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Running Wild were on a hot streak starting with Port Royal, and with two albums after that it seemed like they were unstoppable. Blazon Stone was the newest bid by the guys, and Rolf has always been one to promote the band’s material to the fullest. Therefore, the move to make a compilation of re-recordings seemed like a genuine idea, but what I want to know is how the rest of band reacted. Was it a group idea, or could it have been something the whole band was on board for, I don’t know. Now for the fans that got to see the band live, this wasn’t a big / new thing, obviously, but for everyone else I can definitely say that this shouldn’t be passed up.
All of the songs featured on this album are from the first three Running Wild albums, which had a sound not alike to the band’s golden age. The earlier sound was a black / thrash / heavy metal hybrid that was characterized by the epic and raw quality. What they played back then was meant to be sinister music that was still proud heavy metal, but the translation sort of works when they are reconditions to become blazing power metal interpretations. It took a little getting used to at first, and in the beginning I didn’t like these new renditions because I knew these original tracks as unrefined, spoiled classics. However, once you do get over the change, you’ll enjoy these songs and appreciate the band for not giving up on this style with just full-lengths.
One major change already is Rolf with the vocals, because his style now is way different than before. On the albums where these songs original came from (the early days in general), Rolf basically talked his way through the songs. This isn’t an insult because this style worked, but he had such a cracked, hoarse voice with rare high wails that sounded like they came from a demon. With the band’s style developing at the time, Rolf turned to more focused clean singing that showed his true potential, charisma, and made Running Wild a more epic band. For most of the songs here, this style works, although some of the very high cleans that were hit with precision on the original recordings are patchy on this one.
Rolf’s wailing, low-end singing on this is something I’ll always love, but the guitars have also drawn their own path that’ll also take some getting used to. If you haven’t heard the earlier Running Wild albums, then this compilation won’t be an issue, but for me taking the first albums so seriously, even these guitars were a little to get over. This is the same production quality – clear, loud, and filtered – as Blazon Stone, so you get the same crispy guitar distortion bent and twisted by Kasparek and Morgan. This is different from the uncooked, boiled tone of the earlier albums – particularly the first one – but that doesn’t stop these guys from blazing with the energy that made those songs so lovable. The bass guitar from Becker oddly doesn’t have much breathing room on most of these songs; I mean it’s there, but if you know Running Wild, you know Jens Becker - this is the guy that made pirates and bass guitars battle buddies in the field of heavy metal. His lines should be deafening and slick, but instead he just backs up the rhythm and is sort of audible.
The optimistic tone goes against the happy yet threatening tone of the early albums, and that’s mainly because of the guitars and their clarity. The melodies were vicious and vintage, but now they’re very harmonious and eclectic, which isn’t bad either; think of it as a different take, which is basically what it is. The mixing is fantastic, with everything but the bass given exceptional volume. The only thing that doesn’t work for me is the tempo slightly sped up for all the songs (making them sound rushed) and the drum sound. I tolerated it on Blazon Stone, but I definitely don’t like it on here. The drums sound so damn metallic and the blot-blot-blot sound of it really gets on my nerves. It detracts from the energy and tension of the songs while also tiring the whole thing.
Overall, I think most Running Wild fans (if not all) will dig this one. It’s a worthy release that shouldn’t go unnoticed, and it contains a variety of early classics. One track I wish they put on here was “Mordor,” which, although a masterpiece in itself originally, would sound awesome with this refined power metal style. Nonetheless, check this one out and delve into all it has to offer. The full-lengths are the known treasures, but even the unknown ones like this are worth plundering.