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Drakkar - "Run With The Wolf" (CD)

Drakkar - "Run With The Wolf" CD cover image

"Run With The Wolf" track listing:

CD I: “Run With The Wolf”

1. Rise Of The Dark Lords (Intro)
2. Under The Banners Of War
3. Run With The Wolf
4. Watcher On The Wall
5. Ride The Storm
6. Burning
7. Southern Cross
8. Gods Of Thunder
9. Invincible
10. Call Of The Dragonblood

CD II: “Coming From The Past” (Bonus CD)

1. Coming From The Past
2. Dragonheart
3. Eridan Falls
4. Pure Of Heart
5. Galadriel' Song

Reviewed by on March 2, 2015

"'Run with the Wolf' has a simple, but winning formula – fetching riffs, sing-a-long choruses, and great songwriting."

Italian epic power metal mainstay Drakkar has returned with “Run With the Wolf,” the follow-up to the 2012 sci-fi themed “When Lightning Strikes.” The theme here is back to basics and the band has opted to drop the concept in favor of a bare bones approach, a greater concentration on catchy songwriting, and reaching way back in time to borrow styles from Ireland, whether it come via traditional folk hymns or rock anthems like Thin Lizzy. Allowing songs to stand on their own is a welcome sight and the variety of material only serves to enhance an already stellar discography. “Run with the Wolf” has a simple, but winning formula – fetching riffs, sing-a-long choruses, and great songwriting.

It’s no secret that composer/guitarist Dario Beretta has an unabashed love for Thin Lizzy and he may have very well written one of the best Thin Lizzy songs of them all: “Invincible.” When compared with the rest of the album, the song seems to stick out like a sore thumb…that is if it wasn’t already far and away the best song on the album. It sneaks up on you with its skillful simplicity and before you know it that damn chorus is ringing in your head in the shower. If the “Invincible” allure wasn’t so strong, listeners might actually miss the rest of the album, which would be a crime because it really is excellent.

“Under the Banners of War,” “Watcher on the Wall,” “Burning” (nice touch with the Star Trek: DS9 intro), and “Run with the Wolf” are pretty prototypical of Drakkar’s style and they represent the backbone of the release, while tracks like “Invincible” and “Southern Cross” hit you from a totally different angle – serving only to enhance the power punch. “Invincible” is an incredible pure rock tune, but “Southern Cross” is a side of Drakkar never presented before. A reworked traditional Irish folk hymn, the band plays it with amazing style – acoustic – with a warm cozy feel of Davide Dell’Orto belting out the tune to a rousing bar crowd (bringing memories for me of a local bar called “The Old Dublin” where once a month the owner/singer would play Irish folk songs). It plays perfect juxtaposed with the bursting riff of following track “Gods of Thunder,” which features Eldritch’s Terence Holler in a duet with Dell’Orto. With “Invincible” next in sequence, it is an impenetrable triumvirate of great tunes.

Sometimes the little enhancements make all the difference in transforming an ordinary song into an extraordinary one. Enter keyboardist Lele Laghi, who provided the same with Beretta’s epic doom metal act Crimson Dawn. On “Run with the Wolf,” Laghi steps in for Corrado Solarino and lays the smack down with that Hammond organ style augmenting closing track “Call of the Dragonblood” to perfection. Absent his work here, the song may stand on its own through the chorus and strong riff, but in reality it would sound rather ordinary.

In addition to the new album, Drakkar has added a special edition which includes the re-recording of a handful of classic tracks from the first two albums “Quest for Glory” and “Gemini,” which were originally released with the band’s early lineup, including ex-vocalist Luca Cappellari. The new versions are vastly superior, especially with a much better sound and Dell’Orto at the helm. “Coming From the Past,” “Dragonheart,” “Pure of Heart,” and especially “Eridan Falls” have never sounded better – a fitting tribute to the band’s past, one heavily influenced by the great Running Wild.

By employing a simple back to basics approach and a nod towards another country that starts with “I,” Drakkar has succeeded in presenting a collection of tracks both new and re-recorded that represent some of the best the band has ever released. With tracks now standing on their own – absent a conceptual tie - and the added depth brought on mainly by Laghi’s keyboard work, “Run with the Wolf” is the perfect embodiment of “less is more.” Backed by superior songwriting, great sound, and Beretta’s trademark riffs and solos, the album ranks among the band’s best and continues a long tradition of great metal from Italy.

Highs: Typically great power metal with the welcome diversion of tracks directly influenced by Thin Lizzy and traditional Irish folk.

Lows: The "back to basics" and "less is more" approach may prove a bit too simple for music enthusists.

Bottom line: "Run With the Wolf" gets back to the basics where less is truly more!

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)