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Running Wild - "Shadowmaker" (CD)

Running Wild - "Shadowmaker" CD cover image

"Shadowmaker" track listing:

1. Piece Of The Action (4:25)
2. Riding On The Tide (4:18 )
3. I Am Who I Am (4:51)
4. Black Shadow (5:13 )
5. Locomotive (4:35)
6. Me & The Boys (5:00)
7. Shadowmaker (4:25)
8. Sailing Fire (4:14)
9. Into The Black (4:57)
10. Dracula (7:29)

Reviewed by on April 16, 2012

"...anyone that listens to this album and chooses to reel off words like 'predictable,' 'typical,' and 'nothing new' are simply missing the entire point. If anything, 'Shadowmaker' reinforces exactly the true foundation that Rolf intended."

As an avid fan of Running Wild for over 26 years, I have endured all of the crap from the same metal fans who laugh when I say I am a huge fan of Manowar. Back in the day, there were times when my loyalty to metal had been called into question for preaching bands like Running Wild, Manowar, and Accept, which I proudly called "true metal." Running Wild has been doing this for a long, long time now and my respect for Rolf Kasperak has been earned through the music that he has given me all this time. With that said, I must admit that Rolf's decision to bring Running Wild to an end came at the right time as I found some of the material being churned out by the original metal pirate a bit stale and directionless.

Now, with the return of Running Wild, no one is happier than I hoping the long break is what Rolf needed. However, it is important as a Running Wild fan to avoid setting astronomically high standards, never buy into the hype, and listen to this album with a full understanding of the history of the band, not merely another's perception. By doing this, you will truly appreciate what Rolf was aiming for with "Shadowmaker." Expecting an album like "Pile of Skulls" will result in failure.

"Shadowmaker" brings Running Wild right back to its roots. I imagine some will read that statement and lose the true meaning behind it, incorrectly drawing comparisons to "Gates to Purgatory," "Branded and Exiled," and "Under Jolly Roger." However, when I say "roots," I am talking about the roots of Rock 'n' Rolf, which include the likes of The Beatles, The Who, Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest. All but gone are the jolly choruses invoking pirates on galleys plundering for gold (now best represented by Alestorm). In are the rock 'n' roll anthems that would please the late Phil Lynott and invoke memories of great Running Wild songs like "Fight the Fire of Hate," "Draw the Line," "Crossfire" and "Raise Your Fist." Never fear, pirates are represented here (see "Sailing Fire" and "Riding On The Tide"), as they are with all Running Wild albums. However, any true fan of Running Wild knows that although the band is rightfully tagged as the first pirate metal band, Rolf has only averaged two overtly pirate themed songs on each release. But well beyond the skull & bones imagery, Running Wild albums are predominately rock 'n' roll based. Once you remember this, you will come to appreciate "Shadowmaker" for what it represents.

With all that in mind, anyone that listens to this album and chooses to reel off words like "predictable," "typical," and "nothing new" are simply missing the entire point. If anything, "Shadowmaker" reinforces exactly the true foundation that Rolf intended. While I certainly cannot picture singing this batch of songs on a pirate ship like I did when I first heard "Pile of Skulls" or "Blazon Stone," I find that in thinking back, my finest memories of Running Wild are more associated with the "catchy" rockin' Running Wild songs. They are the ones that make you unconsciously foot tap, headbang, and sing along while infectious and simple groove-laden hooks drag you in. They are the same songs metalheads claim to be "too happy" and that they "wouldn't be caught dead listening to." "Shadowmaker" is an album full of rock anthems: "Riding On the Tide," "Piece of the Action," "Black Shadow" and "Into the Black," which some fans consider "filler" material. The one song that embodies the point is "Me & the Boys," which is the Running Wild equivalent of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" (incidentally, the first song since "Prisoners of Our Time" which lyrically contains the band name). Admittedly, it takes a bunch of listens to realize that it grows on you for precisely the same reason why it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Three songs that deserve special attention are the title track, "Locomotive" and the seven plus minute "Dracula." "Shadowmaker," the song, could easily find itself on "Under Jolly Roger" along with album's best track "Locomotive," which has a riff straight from the band's Thin Lizzy cover of "Genocide" (see "Blazon Stone"). As much as the formula of "verse, verse, chorus" at the start every song is a mainstay of Running Wild tradition, so is the addition of a closing track that tops at least seven minutes. On "Shadowmaker" this comes in the form of history's most famous vampire, "Dracula." The song has yet another catchy, but quirky melody, which takes you a little off guard. The guitar work represents the best on the album and Rolf's whisper of "DRA-COAL-AHH" is priceless.

It is also worthy to note that the production on this release far exceeds any other Running Wild album. Gone is the "dungeon echo" of nearly every other release. The drum sound is much less mechanical the previous three and Rolf's voice is right up front in the mix, but mixed really well with the music. You can tell that meticulous attention went into the production of this album. Frankly, if "Under Jolly Roger" had been produced in the same fashion, you would be surprised to find how similar it would be to "Shadowmaker.”

Bottom line: Running Wild is back. If you find rock 'n' roll played in a heavy power metal environment to be a boring, overdone formula - then it's best to skip "Shadowmaker." If you are a fan who sets the bar too high, you will likely miss the point. If you are a Running Wild fan who truly understands the band, you will take one listen and be instantly hooked. On "Shadowmaker," Running Wild fulfilled exactly what the band is all about and it was all that I ever expected. Fun, rock 'n' metal - which only Rolf could do.

Highs: Fun rock 'n' metal from a legend. The production that would have saved many latter Running Wild albums.

Lows: The formula as basically the same will not grab too many new fans.

Bottom line: Running Wild patches the pirate ship and returns to rockin' roots with "Shadowmaker."

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)