Running Wild – Gates To Purgatory
Reviewed by Arno Callens
Every now and then I see a flyer for some local gig entitled “Eighties Metal Revival” or something along those lines. Now, I don’t know what the organizers are attempting to resurrect, since eighties metal has never died. These days we have copycats for 80’s bands that are less active or have strayed from the genre they were great in (Attic fills Mercyful Fate’s absence and Primal Fear still does a pretty good Painkiller), so what exactly are they worried about? Even Running Wild, actually briefly dead for all of fifteen minutes, has Blazon Stone now to please fans of the good old pirate days.
And good they were. Since Blazon Stone’s Return To Port Royal I have been shuffling through records old and new, and no one quite matched the upbeat melodies and sense of adventure that Running Wild brought to their corner of the heavy/power metal crossover zone. Orden Ogan gave it a good try with one-off “We Are Pirates!” and an excellent cover of “The Battle Of Waterloo”, and Alestorm is an enjoyable parody. Yet for thrilling trips on the high seas, there is still no better captain than Rock ‘n’ Rolf.
I took a look at Resilient recently, and since its renaissance Running Wild is definitely playing another game. So I got nostalgic and set my teeth into their discograpy, figuring I might as well write down a few words as I’m doing so. While I’ve always enjoyed Running Wild’s first forays, they are distinctly different from their later lyricism. “Black Demon”, “Soldiers Of Hell”, “Adrian S.O.S.”, and “Diabolic Force” are not the topics of buccaneers, and the music reflects as such. It’s basic and grim, much like a heavy metal version of Venom. Of course, the choruses of the aforementioned songs land on an easily shout-along eighties level, but adventurous it is not.
Where Gates To Purgatory and follow-up Branded And Exiled do stand out is in the classic metal hymns. We’ll get to Satan wearing leather later, but “Prisoners Of Time” is just as rewarding, Rock ‘n’ Rolf and cohorts announcing to the world that they are “Running Wild”. As juvenile as its anti-establishment message may come across, so is “Victim Of States Power”, where Running Wild again establishes an actual refrain instead of simply shouting the title four times. They do that on some tracks, but it’s contained. Also, maybe I’m not giving Rolf enough credit, as this album was released in 1984 and George Orwell had some very specific things to say about that particular year.
As an introduction to Running Wild you’re better off with Under Jolly Roger, but any fan of eighties heavy metal will find Gates To Purgatory to their liking. Humble beginnings, but already a sign Running Wild had the potential to be special, as they would turn out to be.
3.75 // 5