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Unholy fucker of mothers! - 98%

TrooperEd, January 21st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Noise Records (Digipak, Deluxe Expanded Edition)

I'm sure people often wonder why I don't just ignore metals unknown past and latch onto the Ghost BCs and the Pallbearers. Nothing against those bands, but one of the greatest things about digging through metal's past is stumbling upon a 24 karat diamond the size of Texas. A truly amazing masterwork that for whatever reason slipped through the Decibels and the Vh1s and all the other metal gatekeepers.

Running Wild's Blazon Stone is one of those albums.

After I had finished hearing this album I was beside myself. I was ready to declare this the greatest metal album of the 90s. Yes, as in better than Rust In Peace, better than Painkiller, better than Blessed Are The Sick, the whole nine yards. That's how fucking good this is. Granted, now that I've let the taste simmer for a month or two, I have reasonably eased up, but the fact that something like this could even relish the thought is staggering to me. It might not be the greatest of the 90s, but its damn sure in the top 10 of the decade, top 5 even. There are prime Iron Maiden and Judas Priest albums that aren't this fucking good.

The opening guitar harmony is so regal and majestic, it musically ties in to the coat of arms album cover perfectly. As though an army of trumpets that the new kings have arrived to take their throne, or at least as far as German metal is concerned. Helloween had tragically lost the plot, Kai Hansen was stuck in a weird ass backwards Queen phase, and Blind Guardian, while putting out their finest work yet with Tales of Twilight World, was immediately put on notice. You bards have a lot more growing up to do to sniff the throne. After a glorious minute of guitar heaven, the proper song Blazon Stone kicks off at lethal Phantom of the Opera speed and does not let go. THIS is what refinement is all about kids. The days of Gates of Purgatory may be gone, but standing in its place is a newer, sleeker, more melodically sound Running Wild, complete with a perfect vocal.

Oh yes, did I mention Rolf Kasparek sounds absolutely incredible here? His timbre, his tone, the way he soars? Imagine Blaze Bayley with a shit ton more fire and brimstone. Matter of fact, Blazon Stone is exactly what X Factor and Virtual XI should have sounded like. I suppose one could argue that maybe he should have gotten the job over Blaze in 94, but a) Running Wild was still in the middle of a hot streak, and b), it was Steve Harris's washed up songwriting that ruined those albums more than anything else. Neither Tarja nor Floor nor Bruce nor Kai could have saved those turds musically. But back to Rolf's vocals on this album and how great they are. They are the stitching that holds this bad boy together. While you won't find the vocals particularly technical or outrageously high (or low), what you will find is a series of perfectly delivered verses and choruses. This is why vocals are important to metal, and not to be used as an some sort of atonal growling rhythmic instrument.

Highlights of Blazon Stone include the whole fucking thing! Seriously? I can't do a track by track review? Fuck you and your stupid rules metal-archives and making me choose between tracks. Ok, ok fine. If you want to subscribe to the "your album is only as good as your weakest track" theory, look no further than interlude Over The Rainbow, which is nothing but two minutes of bass and drum interplay. However, it's DAMN FINE interplay. This wasn't even on the tracklisting of the original album (something I'm quite stingy about), but I honestly can't picture the album being complete without it! As atmospheric as Dawn Patrol is, it takes it out back and teaches it a thing or two about virtuosity and fucking metal! Other highlights include 20 years to late Schoolhouse Rock number Little Big Horn, stadium rockers Lone Wolf and Heads or Tails, as well as lethal Thin Lizzy worship Bloody Red Rose followed by a gloriously repurposed Venom tune by the name of Straight To Hell.

I suppose if someone put a gun to my head and made me nitpick negatives, I can come up with two. The first is that the opening of Fire & Ice sounds maybe a bit too similar to Lone Wolf. I don't like looking for similarities to call people out on them but I feel like if I don't someone else will find them and then there will really be a fucking problem. The other oddity is I feel like the guitar tone should be a bit fuller. Particularly for a brilliant riff fest such as this, nothing less than Ride The Lightning's monstrous wall of Marshall stacks is deserved. Don't get me wrong, the guitar tones on this album are great, but I have to be real and say it could have been a smidge fuller.

