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We can discuss whether heavy metal is a serious matter in general. To make it short, I think, this is the case. But, needless to say, this is not mathematics. This means that there is not only one correct solution. More results may be right. Perhaps one can argue that metal is just a kind of entertainment like nonsensical talk shows, shitty hip hop or petty-bourgeois carnival sessions. Be that as it may, one thing is for sure: it is unquestionably an act of imbecility to behave like a clown while having the claim to be taken seriously. Due to this, I admit that Running Wild generated a unique feature while starting their pirate cruise. But at the same time, of course, their reputation was completely ruined from my humourless point of view. Just have a look at the naive multi-coloured drawing on the back cover. Unfortunately, the front cover also scored an own goal in view of an embarrassing detail. The warning of loud sound effects was nothing but a bad joke. Without showing major deficiencies, the production did not reach an above-average level and the said effects, that probably referred to the cannon shots at the first song, did not show up. These shots sounded rather miserable. They were not louder than a fart in the captain´s cabin.
The songs fluctuated between insignificant mediocrity and a solid level of quality. The title track with its galloping verse, the more or less aggressive bridge and the hymnal chorus opened the album. While being title track and opener at once, this song was doubtlessly intended to be the flagship of this pirate fleet. This was no good idea. In a matter of minutes, it became obvious that this opener would not become a classic of tomorrow. Nevertheless, this tune represented a fairly good start. Indeed, it conveyed the spirit of the freebooters. But it quickly became clear that the captain of this carnival crew failed to deliver the necessary compositional skills for more than just a few interesting songs. The material was relatively streamlined while neglecting surprising breaks and sparking ideas. The absence of tempo changes caused a considerable lack of dynamism. Everything seemed to be created lovelessly. And of course, the tracks did not show the slightest sign of complexity. It was therefore an ironic twist of fate that only the piracy concept was well thought out. The guys had backed the wrong horse.
Some of the pieces, for example the gruesome nursery rhyme "Raise Your Fist", were truly irrelevant. Substandard riffing met comparatively boring song structures. The ordinary voice of Rolf was also not capable to push the pieces to a higher level. Dio was a glorious lead vocalist, Halford was and maybe still is a glorious lead vocalist. Faced with this competition, Rolf´s singing skills on this album were just good enough to perform simple songs in the shower. But he has definitely never been a natural born singing talent. Nevertheless, Running Wild also showed that they had enough potential to write and to perform some more or less exciting tunes. Apart from the highlighted title track, the spirited "Diamonds of the Black Chest" whetted the appetite for more. It offered the most catchy chorus. Therefore, it did not matter that its shameful lyrics were hardly to endure. My third personal favourite was "Land of Ice", because its cold and desperate atmosphere provided me a pleasant sense of uncomfortableness, at least to a certain degree. But honestly, this was not enough in order to leave a long lasting impression. From my point of view, the slow sinking of Running Wild had begun.
Dropping The Satanic themes explored on albums "Gates to Purgatory" and "Branded and Exiled", Under Jolly Roger is Running Wild's transitional album as they would adapt their now famous pirate theme. Upon listening to the album, you might realize that the music, compared to later albums, is not very polished and the production like the first two albums is raw, and thin. This album was really a gamble for the band. They totally changed their image and musical direction with this album, and the result is a record that showcases more of what makes Running Wild such a great band to listen to. With the introduction of pirates into their music, the band finally created an entity that would set them apart from other bands in the German metal scene.
Under Jolly Roger is one of the bands more focused albums in the bands early career. The sound of the album is still trash inspired, compared to later albums that would be more oriented towards speed metal. The album possesses some great standout tracks such as the fan favourite title track that starts the album off with a bang, literally. The guitars are blistering, and Rock 'n' Rolf's vocal delivery is intense and feels like he's got something to prove with this new direction. Does it pay off? Yes, definitely. The music has a bit more variety than on the previous two records. You have the more driving trash tunes such as the title track, War in the Gutter , Merciless Game and Beggar's Night. Also, you have the more laid back anthems such as Raise Your Fist and Raw Ride. This is a fine transitional album that really showcases the bands early brilliant attempt at delivering pirate themed heavy metal. The music itself is still very raw, like the bands previous efforts. The songwriting is a bit uneven at times, and it still possesses the intensity of older Running Wild material. However, Under Jolly Roger was an experiment, a change of pace for the band; thus the band navigated new territory by keeping the same dark sound, and switching the theme of their tunes.
