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Troubled seas - my only friend - 96%

super_ruben09, April 5th, 2013

To me, this is where Running Wild perfected their pirate formula. Under Jolly Roger and Port Royal were excellent records (arguably a bit uneven, but they're minor complaints - I love both albums to death), but they really hit their stride here. Calling it Running Wild's 'pirate era' might not be entirely accurate though. The lyrics deal with pirates, obviously, but they are in no way limited to just pirates. The lyrics on Death or Glory seem to focus on history, with a slight focus on pirates. I'm probably being too anal, but it kind of bothers me. Oh well, on to the music.

Running Wild's blend of heavy and power metal wasn't terribly unique or original, but they are so unbelievably good at it it doesn't really matter any more. Rolf has a real knack for writing incredible catchy riffs and memorable choruses. I could point to almost every song on here as a prime example, which is in an of itself a pretty impressive feat, but I feel like Riding The Storm is the greatest song on Death or Glory. I've heard people complain that the intro is too long, but I strongly disagree. It's a perfect mood setter for the song and the rest of the album. The fact that pretty much everything else about the song is perfect definitely helps though.

I'll admit that I used to feel like the album took a slight dip in quality after Riding the Storm, at least until Marooned kicked in. I still kind of feel that way, but the songs between them have really grown on me. Running Blood in particular, is fantastic, a somewhat bleaker song about religious persecution, with genuinely great lyrics that culminate in an amazing chorus. Renegade has the unfortunate job of following Riding The Storm, and I do consider it one of the weaker tracks on the album, but that don't let that deter you, because it's still pretty damn good. Pretty straightforward heavy metal, with a spoken word section that is actually incorporated well, and doesn't feel like a clumsy copy-and-paste job. Evilution and Highland Glory however, are, in my opinion at least, the weakest points. Highland Glory is a nice instrumental piece, but nothing more, and not up to par with the other songs on here. Evilution is by no means a bad song but it's not as brilliant as the other songs, and it goes on for about a minute longer than it should.

However, after Highland Glory, it's basically banger after banger after banger. Marooned is the bleakest song on here, a man, deserted by everyone and everything, about to die alone on an island, and the song captures that atmosphere perfectly. Bad To The Bone is an impossibly anthemic anthem (see what I did there?), and more politically oriented lyrically. Rolf basically calls out world leaders for the lying, corrupt bastards they are. Not that it even matters, he could be singing about bludgeoning babies to death with dead kittens - if it was this catchy I'd fully agree with it. Tortuga Bay is basically everything late 80s heavy/power metal should be. A killer riff, cool lyrics and a chorus that makes you want to pump your fist and book a ticket to Somalia. Death or Glory seems to constantly build up to the chorus, but that chorus is so unbelievably good they make it work. The Battle of Waterloo is the obligatory epic, and can proudly stand next to Treasure Island Genesis as being some of Rolf's finest songs ever. If you bought it on CD rather than vinyl, there's also March On, which is another fantastic track. As straight-forward as it gets, but with the songwriting to back it up.

This was, unfortunately, the last Running Wild full-length to feature Majk Moti and Ian Finlay. Sure, some of their replacements might have been more technically accomplished (especially in the drum department - Jörg Michael is formidable), but this line-up seemed to have real chemistry, they all worked together very well, and they seemed solid songwriters too. They have co-writing credits on many songs, and Death or Glory, the title track, is entirely their doing (one of the rare songs where Rolf has no writing credit whatsoever). The other thing about Finlay is that he and Jens Becker formed an incredible rhythm section. Jens Becker always seemed quite apt at writing fantastic bass lines with cool accents here and there, and both him and Finlay really knew how to complement the songs. The main focus are pretty much always the riffs and vocals, but they manage to add something to virtually every song here.

So there you have it. A great line-up, near-flawless writing and, most important of all, a bunch of absolutely killer songs. To me, it manages to stand out in Running Wild's excellent career as their strongest album. Some people might prefer Black Hand Inn, Port Royal or Pile of Skulls, but I think we can all agree this is what most heavy/power metal should aspire to be. At this point anthemic and epic might seem rather cliché if used to describe music, but I'm sorry, Death or Glory definitely warrants their use. All I can do is kick myself in the teeth for not checking them out sooner.