I don't know Boris, Pile of Skulls has it's work cut out for it if it wants to top this album. Hell the rest of the Running Wild catalog has its work cut out for it (as of this riding I've only heard this album and the debut). I'm sure it will be fine and full of classic, majestic songs about pirates and what not, but going up against this? Pound for pound? That's a tall, tall order. Lots of immature razor edgelords like to throw around the term "Buy or Die" to sound more hardcore than they actually are. I'm still not going to say that here, but if you don't own this album, what are you waiting for? You are depriving yourself of one of the best albums German power metal (nay, HEAVY metal) has to offer.

Mighty of Spirit - 94%

Ancient Sunlight, January 25th, 2015

Running Wild rarely gets the credit it should, as it has degenerated into a two-man performance piece with little soul left. Many producers of masterpieces lost their lustre throughout history, and that Running Wild is one of them should call forth only grief, not hatred. Let me be clear about this: no band I know of, in metal or otherwise, released, time after time, stupendously successful albums for nearly an entire decade. The chain of releases starting at Under Jolly Roger and ending, regretfully, with The Rivalry, has never been equaled in my mind. Time after time they hit the mark triumphantly and with dignity, hoisting the black flag prepared to slit the throats of the philistines. Blazon Stone may be the highlight in that line-up.

The Band is chiefly associated with pirates, but not pirates as they actually existed. Pirates were brutes and savagas, knaves, fools and thugs. They are romanticized for one reason only: they represent a suppressed cry for freedom that throbs in the bosom of every worker who stoically struggles forward in his 9 to 5. Running Wild found there its source of inspiration. The band's entire existence is a stand against banal middle-class philistinism: the unambitious, merely content and lightly pleasurable contrasts starkly with Running Wild's powerful call of "Death or Glory!" When the band wants to achieve an effect, it tries to do it monumentally. They are not concerned with the unanimated, the small or the 'exciting'; they care only for the grotesque and theatrical, the truly rousing passions of the soul.

The union of pirates with Running Wild was only natural. Power Metal captivates the minds of blue-collar workers who long for and fantasize about the adventure their dull lives lack, while Running Wild's chief influences was Accept, a gritty, down 'n' dirty band whose members reveled in their youthful rebellion. Running Wild stood for something - naive, undeveloped, and rudimentary though it may have been - and stuck with it for years, defending it passionately. This something was a vague concept of "liberty" and "freedom", which they found exemplified in the romanticized myth of the modern pirate, and which they embraced wholeheartedly without a single stammer of irony or second thoughts.

At the same time, songs like Slavery demonstrate they do not romanticize or justify the violence. In Slavery they condemn those "brutes" for enacting their "deadly raid", only to cleverly end by emphasizing that the "machinery" that caused those awful deeds is still "in motion / as long as money is the law". Lyrically, this is Running Wild's most ambitious album, as Bloody Red Rose and Little Big Horn demonstrate. The latter is a particular favorite, chronicling the failure of cavalry commander Custer in a battle against the local Indian population. Nearly three hundred American soldiers died in a crushing defeat, including Custer and family. Wisely, the Running Wild members do not comment on the right or wrong of either side; they only emphasize Custer's foolish daring of "the hand of fate", leading to a "painful bloody day".

Little Big Horn's riff uses the theme of the popular folk tune The Girl I Left Behind Me, infusing it with a patriotistic air that is at once cheerful and proud, in contrast to the embarrassing defeat Custer suffered. The guitar leads are universally effective on this album, in fact. No band as consistently turned out catchy but gritty power metal leads like Running Wild. They had a perfect ear for them, and no album is without a few first-rate riffs. They are brief but filled with power. The great power metal bassist Jens Becker, who is currently in Grave Digger and a few additional projects, proves he is a master at his instrument too, with amazing bass guitar support. Drummer AC, an ex-groupie, remains in tune with the bad excellently. He fell in love with the band before he started playing with it, and his passion feels almost tangible. The drumming thumps along powerfully, while the guitars have that irreplacably clean power metal sound, aided by amplified bass guitar support.

