never changing or strung up and ridiculed when they do try something different. Running Wild at first was the butt of jokes because they never changed their sound. They recorded nine albums (Gates to Purgatory through Masquerade) of pretty much the same type of power/speed metal. Now with The Brotherhood, the band is getting blasted for trying something different.
So what makes this album different? Well like the last album Victory, The Brotherhood (for a lack of a better word) is "groovy", just to more of a degree. This is not the sonic speed metal assault of the past.
Because of this the songs are actually more diverse. This diversity is also something new that we never heard on a Running Wild disc before. I hate to say it but when I listen to even stellar discs as Blazon Stone and Black Hand Inn, I get tired of the albums half-way through because all the songs end up sounding the same. Not with The Brotherhood. Aside from the occasional weak song, I can listen to The Brotherhood straight through.
The album opens with Welcome to Hell (sorry, not a Venom cover) which is reminiscent of Wild of old. This is just a fantastic speed metal monster with a killer riff. Rock N' Rolf in an interview said he got the idea for this song when someone asked him what he would say to great an alien that was visiting earth. His response would of course be 'welcome to hell'. LMAO....you gotta love those Germans!
The next song Soulstrippers, as well as the song Crossfire, is when the grooviness kicks in. Some die hard fans end up hating these songs but I found them to my liking. They have more a standard rock groove to them and mixed with Rolf's ever likable "pirate" vocals....its just music to my ears.
The title track and the epic closer the Ghost show Rolf at his most "Iron Maiden" like creativeness to make long yet likeable metal monsters.
Some may notice that this album lacks "pirate" material. All is not lost as the song Pirate Song is here. Now this is a terrific speed number with great tongue-in-cheek pirate lyrics. One of Wild's best songs. The instrumental "Siberian Winter" is also terrific.
Like I mentioned before...I liked this new groove and diversity but I am a little upset over one thing. Yes, like with the album Victory, the drums are programmed (ala Drum Machine). I will admit however that for a drum machine, these drums don't sound too terribly bad. These drums sound MUCH better than the stale drums on the Victory album. If only Rolf would get a real drummer perhaps this album could have been more widely accepted. Even with the drums the production on this album is really good with the guitars being the highlight. You just can't help but love Wild's trademark guitar sound. No one else on earth sounds like 'em.
I can see why some fans were upset but there should not be so much hate for this album. The songs are really good. I feel many people are still holding the "drum machine" thing against Rolf and are blinded by that aspect to actually find that the album is good. If you’re a Wild fan and are open minded for a little "groove" and forgiving for the drum machine, then please give The Brotherhood a spin.
NOTE: If you can, pick up the limited edition with bonus tracks as the songs Faceless and Powerride are speed metal monsters that are a must! They are fantastic songs that could have easily replaced weaker tracks like Dr. Horror that appear on the album.
Damn, I can’t begin to believe why people aren’t liking this album. Sure, there are only a few moments here that are reminiscent of former glories, but heck, there are a ton of awesome tracks that are a little different.
I made a reference to accept in the title, and it is well deserved, there is a strong accept vibe running throughout the album, with subtle touches that have made running wild what they are – namely those uplifting leads and Rolf’s vocal delivery. This is top German-styled 80’s metal. For the most part, it’s not blazing speed metal, the lyrics are, on the whole, not about pirates, but these two things are not the only redeeming qualities of metal.
The riffs are predominately hard-rock/80’s metal for the most part, but are damn catchy. Listen to Dr. Horror. Sing along everyone, that “Mass destructive strategy…” part is damn catchy! Listen to the “Welcome to Hell” intro, the first time I heard this I thought I was listening to a Virgin Steele Album. Virgin Steele DO NOT SUCK, and neither to Running Wild. Hell I can’t see how people think this is uninspired, a little generic perhaps, but not uninspired. The leads and soloing are as strong as ever and haven’t really changed, apart from the tempo. Even the bonus tracks kick arse. They are both top quality power metal.
I’m really liking the songs on offer here. Those unforgiving running wild fans need to look at this album in an objective light, and realize that there is some excellent heavy metal to be found throughout. Be proud of your band, Rolf is still kicking arse!