Disclaimer: MetalUnderground.com does not support piracy of any kind and strongly encourages readers to buy their music and not plunder the seven seas. We do however, fully endorse any metal band who wants to base their image or lyrics around pirates, and there are a few. Pirates have become a popular topic amongst people over the past twenty years, thanks in part to successful franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Monkey Island games, so it’s no surprise that the drunken, debauched world of piracy found its way to the drunken, debauched world of heavy metal. It did so before either of the aforementioned franchises in fact and before bands such as Alestorm and Swashbuckle performed under the Jolly Roger, and most people would give full credit for the invention of pirate metal to a band from Hamburg, which were appropriately named, Running Wild.
The seeds of the band were sown in 1976 when members of the bands Granite Hearts and Grober Unfug began jamming together, eventually decided to form a new band with a new name. It seemed to be a relatively lengthy search as they didn’t settle on the moniker, Running Wild, until 1979, taking its name from the Judas Priest song of the same name. They released their first demos in 1981 and soldiered on for a few years this way, certain that their hard work would pay off. As luck would have it, it did, and they were eventually picked up by Noise Records, who released their debut album, "Gates to Purgatory" in 1984. Lyrically, the album was based more in fantasy and Satanic themes than the historical topics they would later adopt, though the record did feature a song entitled, "Genghis Khan."
It was a well received effort which was followed only a year later by the sophomore album, "Branded and Exiled," which also received a generally warm response. It was another record which focused on dark ideas, but this was soon to be dropped and Running Wild began writing more about pirates and historical themes, setting them apart from many of their contemporaries. This idea was debuted on the 1987 album, "Under Jolly Roger," with the title track and "Diamonds of the Black Chest," being two of the most obvious advertisements of their new sound, at least for those who hadn’t noticed the front cover of a pirate ship making its way through rough waters.
Once again, they followed one successful album with another a year, this time with their fourth effort, "Port Royal," emblazoned with a Jolly Roger on the cover, establishing their connection with pirate themes, in addition to the song, "Mutiny." It had other historic themes too, such as "Conquistadores" and the song, "Uaschitschun," the title coming from a Native American word for white people and loosely translating as, "ghost." It was followed in 1989 by what many fans consider to be Running Wild’s best album to date, "Death or Glory." It peaked at number 45 on the German Album Charts and resulted in their first home video release, which featured the band performing a concert in Düsseldorf.
Their sixth album, "Blazon Stone" surfaced in 1991, and according to singer, Rolf Kasparek, was their best selling album of the 1990s. It was another well received effort and that same year, the group released a collection of re-recorded early material entitled, "The First Years of Piracy," before a seventh album, "Pile of Skulls" was released in 1992. It sold quite well and remains a popular record amongst fans, paying tribute to one of the most famous pieces of pirate based literature, "Treasure Island," with a song of the same name. It went beyond the usual pirate themes however, and featured an underlying theme of corruption throughout the ages, pointing out that perhaps, not much has changed in the modern world.
Running Wild then tried their hand at lengthier storytelling, with their next album, "Black Hand Inn," being mostly concept album about a man named John Xenir being burned at the steak due to accusations of supernatural powers. Though it didn’t sell as well as some of their other records, it was able to break into the top twenty in Germany and earn a number of highly positive reviews.
This perhaps inspired the group to work on a much grander project, a trilogy of albums about the struggle between good and evil, beginning with 1995’s, "Masquerade," which is one of the groups poorest selling albums but was far from a critical failure., in contrast with their 1998 release, "The Rivalry," which was looked upon favourably by fans, but not so much by the critics, though it did mark an improvement in sales. The conclusion to the trilogy, "Victory," was not met with glowing responses from either fans or critics and is the only Running Wild not to feature any songs about or inspired by pirates.
Their next album, "The Brotherhood," returned to more general themes, including appeasing the grog swilling fans with a song simply entitled, "Pirate Song." It was received more positively by fans and was followed that same year with a live record, simply named, "Live." Three years later, Running Wild released their thirteenth studio album, "Rogues en Vogue," which sold quite well, even though fan reaction was pretty mixed.
Surprisingly, it was to be the group’s only album for some considerable time, as they appeared to focus on live performances, before frontman Rolf Kasparek announced in 2009 that the band was to split up, with their scheduled set at Wacken Open Air that year to be their last. Thankfully, the hiatus was brief, and after releasing the previously mentioned Wacken set on CD/DVD in 2011, Running Wild returned, with a new album, "Shadowmaker," their first in seven years, hitting the shelves in 2012. It was considered their best effort in a long while and reached number twelve on the German album charts, as well as performing well in Sweden and Austria.
Another album, "Resilient," was released the following year, but did not meet the expectations some fans had after its solid predecessor. It’s now been two years since their last album, and surely these heavy historians from Hamburg are already cooking up something for their next effort. Whether it compares with their previous works or not, it’s great that such a force as Running Wild didn’t lay dormant for long and that their back plundering stages as only they can.
Running Wild - "Branded and Exiled"
Running Wild - "Under Jolly Roger"
Running Wild - "Conquistadores"
Running Wild - "Bad to the Bone"
Running Wild - "Little Big Horn"
Running Wild - "Pile of Skulls"
Running Wild - "Black Hand Inn"
Running Wild - "Lions of the Sea"
Running Wild - "The Rivalry"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.