RUNNING WILD
"Rapid Foray"

(SPV/Steamhammer)

01. Black Skies, Red Flag
02. Warmongers
03. Stick to Your Guns
04. Rapid Foray
05. By the Blood in Your Heart
06. The Depth of the Sea (Nautilus)
07. Black Bart
08. Hellectrified
09. Blood Moon Rising
10. Into the West
11. Last of the Mohicans

RATING: 8/10

It took Rolf Kasparek nearly a year to recuperate from a shoulder injury, which delayed the release of RUNNING WILD's sixteenth album, "Rapid Foray". For most, the wait should be well worth it. Rolf and guitarist Peter Jordan are credited as the primary musicians on "Rapid Foray", with Ole Hempelmann and Michael Wolpers filling the bassist and drummer slots on tour. In the case of Wolpers, he is also one of a team of recording techs on the album.

For a band that started in 1976, first as GRANITE HEART, and officially broke up once, RUNNING WILD has staged a modest comeback, releasing three albums since picking back up. As one of German metal's heritage bands, RUNNING WILD's panache has been providing metallic gallantry behind historical themes — despite their brief flirting with Satanism on 1984's "Gates to Purgatory". "Under Jolly Roger" was one of RUNNING WILD's biggest claims to fame, acting as a precursor to the "pirate metal" tag later popularized by ALESTORM. Rolf Kasparek now finds himself and the band 40 years since first setting out, guarding a comfortable brand of retro. And on "Rapid Foray", the band services that legacy proudly.

"Warmongers" is one of the few tracks on "Rapid Foray" to compete with "Under Jolly Roger"'s ferocity, Here Rolf Kasparek turns loose his deafening cannons with crushing double-time and an addictive set of choruses. This is the sound of inescapable calamity at top flight staged after the steady march of the opening number "Black Skies, Red Flag". It's the ACCEPT-mirrored power punch of "Stick to Your Guns" where Kasparek turns the corner on this album and opts to leave his listeners curious where it's going next.

The subsequent answer comes with the free-spirited title track, a rousing pirate metal shanty bearing one hell of a hook. "Rapid Foray" is stuffed with the gleeful, melodic thrusts from across the high seas that RUNNING WILD does better than any other group. The fact that it's more chipper than chippy (straight down to retorting whoa-oh-ohs on the choruses) is an interesting twist. Ditto for the song's successor, "By the Blood in Your Heart", which swoons and sways with a chest thump and heroic bagpipes, rivaling "Rapid Foray"'s aspirations for descant. If trad metal had a bigger chance at breaking the mainstream, how could these two songs miss?

The instrumental epic "The Depth of the Sea (Nautilus) " is the album's shortest song at 3:53, but also its most inspired. RUNNING WILD paces the song like a tragic journey. The band sends off its proverbial ship into suspect waters that turn calamitous, pulling our silent protagonists down to leagues unknown. The thrashing instant when our sailors are engulfed is monstrous.

Rolf Kasparek keeps his nautical hellhole alive for a galumphing rally cry behind "Black Bart", before engineering throbbing power metal grooves into "Hellectrified" and "Blood Moon Rising". The latter comes stocked with shredding guitars threatening to teeter the song's sturdy thuds. To round this album, Kasparek curiously turns to 1800s American lore on "Into the West", and the eleven-minute finale, "Last of the Mohicans". The former sounds as if Kasparek spent a great deal laid up in the company of 1950s and 1960s Western TV shows and films. "Into the West" is the metallic equivalent of an orchestral-guided wagon train roundup — Kasparek has so much fun he drops a whooping "Yahoo!" along the way. The sensitively written "Last of the Mohicans" veers close to spectacular with its valiant riffs, hammering tempos and pungent guitar solos. That being said, it might've delivered a bigger impact if it had been shaved by a few minutes.

Give Rolf Kasparek a hand for trying new methods to update tried and true German metal. "Rapid Foray" yet retains a classic feel that cannot be shirked by Kasparek even if he was trying for something wholly contemporary. As if RUNNING WILD fans want something that sounds like ALL THAT REMAINS — or KORPIKLAANI, for that matter.

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