As a whole, this album has all the key ingredients that would make this awesome band the metal legends they are. The absence of any real epic tracks, which is something that would be prominent on later albums is the biggest weakness here. However, the band was experimenting with a new theme and they wouldn't be experimenting with the epic until their next album, Port Royal.
Under Jolly Roger is an album that should be heard only if you've heard the bands other efforts such as Blazon Stone and Pile of Skulls. Under Jolly Roger is a great record from start to finish. This album shows a band that is becoming more comfortable with their song writing. The albums overall sound is more raw, and unpolished. By now means is this a bad thing, however compared to later albums, this record is a bit inferior. Under Jolly Roger is a near flawless record with great metal tracks, however this album is not the perfect introduction to newer fans of the band; this is a record that should be listened only if you are more familiar with their later records such as Blazon Stone, Pile of Skulls and Black Hand Inn.
The way I see it this band had two choices, to proceed on and be a plain old heavy, power or speed metal band like any other and probably be even less famous than they already are, or change their style and pussify their music for mainstream listeners (sell out), what ever you want to call it. Instead, fuck those two options, why not make your music about pirates, incorporate three genres together and be original as fuck, well at least the heavy and speed elements are present at this stage, yes, thank you, I'll take it.
This album has a slightly darker sound than any of their albums. Instrumentally, they basically carry on in the same vein as "Branded and Exiled" and they also established an awesome identity with this album, but that doesn't make it a better album than it's predecessor. In fact, they are both great albums, the differences are mainly in the lyrics, but Rolf's vocals have also improved and are starting to sound a lot more aggressive and effective.
The title track is a no-brainer, with great galloping riffs and some cool lyrics about well, pirates! causing havoc on victims at sea. If you don't like this song then you may as well stop there before you waste your time listening any further. The second track "Beggar's Night" deserves a special mention as it's not only the best song on this album, but one of their best overall, It's where they got really awesome and original, the chorus has one of the strongest riffs ears can hear and Rolf's angry vocals get right in your face.
"We stand up to break our chains
We'll take your scepter and reign
On beggars' night"
You might have to be a fanboy to really like this one, and as a fanboy I'm going to go ahead and say the song "Raise Your Fist" is fucking cool to say the least. It's more of a ballady type track, but again the chorus is great, it's a big banner waving, shout along one which is totally appropriate to play if you are a young and rebellious teenager in the 80's. "Land of Ice" is a decent slower track, but "Raw Ride" is a rather dull experience and pretty forgettable compared to the rest of this album.
The last song, "Merciless Game" is a bad ass way to end an album, the tempo is faster and the riffs have more attitude than the previous three songs, and holy christ, the solo (or soloing) in this song is legendary, you really need to hear it, It goes on and on for one minute and a half to finish the song and album off wonderfully. So really there is only one boring song in this album making it a fail-safe listen, you are guaranteed to get something out of this album if you love metal.
The only tragedy is how rare some "Running Wild" albums like this are, they should be selling as much as Iron Maiden, and then some. I suppose you can find this album on the internet, for a hefty price.
By 1987, with 2 decent albums behind them Running Wild still haven’t boiled their own sound to its essence. Gates To Purgatory and Branded And Exiled were solid but didn’t make a musical difference among the rich Teutonic heavy metal scene – yet without those primitive records, Kasparek & co.’s sound would have not evolved into the epic power metal of following works as they were a phase of the creative process they had to go through, no matter how rudimentary it was. Under Jolly Roger wasn’t a step up in terms of difficulty either but it was the album where these guys defined their imagery and philosophy (lyrically, not musically) – they started showing interest for piracy and history, although other more casual themes are introduced as well. It was a transitory album that preceded the years of splendor and success, featuring some of the group’s most unforgettable classics.