Rolf supports the moral upheaval and passion by shouting with power and touches of anger. Still, it is a contained passion, with beautifully rounded and even melodic singing. The vocal lines, though not exactly elegant, are implemented gracefully to make them clean and resounding. I'd have preferred them mixed more at the front, but Running Wild is known to have problems with vocal mixing. It is luckily never drowned out too much, with Rolf still soaring above the instruments with his gruff singing.

As always Running Wild's sincerity and elevation steals the show, however. A song like Blazon Stone calls to mind elaborate scenes of piracy and buccaneering, and the great freedom one feels in conquering the wild sea. Anyone who has heard the enslaving call of the sea will feel its power. Neither the romantic passages of Berlioz's Corsaire overture, nor even Wagner's Fliegende Holländer Overture so greatly capture that side of piracy. The strain of moral indignation so sincerely accompanying many of the band's singles ("Raise your Fist", "Bad to the Bone") is also discovered once more in Lonewolf, an indictment of tedious middle-class philistinism, and Straight to Hell, which should speak for itself. The latter is an indictment of the highest quality because it is not made up merely of verbal fireworks and worked up anger: it sounds so sincere. Later songs like Kiss of Death represent this too in part, but are not as powerful. They seem partly put-on – merely another attempt to write a similar song. Here it feels as if was written in a burst of rage.

Neither the production or playing, nor even the writing, is flawless, but as usual Running Wild makes up for it ample with spirit. Do not make that all-too common mistake of underrating Running Wild, and give their best albums a listen. This is one of them.

Little Big Horn - 92%

metroplex, February 24th, 2012

After the classic Death Or Glory, Running Wild decided to speed things up without sacrificing the melody of their two previous albums. The result was 1991’s Blazon Stone.

It became their best selling album to date, probably due to the critical success of Port Royal and Death Or Glory. It is less consistent than its predecessors, due to a couple filler tracks, but its strongest ones are better than the ones on the after mentioned albums, and the production is superior too, which boosts the listening experience.

The album starts with the bands best opening song, and an instant classic “Blazon Stone.” The guitar melody heard throughout the song is very catchy and pirate sounding. The speed assault continues with the next track “Lonewolf”, before switching to the mid tempo “Slavery”. Next highlight and probably the best song on the album is “Little Big Horn”, a mixture of catchiness, speed, melody, hooks, and sing along lyrics. The rest of the album suffers from weaker tracks due to the songwriting input of the other band members. Proof of this is that the only good songs on the second half of the album were written by Rolf. The anthem “Heads Or Tails” with its sing along chorus, and the most underrated song in Running Wild’s entire catalog: “White Masque”. This song gives “Little Big Horn” a run for its money. The chorus, the verse, everything is sing along and the guitar work is nicely done.

Points deducted because of the weaker tracks, Jens Becker’s less prominent bass lines from previous albums, and for the horrible album cover. Blazon Stone may not be regarded at the same level of Death Or Glory or Black Hand Inn, but to me, it’s a Running Wild classic, and at that time, a sign of things to come.

Stay Classy - 95%

OzzyApu, January 7th, 2010

We find ourselves smack-dab in the center of Running Wild’s golden age. Port Royal made them a powerhouse in the heavy metal scene while Death Or Glory kicked the genre in the balls. Hardly anything could compete, and Rolf wasn’t letting his hot streak die down anytime soon. Blazon Stone continues Death Or Glory’s prestigious harmonies and grandiose songs, making this one like a little brother living up to the older brother’s standards. Not much has changed, and we’re all thankful for that…

No loss of energy, no shameful riffs, no despondent solos; all the glory you could possibly imagine in a heavy metal band lives on this album. I mean, damn, Death Or Glory kicked our asses with epic monoliths, buoyant tunes, concert staples, and more; Blazon Stone tags in as the next opponent. These riffs are highly potent when it comes to killing poseurs, but transporting me into a more heroic place and time is something I don’t usually find happening. Blazon Stone is so classy that it makes you classy – decked out in killer boots and everything. You feel like this album just stands above all else on the social level, putting you in that historic mindset where chivalry wasn’t entirely dead and people still gave a damn about silk and gold.

