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Running Wild owns you again. - 90%

Nightcrawler, December 22nd, 2003

One year after the solid but unspectacular Blazon Stone, Running Wild releases one of their best works to date. 1992's Pile of Skulls at times harks back to older material like Under Jolly Roger, with the intensity and attitude of classics like War In The Gutter, but in a better produced way with a lot more melody vowed into the process, with songs like Fistful of Dynamite. But this also carries on the pattern of getting ever more epic. Each song has a fairly epic atmosphere. The pirate-based speed metal anthem Whirlwind, the Indian-inspired midpaced anthem Roaring Thunder and of course the 11 minute closer Treasure Island all has different but quite majestic and powerful atmospheres.

The production job on here is also the best they had to date, even though the bass kinda gets drowned out most of the time by the intense drums and razor sharp yet melodic guitars- The guitar tone is better than ever as well.
And the song intensity gets kicked up yet another notch, and the entire album is completely relentless nearly all the way through, even on midpaced numbers like Black Wings of Death and previously mentioned Roaring Thunder.
But there are a two weak moments that keep this album from being the best Running Wild album ever. Tracks 9 and 10, White Buffalo and Jenning's Revenge are pretty much boring filler and serve no purpose whatsoever. The former even rips off the main riff from Priest's Leather Rebel, and succeeds with the amazing achievement of making it sound boring.

But aside from these two, this is all kickass material all through. The intro, Chamber of Lies, is also one of the best in metal, ever. The way the completely overwhelming atmosphere is gradually built up and the song turns heavier and heavier... you gotta hear it to believe it. Classic, classic stuff- and that's just the intro!
After that, we get Whirlwind, one of the highlights on here. Classic Running Wild material; intense and memorable speed metal riffwork, catchy and powerful vocal lines, singalong chorus and also a blazing lead section.
Moving on to the next real highlight, we get Black Wings of Death, a melodic midpaced song with a steady rhythm kept by quite epic riffwork and solid drumming, and with another very memorable chorus standing out. Great song.
Eventually we reach track number 7, the title track, Pile of Skulls. Holy fucking shit, does this OWN! Some of their fastest and catchiest riffs ever (which says alot), a completely mindblowing solo section, and that overwhelmingly fast-sung but anthemic chorus. Definitely top 10 Running Wild material.
The song that follows it is yet another classic, beginning with Rock N' Rolf shouting out the title: "LEAD OR GOLD!" After which it kicks into one of the best parts of the album, which reappears numerous times during the album. Powerful galloping riffs that kick Dave Murray in the nuts over and over, and brilliant melodic leads placed over it. Simple, but oh so bloody effective!
The song is yet another pirate anthem, which is what these guys do best.
The next two songs are the previously mentioned mindless fillers, but after that we reach the ultimate highlight of the entire album, and the second best RW song ever... Treasure Island!
A wicked spoken intro with very cool sampled effects in the background lead into a short, quiet melody, that kicks right into what might be the best moment in the bands entire career. After another short but very memorable melody comes that completely fucking unbelievable main riff, which just now is giving me goosebumps. And the rest of the song keeps the same high quality, from the anthemic, powerful chorus to the countless speed metal riffs, leads and solos throughout the song, to the atmospheric middle section ("We see the land, shining sand, but it can be our grave..."), everything on here is nothing short of perfection. In fact, this is probably the best song by the band ever. Yes, it is.

In short, two weaker moments on this album can easily be forgiven, forgotten and ignored in favour of the absolutely mindblowing speed and heavy metal that abound on the rest of the album. The third best Running Wild album, but the distance between the three is marginal. If you like metal, you get this album, end of story.