Running Wild still obey simplistic formulas generally here – the title-track and “Beggar’s Night” include some minimalist lines, far from intricate, repetitive but vivid, setting a cohesive instrumental basis for Rolf’s numerous verses and persistent choruses. With the exception of the solo sections, most structures are vocal-based, eluding elaborated instrumental passages, offering straight-forward energetic heavy metal instead without much pretention but competently-composed and honest. Those licks are expressive, kinda uniform and presenting limited changes, just a few accents, not particularly complicated though serving as effective accompaniment to those emphasized lyrics. Soon choruses appear and attract all the attention on tunes like “Raise Your Fist” and “Raw Ride”, which add some sharp, weighty riffs that remain simple and nearly untouched but giving the music notable cadence and power. A few transitions, starts & stops and alternative sequences (maintaining however a homogeneous tonality) are incorporated successfully, providing continuity and versatility. Those tempos are quite accessible in contrast with the considerable vitality of “War In The Gutter”, defined by beats of bigger looseness, with greater punch and rage, following Rolf & Majk’s truly ferocious lines. “Merciless Game” also presents a quicker pulse, a more technical effort discovering strong melodies and refined harmonies, revealing bigger complexity with those meticulous arrangements and riff progression – clearly inspired by Accept’s “Fast As A Shark”. All that epic and brilliance is on the contrary inexistent on the slowest piece on the record: “Land Of Ice”, which features simpler riffing, kinda flat and uninventive – yet including some signs of complication on its mid-section and a convincingly-designed solo.
Under Jolly Roger might not present relevant changes from the previous couple of albums (it almost follow the same schemes), though Kasparek & his team offer a more professional, fluid performance, deprived of the fragility and evident technical limitations and goofs of preceding efforts. Certainly, none of these cuts is incredibly complex or pretentious but instrumentally, they’re more accurately executed. Vocals are predominant however, taking control while instrumental parts are still complementary and concise – there are lots of sing-along choruses, making the music slightly accessible and commercial, yet explicit lyrics are reflecting the attitude of the group: “I don't give a goddamn, what you want to force upon me – Fuck you!” Although Rolf is writing more fascinating words, those about fantasy and piracy make some of these tunes more interesting, creating an unpredictable atmosphere and strong image. Mr. Kasparek is singing those lines with a really crude, lower tone than usual, completely distinct from the melodic mid-range of following attempts. In fact, Running Wild’s trademark melodies and harmonies aren’t incorporated here yet – most tracks are simple, heavy and violent, denying finesse and complication intentionally. But this record reflects a phase of transition on which these Germans start composing cleaner riffs, more rigorous arrangements and less-predictable lyrics in contrast with previous works – yet undeniably, this material is still unpolished and raw. And tempos aren’t particularly fast with a few exceptions, a majority are quite weighty and traditional actually, combined with those mostly uniform riffs and licks making the music minimalist – even though those easy patterns are working, the group might lack ambition but not passion or enthusiasm.
This is one of Running Wild’s most solid albums, the most aggressive and violent in their discography, following a different musical path from upcoming releases – kinda unique and peculiar, simplistic and primitive though also marking a change in the group’s sound from the early rudimentary heavy metal to a more sophisticated one. Their sound was slowly evolving, it took effort and determination from these guys until they finally came up with a distinctive sound and ideas of their own – the result of a long process these songs contributed to, they shouldn’t be ignored.
I never really gave two shits about Alestorm, really. Never cared for their gimmick nor did I really care for the music all that much. Running Wild on the other hand I had respect for since day one, which was the day I found out about them a couple years ago. This band gives respect where it’s due, not all because it’s a flashy image. When I first heard this, I was hardly impressed, though. Definitely a little more on the black metal side, but not to a point where I’d call this black metal. It has traces in the grinding, sharp guitar tone and Rolf’s vicious vocals backed by the grudgy album tone, but otherwise it’s pretty good heavy metal with a kick in the balls.
Of all their ‘80s albums, this one took the longest to sink in, which is odd considering it’s one of the first ones praised when speaking highly of the band. I look at it in a more negative light when compared to albums that surround it. I don’t consider it a whole letdown, but definitely a step-down in the face of Branded And Exiled and lacking in the face of Port Royal. My main complaint is the production, which does and doesn’t do justice to the music at hand. The drums are very stale and loud again whereas the guitars, while heavier, aren’t as prominent as last time. It’s still the ‘80s, so the echo accompanying every hit of the snares still exists, but when the drums are as noisy as they are, it makes everything a little less enjoyable (some songs have it louder than others). This sort of dull production job leaves a brown mark on the riffs and, as such, the songs themselves, which are much more tedious than they should be. Blame it on Rolf’s formula if you want to, but I find the darker production job to be a greater issue.