Production is just as good as last time – loud, proud, crisp, and with a guitar tone that could squeeze the juice out of pineapples. The mixing is incredibly even but not exactly consistent; “Over The Rainbow” basically does away with consistency by upping the bass (Jens Becker did write the song), making for an incredibly serene track thanks to the blissful bass lines (the lead harmonies help out). Even on the non-Becker tracks Jens’ lines are bludgeoning and fried to the brim – very rich and dominant.

Already, the album features perhaps Running Wild’s greatest intro build-up for the first song (yes, it beats “Riding The Storm” in that department). That opening is just so grand, courageous, and makes you feel on top of the world. There have been better intros from the band before this, but that’s like one song (“The Battle Of Waterloo”). It’s just so moving and ambitious – Rolf really outdoes himself overall, with more of his killer tracks like “Lonewolf,” “Slavery,” and “White Masque” following in their master’s footsteps. These riffs chop, slice, and dice like no other – fast is the key, although every song is mid-paced and nasty. The riffs can only do so much to turn you into chopped vegetables, but the melodies and blazing harmonies are the ones making you stick around. Iron Maiden is likely the best comparison when it comes to solos; for you to exasperate over never writing (or performing) majestic, imperial solos like these is expected. Their inclusion makes every song on here a royal treat for any king, queen, or everyday metalhead.

If you were out in the field for five days straight without a shower and felt like you were about to pass out, then pop this in and you’ll feel revitalized in seconds. No energy drinks, coffee, or any of that other garbage that always bites you in the ass later on when you forget about it. These guitar leads have this vigor that’ll kick-start our puny brains and bodies, making the rest of the day feel fresh and new. Rolf did it, folks; he did it with Death Or Glory, too, but he did it again! Those drums will batter you constantly day in and day out while still remaining upbeat and colossal. “Little Big Horn” has to be the album’s most optimistic sounding track (so ironic), with Rolf’s vocals soaring high in the riff-winds. Those grainy, thunderous yells and wails do much to maintain the attitude and liveliness that’s kept Running Wild on top of their game since Port Royal.

For the band, this album is easily one of their best. No way you can dig Running Wild and skip this album – it doesn’t work that way. The songs are shorter, but the track length is still long; you’ll never feel tired of anything on here, which is a feat in itself. You’d be quite the fool to pass up Rolf’s delicious, sophisticated heavy metal…

A Very Solid Release. - 92%

Nightlock, April 14th, 2006

I’ve always seen this album (Blazon Stone) as Running Wild’s transaction album between two different eras. Death or Glory (featuring a slightly more commercial sound, and slightly older Running Wild elements that I think Majc Moti and Iain Finlay brought to the band) and Pile of Skulls (the vicious speed metal album). So hahaha, if you’ve by any chance heard both of those albums and like both I can safely say you’ll be sure to like the “in between” Blazon Stone. That features elements of both albums without sounding like a “copy” of either. Two other dramatic changes; Majk Moti (one of my all time favorite guitarists) to: Axle Morgan (another one of my all time favorite guitarists) and both have done their best work in Running Wild. The other being: Iain Finlay (a great drummer with a peculiar style) being replaced by A. C. (a more straightforward drummer). I’m not going to say these changes are “good” changes, but a necessary changes. “Necessary” because I think the album would have sounded different if Majk was playing as the second Guitarist and Iain on drums. So we’ll say these changes were good in a sense.

Now the songs *smiles*, the album starts off with Blazon Stone (the title track) one of the best Running Wild songs of all time. It comes in with this slow extremely melodic/atmospherical harmonized guitar melody, I tend to agree with people when it’s said that this is reminiscent of the atmosphere a cathedral generally has, it’s quite strange but yes that’s the atmosphere, very Doom-ish. After about a minute the song slowly progresses and picks up speed until it’s a blazing speed metal number, with catchy as hell riffs, solos and lyrics. As I’m writing this I’ve got the chorus stuck in my head:

