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I consider this album to be the point where Running Wild began losing themselves (or Rolf started becoming out of touch with reality). After an era of grandiose songwriting prosperity, the band releases a successor that doesn’t quite capture the same band that made the previous albums the gems that they are. The overarching reason stems from the execution, and the blame falls on Rolf for continuing with the following problems. Understand that even though this is inferior to almost every Running Wild album that came before, Victory is still something to enjoy.
I have two major issues that fall under the execution of the album. The first is the lack of a drummer, which Rolf hasn’t solved for his full-lengths for over 12 years now. This forces us to listen to Angelo Sasso, a drum machine that clonks its routine, manufactured ass through what could have been a real, eclectic performance. No real drummer behind a real kit is a big problem on its own, but it also adds to the second problem – a lack of energy or power (or “spirit” if you want to see it that way). This is still the Running Wild fans know and love, but the punch or bite the band had before is but a shadow of what it was (there’s a bunch of that classic fervor missing). These detractions make this album the first in a line of truly inferior albums graced with the Running Wild name.
Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, if you can come to accept these terms, then Victory is an entertaining album. The majestic leads, catchy riffs, regal themes, and kingly backbone holds this album together better than any whole Running Wild album that came after. The best part is the speed / power metal prowess to be heard in the quadruple streak of “Tsar,” “The Hussar," “The Guardian," and “Return Of The Gods.” Although the atmosphere isn’t as rich and crisp as before, those four are noble, lively songs with the swirling harmonies, supremacy and soul that were needed to make this album stand out. Whatever glory could be attained by the band (primarily Rolf) is done on those four songs – the last high point for Running Wild at such a level and in one streak.
Ideas were bound to diminish in quality this late in the Rolf’s career. Rolf wrote mostly the same material this time, but he screws up the execution. This becomes the defining trait for the rest of Running Wild’s (read: Rolf’s) career. He begins settling for less as he lowers the bar for himself, and with songs like “Timeriders,” “Into The Fire,” and the title track, it soon becomes the standard. Not to forget that awful cover art, but thankfully Shadowmaker now exists to make Victory’s cover art look like a masterpiece.