Running Wild – Shadowmaker
When last we saw Running Wild, they were playing one last exclusive show at Wacken Open Air, attended by myriads of fans saying farewell to their favorite pirate metal formation. Not three years after throwing in the Jolly Roger, the German heavy/power metal outfit is back for more. More eyebrows were raised than “yarrrs” were shouted when Rock ‘n’ Rolf Kasparek announced a new album entitled Shadowmaker, and so the band has a lot to live up to. The comeback has to be justified before people start screaming “cash grab” and with this evidence I’m not sure Running Wild will fully succeed.
Because I like crushing expectations (see Unisonic), let me tell you straight that this is not a new Death Or Glory or Black Hand Inn. Neither is it scraping the barrel like some of Running Wild’s offspring likes to do. If anything, it is heavily influenced by Kasparek’s interim project Toxic Taste and the most controversially atypical song of the record “Me + The Boys” springs directly from that hard rock project. So expect not too many glorious leads and adventurous swashbuckling, but rather a throwback and intimate affair delivering just enough nostalgic punches to please.
With “Piece Of The Action” and “I Am Who I Am”, some trademark melodies return and “Riding On The Tide” immediately finds us in familiar waters. Yet most of the material here is more solemn and plodding like the chugging “Locomotive” and the titular trilogy consisting of “Black Shadow”, “Shadowmaker” and “Into The Black”. “Sailing Fire” is another pirate song, but it’s less cannon fire than faint spark. “Dracula” harkens back to the demonic beginning days of Gates To Purgatory and is one of the stronger tracks on offer.
Kasparek’s playful guitar touch is what makes this album so recognizably Running Wild, and in hindsight probably the main reason why this starts to feel quite comfortable after a few spins. However, this does not take away the simple fact that Shadowmaker is often little more than a distant echo of former success and never sails on the salty seas of yore. In the end, the choice between another round of this or Under Jolly Roger is a no-brainer, but nevertheless I enjoyed my time with this album once I was free from the plague of anticipation. Approach with an open mind and you might just find a few golden coins left in the treasure chest.
Arno Callens’ Rating: 3.0 out of 5