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In the press release Michael Wolpers is listed only as part of the live line-up. It is unclear if he is also a part of the studio work.
After hearing the new song Into The West during their Wacken Open Air gig last year, I had good hopes for the coming album. It sounded a bit Blazon Stone-like (think Billy The Kid/Little Big Horn) and the gig overall gave the feeling that Rock'n'Rolf was in the mood for some serious Running Wild again.
The last two albums (Shadowmaker, 2012 and Resilient, 2013) were mediocre and pretty good, repectively, but lacked a bit of the core of Running Wild. They were too simple and there was no passion behind them. This album, however, is everything I reasonably could have hoped for and even more. The majority of the songs are in the vein of the material on Pile Of Skulls, Masquerade, Black Hand Inn and The Rivalry. The golden years.
The opener Black Skies, Red Flag sets the tone right away being an uptempo song that could have fit on Pile Of Skulls. Good riffing and a classic melodic interlude. The atmosphere on the great track Warmongers then takes us back to the Black Hand Inn album. It is based on a grinding riff with a darker tone and a captivating chorus.
No Running Wild album without the occasional average and simple song. Stick To Your Guns is one of those. If you like plain hard rock anthem songs with a Kiss touch, then you are however in for a treat. The title track Rapid Foray brings us back to the haydays. An uptempo and quite jolly song. In that aspect reminicent to Pirate Song, but more complex and with a wider and better build. A worthy title track, to say the least.
I have to take a moment here to point out that the production on this album is acceptable, but I feel it is a bit thin, light and the guitar sound is too dry and compressed, like on Rogues En Vogue but not quite as awful. The vocals are on the other hand way better than in many years. Rolf pulls off one of his better vocal performances in modern times here.
At this point we arrive at the only real dip on the album. By The Blood In Your Heart is supposed to be a massive anthem with a mighty chorus, but it gives me nothing. The chorus and its song melody is indeed somewhat powerful, but it does not stir anything in me. The following instrumental The Depth Of The Sea Nautilus I can not describe as anything else than meaningless. I had expected much more. The increase in tempo during the last half gives an edge to it but as a whole the song is instantly forgotten.
Black Bart is a great song, but also funny in the aspect that he has borrowed heavily from himself by taking the main riff and structure from Jenning's Revenge and the chorus from Black Gold and made a new song out of it. If you like the aforementioned song, you will also like this. A classic uptempo Running Wild piece complete with a great interlude. Hellestrified is another standard song that does not go anywhere. A simple and quite boring rock song, without being bad in any way.
Blood Moon Rising makes you think of an even mix of the Black Hand Inn, Pile Of Skulls and The Rivalry albums. Uptempo and straight and simple with a good riff and a pleasant chorus, in lack of a better word to describe it. One of the better songs on the album. Into The West, as previously mentioned, is a good and catchy song with strong Blazon Stone vibes.
When a Running Wild song starts with whispering sounds of the nature, a spoken word, an acoustic piece, a delicious guitar lead which builds up in intesity for a few moments until the marching drums set in and Rolf starts singing "1757, the story began...", then you know you are in for a good time. This is exactly the case here, and if you are a fan of the song Genesis (The Making And The Fall Of Man), you are in for a treat here.
The 8-10+ minutes songs have been alternating between being bad, mediocre and ok the past decade (The War, Dracula, Bloody Island), but this is a good piece. Uptempo most of the time, good riffing and plenty of time to create a good mood with the leads in the midsection. The only thing I can complain about is that the chorus could have had a bit more bite to it.
A very good album as a whole, with plenty of obvious thoughts behind details, melodies, riffs and the guitar work as a whole, and this promises good for the future. I feel that Rolf has plenty more to give the coming decade. This album was composed with passion as the main foundation.