"Stand tight we'll fight the fear and pain
United force
Blazon stone, power and hope to the slave
Blazon stone, suppression we send to it's grave
Blazon stone, we spit in the face of death
Blazon stone, a mascot to the tortured
Blazon stone"

Mare words can’t express how good this song is, it’s a “must hear”. Anyway the albums second song “Lonewolf” keeps the pace up. It’s more of a “Bad to the Bone” (RW song off their pervious album Death or Glory) type traditional metal rocker than the speed metal opener. It’s got some really catchy breaks and vocals lines; “A lonewolf on the prowl again, yeah”. It took me a while to like “Slavery” as I do now, but it’s a more melodic dual vocal affair. On to track four, “Fire & Ice”. I believe A.C wrote this one he does have a slightly different song writing style to Rolf (Running Wilds main song writer) it’s still a really good song and fits the album perfectly as the fourth track. That’s another thing about this album the track order is perfect. Onto “Little Big Horn” probably my second favorite song in the album. The atmosphere is a lot “happier” then the previous songs with a vibrant chorus and happy main riff more of a Power Metal song. “Over the Rainbow” is a little interlude/instrumental I see it as a brief break from the songs (if you even need a break) it also gives Jens Becker the chance to go crazy and show of his amazing bass skills. In which we've heard on such tracks as “Conquistadores” and “Highland Glory (The Eternal Fight)” on previous albums. A great little instrumental that truly does prove Jens Becker truly is the best bass player ever. After that finishes your thinking “how could this album get any better” then, After a brief intro of what sounds like someone chasing by a mysterious a horse rider “White Masque” kicks in. Another speed metal song with another catchy as hell chorus and more catchy riffs. This song probably has the coolest lyrics out of any song on the album. I love songs about secret societies and conspiracies etc. “Rolling Wheels” is a very obscure song, the lyrics are very “un-Running Wild-ish” they seem like a German attempt at making a “on the road” rock song I guess Jens doesn’t have the English song writing skills Rolf has. This is only talking about the lyrics though the song is really good, featuring lots of strange tempo changes and a powerful chorus. “Bloody Red Rose” is another great song, with yet again another powerful chorus and elements of “epic-ness”. “Straight To Hell” another Jens Becker “bad English Lyrics” song, this is probably my least favorite song on the album. But that’s only expected and it’s not a “bad” song it’s actually quite enjoyable the other songs are just so godly. I mean the album is bound to have one or two “not so good” songs. To the Next and last song of the album; “Heads or Tales”, Well if you like “Chains and Leather” (song from “Branded and Exiled” album) you're sure to get your kicks out of this little number. It has a very similar huge anthem rock chorus, overall a fun and fairly catchy song. Still lacking something that the rest of the album has, I can’t quite put my finger on it. You could say that this is the albums low point.

The 1999 remaster of the album contains two bonus tracks from the “Little Big Horn” EP “Billy the Kid” (a fast and energetic speed metal track that captures that atmosphere of the historical story perfectly) and the Thin Lizzy cover “Genocide” (an excellent adaptation of the Thin Lizzy classic and it fits Running Wild perfectly. Unlike their cover of the Beatles “Revelation” *shudders* but let us never speak of that again).

Overall this album is a “must have” in the Running Wild collection, I highly recommend it to any speed metal fan.

Staying solid. - 80%

Nightcrawler, December 14th, 2003

Blazon Stone sees Running Wild continue in the path they've been going for a while. The classic heavy metal vibe is still very much there, but packed in there we have tons of speed metal riffs and leads, and there are also some definite power metal influences found on here. The production gets even cleaner with this album, and also induces a more powerful, thunderous sound on the drums. The bass however is much lower than before, though still distinguishable.
The songwriting formula is the same as they've been going with for a while now. The songs go from midpaced to blazing fast (more of the latter) and are always very catchy, with memorable anthemic choruses and lyrics mainly focused on the oppression of authority or the coolness of pirates. The guitarwork is in focus, and this album features Rock N' Rolf (who's also the vocalist) and Axel Morgan blasting out countless excellent riffs and memorable leads like on any Running Wild album. So we have here all the ingredients necessary for another pirate metal classic.

