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Formed by three former members of the great Running Wild, X-Wild is further proof that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Their first album, the unfortunately titled So What!, is an exercise in pure German power metal that sounds a lot like something Rock'n'Rolf Kasparek would write. But can you ever have enough of a good thing? Answer that for yourselves, and you will have determined whether or not it's worth the time to check out this debut album. Granted, So What! also takes a few hard rock liberties, similar to Accept, Grave Digger and Running Wild, so this album isn't always 100% what you are expecting.
Frank Knight's nasal range actually places him somewhere between Kasparek and Dirkschneider...he uses a lot of Udo's rock & roll antics, but has a lower pitch, rarely raising the siren. It's pretty dirty and it works well, as Knight has a harsh bite that I'd much rather listen to than any wailing, 'clean' power metal vocalist of the Tate school. His tones help make the material here street ready, while the trio of Becker/Schwarzmann/Morgan rampage through a solid pile of riffs and a few really catchy tunes.
"Can't Tame the Wild" has a bouncy, mid-paced energy which, alongside Knight's circus freak, narrative vocals, creates a fairly goofy intro, before the Running Wild worship erupts in a riff that would have felt just at home on Blazon Stone or Death or Glory than it does here. "Dealing With the Devil" again apes Running Wild, a lot like "Raw Ride" from Under Jolly Roger in that you could ride your motorcycle to this and kick a poseur as you speed past. "Scarred to the Bone" and "Wild Frontier" are both fairly forgettable knockoffs, but "Sky Bolter" has an uplifting thrust to it that does not disappoint. Here the album begins to take a slightly diverted path which reflects a more widespread influence, as "Beastmaster" is slow moving, hard rocking and "Kid Racer" is a total oldschool German blast (and one of the better speed songs on the album).
'Suck up the gas, foot to the floor
Engine is screaming, I gotta have more
It''s people like you, I don''t wanna be
Hey you over there, why are you looking at me? Oh God'
Oh God is right, and So What! is not an album one should turn to for lyrical enlightenment, though the words are often amusing for their tongue in cheek qualities. "Freeway Devil" is another pretty good racing tune, with the pirate metal overtones in the riffing. "Mystica Deamonica" is where the album swerves most into the hard rock territory, and yet, despite all the cheese, it's honestly one of the better X-Wild songs throughout their discography. Catchy through a very simple set of chords, with a great song title = chorus part and a kickass bridge around 2:30 that I bet David Lee Roth wished he had come up with. "Thousand Guns" is total Accept worship, with the ballsy chorus and big hard rock riffs, and the album closes with another faster paced track "Different (So What)" which has some barbaric, meaty power metal rhythms.
So What! is a straight shooter as far as its production values, probably owing a lot to the individual members' backgrounds on other albums by Accept, Running Wild and Grave Digger. It sounds good at all volumes, and the musicianship and riffing is tight enough to show that these guys were going places. The only real downside (aside from a handful of mediocre tunes) is the band's too obvious similarities to the other German acts in its family. But if, like myself, one Running Wild might just not be enough...track it down. It's the least impressive of their three albums, but there are some good tunes.
Highlights: Kid Racer, Mystica Deamonica, Different (So What)
That's exactly the level of satisfaction I get while listening to this album. "Okay ... so what?". Lets say Running Wild is Dr. Pepper, that makes X-Wild Dr. Thunder. It isn't bad but why bother when you can get something of the same sense but of much higher quality and just all around superior?
I don't know all the details but X-Wild is basically made up of remnants from one of Germany's metal legends, Running Wild. You've got an ex-axeman Axel Morgan on guitars, the more well known bassist Jens Becker, and Stefan Schwarzmann on drums. Then there's their vocalist Frank Knight, whom at times does sound a bit like RockÂ´nÂ´Rolf though much weaker and more limited, he actually manages to sound more like Udu than anyone else. He never seems to dare to put his balls to the wall though, I'm just not feeling any kind of energy from this guy at all.
So we've got a handful of great musicians here, but what do they do? Its like these guys stole some of Rolf's blueprints from Running Wild's mid-era (Black Hand Inn, Masquerade), watered it down beyond imaginable, stripped the pirate image, and topped it off with terrible Accept-like ballads. Utterly lifeless and extremely uninspired, they could have done a lot better than this. On top of all of this, the production is hardly commendable. Its not terrible or even really bad, but extremely bland and just downright boring.
Musically the album seems almost like its completely divided into two pieces. Can't Tame the Wild, Scarred to the Bone, Skyboiter, Kid Racer, definitely sound like mid-era Running Wild more than anything else. Fast and aggressive with nonstop double bass drumming, unfortunately these four songs sound too similar thus making them all very unmemorable. Between these tracks you have Dealing with the Devil, Wild Frontier, Beastmaster, Mystica Daemonica, and Thousand Guns, these are the slower almost very Accept-like ballads that don't really ever become too complex or diverse. Ironically enough these slower songs make up the majority of the longer tracks here, which is a shame because of how basic they are. The track listing itself is too predictable and leaves you with no surprises. Its fast song, slow song, fast song, slow song, etc. Freeway Devil is the only track on here that shimmers with a spark of diversity and is probably the only interesting track here worth hearing, though it does sound like its trying to be another Treasure Island.
Even when someone brings up Running Wild or Accept, X-Wild never pops up in my mind. Why would I recommend this to anyone? I'm not even sure if its possible to do so. Maybe if someone just by some fluke accident heard X-Wild before a bunch of other bands they could maybe appreciate them, but there's seriously next to nothing worth hearing here. Its utterly lifeless and will leave you with nothing but ultimate emptyness. Extremely boring and just downright pointless. Their next releases would seem to improve a bit, but their ripped off formula is still definitely there so I can't even recommend those. Just, move along.