While not completely about pirates, Rolf still received another dose of enthusiasm to continue his work with more fervor and effort. This break into new territory compliments the power protruding from the very riffs themselves, which pierce like water crashing against the hull of a battleship. “Under Jolly Roger,” “Raise Your Fist,” and “Raw Ride” are the ones making up the trio of epic proportions with the capabilities of an atom bomb that’s catchier than the real deal. All three include various blistering riffs and solos with the ode to heavy metal’s harmony-tinged soft side without going overboard. Other songs, particularly “Land Of Ice,” are the complete opposite – meandering, over-extended tracks with nothing to add of real importance. “Land Of Ice” itself hopelessly drags on with boring (albeit crushing) riffs, a tired solo, and a horrible finisher – I won’t describe Rolf’s vocal duties on it because it’s abysmal.
For the rest of the album, he’s not that bad; he’s angrier, no doubt, with glaring hatred in his voice. His vocals were the first thing that really made me think this was blacker than I thought it’d be – every time he sings it’s like pure rage. Port Royal he’ll wail and sing like never before, but with Under Jolly Roger he has a toiled, bitter voice throughout. I’m not a huge fan of this angrier voice, but it fits well with the heavier and slightly (slightly) darker tone of the album, and not in that satanic way. I love how he included more gang shouts / gang singing that would turn out into a real frenzy on Port Royal, and while a more mature approach, it does show the band’s youthful side.
Bass serves the same purpose as the albums before it (rhythm backing), but its audibility has increased a little bit from the last album. I love hearing Rolf’s surging through the song like electricity, Majk’s wave-like riffs engulfing everything in it’s path, and between them Boriss who’s just grumbling through the thick of it like a thrashing octopus – it’s probably the same octopus that was thrashing on Alice In Chains’ Black Gives Way To Blue. At the end of the day, though, this album’s just another sailing ship in the middle of a vast ocean. This isn’t the fantastic gem that many people make it out to be, but it’s an interesting endeavor for Running Wild and for heavy metal. Give it a listen, as well as the albums before it, and you’re bound to appreciate something.
Germany’s Running Wild continued their conquest of the metal world after some extensive touring, with Mötley Crüe among others, with this their third album, Under Jolly Roger. Now, we all know about RW’s pirate image, and this was where it started. Even though only the title track (and arguably also Diamonds of the Black Chest) featured lyrics about the sea raiders, the album’s cover art and the music itself omitted a distinctively “piratey” feeling.
The lineup for this album was the same as on its predecessor Branded and Exiled. The rhythm section, consisting of the RW veterans Stephan Boriss on bass and Hasche on drums, still didn’t do much more than provide what was necessary for the music. The guitarists, however, Rock N’ Rolf and Majk Moti, really got their shit together on this album. Mostly every song features some great soloing, many times by both of them at the same time, and of course some pounding riffs, since these were one of the most important ingredients in Rolf’s recipe of success.
The album starts off with some cannon-fire, leading into the most classic RW song ever, the song that defined the term pirate metal: Under Jolly Roger. Its irresistible groove and catchiness grabs you right from the start, but the music isn’t even close to sounding like anything they’d done up to that point. The only thing reminiscent of old RW is Rolf’s vocals, which are still rough (although they sound more forced on this album than before). After this opening blast, what follows are 7 more, just as catchy slabs of classic German metal.
Beggar’s Night, despite not having lyrics about the theme, indeed sounds very “piratey” (I don’t like that expression, but I don’t know what else to call it…). It’s solos are also very worthwhile, and overall I like this song more than Under Jolly Roger. It’s also one of RW’s first songs to rely almost exclusively on tremolo-picked riffs, something that with time would become overused by Rolf. But not until a decade later.
After these two very strong lead-off tracks, comes what is probably the weakest part of the album. Diamonds of the Black Chest is a pretty good mid-paced track with very cool lyrics, but War in the Gutter is not in the same league as the other songs. It’s not necessarily bad, but it fails to grab me or create any atmosphere whatsoever. And the lyrics suck. Nothing special about this song at all.
