Running Wild’s piratical Port Royal, investigated as part of The Ocean Week
In keeping with the oceanic themes on The Monolith this week, I figured it would be great to sail the high seas with the German pirates Running Wild. This is a band well established in the very deep German power metal scene, yet their pirate plundering themes were quite unique at the time of this album’s release. The previous album Under Jolly Roger started the pirate trend and this album, Port Royal further cemented that legacy. So why should we care about a British colony in Jamaica? Because we can sail the seven seas like water bound gangsters, that’s why! So let us check out the band’s fourth album from 1989.
After a brief intro you are thrust into the title track in all of its pirate glory. The song takes many cues from the Judas Priest school of heavy metal; the galloping riffs playing on while vocalist Rolf Kasparek charges forth. Piratical lyrical imagery is abound: “Hundred masts, thirty flags // An island in the golf of Darien, Sandglass, bloody heart // Flying high above the scene.” Kasparek made sure to use the best of his ability to make sure his lyrics were historically accurate, and the pictures painted with the words speak more than a few volumes. “Raging Fire” is a barn burner of a song; full speed from the very beginning, and in true German form the vocals are at times done in unison to show off the band of brotherhood that these scoundrels were a part of. Majk Moti’s guitar work is great considering he and Rolf would feed off of each other in the vein of the best of NWOBHM and German stalwarts Accept. The theme of rebellion is all too present and portrays these lads all the better as historical troublemakers.
Possibly the most power metal of all their songs thus far has to be “Into The Arena”, with cues clearly taken from fellow countrymen Helloween as the pace and the drumbeats will surely tell you, if not the riffs. “Millions of people // Killed for the cross // By relentless religion – disgusting.” takes on religion and shows what these marauders believed. “Uaschitschun” comes in next and with plenty of eagle themed lore, you can tell what this will be about. The guitar harmonies found within are stunning and make a true believer in heavy metal squeal with glee. “I’m riding free // Riding free with the wind // Free as an eagle // Proud as a king” is about as power metal as lyrics can get without mentioning a dragon. The instrumental “Final Gates” is expertly played and seems to have a very unique guitar tone and very high bass. You do get the feeling as though you are on a ship’s deck and thus the band’s mission has been accomplished.
Taking on the Spanish conquerors, we see the song “Conquistadores”, with all of the fighting, killing, and raping they do under the guise of “the holy church”. This is yet another bass-heavy player and it paints very vivid pictures of the events that nearly destroyed the cultures in South and Central America. Ending on the lyrics “Arrogance and blindness, religion’s force// Believers never ask the reason why” is another poignant sign that showcases the emotion and struggle of the natives that were slaughtered and had their homes ravaged – as well as their women; very reminiscent of Anthrax‘s “Indians”. “Blown To Kingdom Come” is a song that looks deeply at the reprehensible deeds of the pirates as they “Self-righteously praise their deeds” as well as “For possession they’d kill their mothers”; very true and sad imagery, as people look to praise theft, rape, and murder; do they even know what a pirate is?
“Warchild” is next and is full speed ahead with plenty of emphasis on what is now considered speed metal. The song moves quickly and addresses similar lyrical themes and just has plenty of excellent bass playing going on all over it. “Mutiny” brings back the fine joint singing by the band as it was missed on a few tracks and Rolf sounds nearly possessed with the material as you can really get the feeling of being in this with him together. The song addresses the poor conditions felt by shipmates and what it takes for a revolution on war to effectively take place. and it is a vicious assault from those done taking in the unrest of their sad lives.
The small epic “Calico Jack” closes out this album in style, and you get a sense of early Iron Maiden (in the vein of Killers) with this. The bass is heavy, the riffs are a bit more on the simple side, and there is a heavy emphasis on shouted vocals. The real Calico Jack was a Cuban-born pirate who took his final breath at the titular Port Royal. His is the famous Jolly Roger (pirate flag symbol), a skull with crossed swords that is now synonymous with these sea dogs.
The lyrics go through some of his most famous work and the band does a good job serving as the backdrop for his eventual execution at Port Royal, thus ending an album with the ups and downs of piracy, religion and the idea of being blindly led to commit atrocities on humankind.
Rolf Kasparek (also known as Rock n’ Rolf) still has the band together to this day – they put out Shadowmaker last year – however for first timers they should look no further than the trio of albums Under Jolly Roger, Death Or Glory, with Port Royal falling right in between both of them. The originators of pirate metal did a great job to separate themselves from other German power metal, but still share plenty of musical similarities with their contemporaries; they should be looked to just as often as the rest. Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page. Stay German for the rest of the week!