RUNNING WILD, First Years of Piracy (1991, Noise)
At first I thought, “Oh, come on. By the time the scalp and hair rotted away, that bandana would be MUCH looser around the skull’s dome…” before I started to wonder if maybe this guy wasn’t in fact killed by an overtight bandana. Think about it, you’re on the open seas, the wind in your face, and your stupid mandatory headgear is constantly blowing off. So, you tie it on really fucking tight, so tight that not even gale force winds could knock it off, and the next thing you know, you’re dying of gangrene because you cut off the circulation to the top of your noggin. Sounds pretty fucking stupid, until you hear that this guy lost an eye trying to balance a rapier on his nose. Kids: don’t make bets when you’re getting double rum rations.
Generally speaking, it never pays to re-record old songs. For one, there’s always a certain spark that’s lost with the benefit of hindsight, an ineffable youthful energy that’s nearly impossible to summon at will years later. But more than that, by the time an band has accumulated sufficient fans and marketplace goodwill to get away with a release like this, the band is usually well past its prime. But Running Wild were near the top of their game in 1991 when they decided to revive these tunes from their first three albums. Rolf and company released one of their best original albums in the same year, Blazon Stone and were only a couple years from the creative peak of Death or Glory. So, it can’t be said that the band were on the wrong side of the curve when they undertook this project. But then, it can’t really be said that those first three albums were really so raw and underproduced that they needed to be revisited this way. I just recently listened to Gates of Purgatory and was impressed anew at just how tight the band was. Sure, Rolf’s voice hadn’t quite hit its stride, but the playing and production were otherwise just fine. The most shocking thing about that very first Running Wild album is how thrashy it sounds in retrospect; it has a lot more in common with Bathory than probably most people would think. Then again, Rolf’s did improve immensely in those seven crucial years, so for sure he sounds better on “Prisoner of Our Time” and “Soldiers in Hell”. There’s less of an improvement, though, for the tunes from Under Jolly Roger, which was actually only four years old at that point. That fact alone reminds me of how fast-paced the early metal scene was. Nowadays, a band re-recording a four year old song might be doing it on the very next album from the original! But, I digress. First Years of Piracy is inessential, but it’s also quite good and serves as an excellent best-of from the early days of the band, and probably served the intended function of defining the canonical early tunes that one could expect at a Running Wild show in the early 90s, but owning this will only make you want the original albums the more, and if you have them already, are you really going to spend much time with the rerecorded versions? Unless you derive some perverse titilation in the disgusting triggered snare sound that was the Running Wild calling card in 1991, then probably not.
— Friar Johnsen