By Dr. Abner Mality

Rock N Rolf Kasparek's "retirement" wound up being more of a long vacation, somewhat similar to Immortal's. I was sure the old pirate would be back to his old tricks before too long and "Shadowmaker" bears witness to that. So, is Running Wild refreshed and ready to pillage again?

Honesty demands that I say this is no classic Running Wild album. It just does not have the sheer quality and impact that the likes of "Branded and Exiled", "Under Jolly Roger" and "Port Royal" had. But it is true to the Running Wild sound and nothing to be embarassed about, either. The album is actually a tour of the band's entire history, from their early "Satanic speed metal" days to their years of famous pirate-themed power metal to the more laid-back rock n roll style they were starting to use before their "retirement". You get a bit of all of that and if you're a fan of Running Wild from first to last, this will be an album to pick up.

Opening cut "Piece of the Action" is off-putting with its slow start and easy rock n roll groove. It's not the lusty attack of "Riding the Storm" or "Under Jolly Roger". But if you let yourself go a little, you'll note the excellent soloing and honest rocking groove. "Riding On the Tide" and "Sailing Fire" are the cuts for metal buccaneers...both up-tempo and almost happy sounding power metal, nothing new for Running Wild, but firmly set in their classic period. Rolf is sounding pretty sturdy on vocals. Real excitement comes with "I Am Who I Am", a chest-beating metal anthem with great catchiness and a rough guitar sound..."Locomotive" is much in the same vein. Three cuts..."Black Shadow", "Shadowmaker" and "Into the Black"...are united thematically and seem to be pretty standard fare. "Me and The Boys" is very hair metal influenced and poppy...not something for old school RW fans, I'm afraid. The album ends with "Dracula", an epic starting with cliched rain and thunder. It's lyrically old hat but the heaviest tune on the album and sounding more serious and grim than is usual.

That's "Shadowmaker". I would have liked more blood n guts myself, a bit more of that swashbuckling pirate flair. But it's comfy hearing Rolf's voice again and I'm sure his continental fans will be happy he's back.