The album kicks off with it's best song, the title track. Like the opener to the previous album, it features a long intro, but this one is not nearly as powerful. Still, some great shit done here, ranging from slow and epic to lightning fast and, well, still epic. Then we get into a crazy ride of catchy and atmospheric speed metal, featuring a very memorable chorus, brilliant riffs and melodic leads, and powerful drumming. Classic Running Wild at its best.

Moving on, we get to Lone Wolf, which has some catchy single note-based riffs, but it's very boring vocally, and has no actual heart put into the songwriting.
Then Slavery takes us back into asskicking mode with more pirate-inspired atmospheric speed metal. Fire And Ice is alright, the riffs and chorus are very nicely done, but it doesn't really have any distinguishing factor that sets it apart from the rest and comes off as a bit average.
Little Big Horn features an insanely catchy main riff and a very powerful chorus, and is also really good.

Then we have the instrumental Over The Rainbow, which features the bass highlights we've come to expect from Running Wild instrumentals. But like we've also come to expect from them, it doesn't really get anywhere. Fortunately, this time they just made it 2 minutes long, so this isn't a big problem.
Ah, and then we have White Masque. Right from the opening - crashing drums and epic guitar melodies this song completely fucking owns all in its way like nothing else. The blazing fast under-vers riffs are like the ultimate highlight of the album, the lyrics and vocals are very catchy, and then that awesome shouting chorus in the classic Running Wild vein, only even better than usual. "Blazing the wrath with the union of the white masque!" I dare you not to sing along. Come to think of it, this one's probably better than the title track, and that's saying alot.

The four last songs keep up the good quality for the most part. Rolling Wheels is a very good, midpaced anthem with some groovy atmosphere and cool riff changes. Straight To Hell is lightning fast and features some very catchy riffing and vocal lines.
Closer Heads or Tails is also a great midpaced tune, with some of the catchiest vocals on here, especially the sing-along chorus.
Bloody Red Rose is somewhat mediocre, however. It has some nice melodies, but is very forgettable vocally.

And then we have the bonus tracks. Billy The Kid is catchy as fuck, and one of the best songs on here. Genocide is the worst Running Wild song ever, and should never have been written.

But aside from one downer, Blazon Stone really is another Running Wild classic, and essential for any fan. A bit more mature, if you will, than the previous stuff, and with cleaner production. The intensity and energy level sometimes is alot lower than on classics like Under Jolly Roger, but they make up for that in very catchy and memorable songwriting. Running Wild has set an undeniable mark on the metal world, setting their very own sound upon a somewhat formulaic brand of metal. Buy this album or walk the plank.

This is where Running Wild starts to REALLY rule - 79%

UltraBoris, August 27th, 2002

Starting with this one, they put out a string of monster speed metal albums. They definitely have listened to PAINKILLER with this one - the songwriting has stepped up in intensity quite a bit from their previous few efforts. While not as all-out lethal as the follow-up, Pile of Skulls, this is definitely a good solid kick in the face nonetheless.

The title track is the longest on here, and has a really cool chorus. Probably the best song on here, since it throws in some killer speed-metal riffs and some definite Judas Priest style soloing. "Lone Wolf" is also very cool, a bit more power-metal sounding. "Slavery" isn't quite as speed metal, nor is "Fire and Ice", but both definitely kick ass. "Little Big Horn" is one of the few non-pirate songs that they have. More fun power metal.

"White Masque" has one of the most perfect choruses in the history of metal - think Blind Guardian in terms of complexity and catchiness. Then "Rolling Wheels" is one of those 80s-styled metal anthems. Think "Rock the Nations" by Saxon. Very nice.

"Bloody Red Rose" is power metal, and then we get to "Straight to Hell" - the fastest song on here, almost as fast as "Pile of Skulls" - total headbanging madness. "Heads or Tails" closes out the album - catchy and fun.

So what we have here is not quite Judas Priest "Painkiller" (not as much as their next album) but still, something very very impressive, and just downright fun to listen to. All the songs are fun, nothing is overly cheesy, and generally sensible songwriting combined with excellent riff work and some nice soloing stands out.