Raise Your Fist, however, remains a concert staple to this day, and deservingly so. I really dig the varied drumming, the guitar solos, and especially the huge chorus, which sounds like it was written for the sole purpose of pleasing metal audiences. And it didn’t fail.
Land of Ice is a very unique song for Running Wild. It’s a very slow, brooding song in a 3/4 beat, with an awesomely doomy atmosphere, strengthened by a riff Tony Iommi himself could have written. The lyrics are also interesting, and the same theme (well, kinda) would be talked about in the song “Sinister Eyes” (Pile of Skulls). It’s solo section is appropriately majestic, too. It should be mentioned, however, that this song had to grow on me for a while before I understood its greatness.
Raw Ride used to be a concert staple in the 80’s too. This biker-anthem (RW’s only, in fact) may not be anything spectacular, but it’s got that special feeling that makes it one of those songs you can play a dozen times the same day without growing tired of it.
Time for the album closer then, Merciless Game. Majk Moti really gets to show off on this one, with a crazy solo after the first verse. The guitarists take the spotlight on this one, as the verses and choruses mostly just work as the groundwork for the solos. The twin solo-section definitely sounds very Walls of Jericho-inspired, but it’s just as great as much of the stuff (not all, of course) Weiki and Kai would write. And the outro is just lovely.
Well, it really doesn’t get more metal than this. The production is pretty damn unpolished and heavy, and the guitar tone breaks bones, which is appropriate, since this is probably the band’s most riff-oriented album ever. The only complaint would be the bass, which could be more thunderous. I would like to hear a remastered copy of this album.
If you only need a few Running Wild albums, you can very well get this one. It’s not their best, but they hit the big time with it in many places of the world, and not without a reason. Running Wild’s golden era had just begun.
Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be boarded by the awesome power of pirates in metal.
...Actually, despite the awesome cover art and title this isn't as much about pirates as one might think, only the title track deals with that subject, although they would explore it further on the follow-up Port Royal.
Still, the whole pirate thing is already becoming somewhat of a gimmick for them on this, their third album, which is one hell of an album.
Unlike the later power metal-styled material like Pile of Skulls, this is pure heavy metal with a whole lot of speed metal riffs in the mix.
The production and guitar tone is somewhat raw and edgy, which is perfect for the material at hand.
We have very varied songwriting on here, but aside from the midpaced (and rather boring) Land of Ice, it's all fast, intense, and really fucking catchy.
The best song on here is the first, Under Jolly Roger. Powerful galloping riffs stand out as key factors along with the anthemic shout-along chorus and the absolutely nuts guitar solo. That's probably this albums best part of all, the solos. Under Jolly Roger, Raise Your Fist, Raw Ride and Merciless Game all have like the best Running Wild solos ever, more or less.
Those for are incidentally also the best songs on here. Raise Your Fist is a midpaced heavy metal anthem with dead groovy bass-highlights under the verses and awesome lyrics, two mindblowing guitar solos and another powerful chorus.
Raw Ride is just insanely catchy. And the lyrics again are completely kickass. And of course that crazy solo and most notably the divinely melodic lead section- One of the finest moments in their career, I'm getting goosebumps as I'm listening to it right now.
Merciless Game is pure Walls of Jericho worship. Lyrics about the decay of the world (a subject that they'd eventually use to death in their later years) and lightning fast speed riffs, and most notably some more godly leadwork.
These four songs make up half the album, and they are alone worth the price of the album. But how about the rest? Well, it's not quite as great as the stuff I've already mentioned, but it ain't bad.
War In The Gutter is catchy as hell ("War in the gutter - HOY!") and has some wicked guitarwork. Diamonds of the Black Chest and Beggar's Night are also solid. Only the midpaced Land of Ice is kinda boring, and tends to drag on at times.
But all in all, Running Wild's first pirate metal album Under Jolly Roger is pretty fucking great. Half the album is made up entirely of Running Wild classics, and as you probably know, these guys have shitloads of good songs.
So yes, this is absolutely essential. Raw but catchy vocals, raw guitarwork with some unbelievable melodic material on the solos, pretty standard but very effective and heavy drumming, and a powerful bass which is just loud enough.
Conclusion: Rock N' Rolf owns you. Buy this now.