Album Review: Running Wild - Resilient
Part of me is sad that I missed out on the speed/pirate metal boom that took place when I was too young to know what heavy metal even was. The 80's were the heyday of cheese, and not much was cheesier than a bunch of guys with long hair dressed up like pirates while they tried to play music to make you think they were aggressive. We saw a brief resurrection of the style a few years ago, but in this day and age, the facade no longer works. The world is too cynical for such slipshod gimmicks, which is why Running Wild was laid to rest not too long ago; it's time had passed.
But they say you can't keep a good man down, nor can you keep down a band that still has name recognition. After Rock 'n' Rolf tried his hand at a few other musical endeavors that weren't met with much fanfare, Running Wild was back to thrill us all with more tales of pirates, the seas, and a healthy dose of musical cheese. It wouldn't be Running Wild any other way.
The themes and the overall presentation never change, but there's far less speed metal to be found in Running Wild's sound these days. Maybe it's a result of getting older, but “Resilient” has more classic metal elements to it than a fan from the old days might want to hear. It's all for the best, because the slightly slower tempos give Rock 'n' Rolf that much more space to inject fun into the songs. Is the opener “Soldiers Of Fortune” a great song? Probably not, but it's a fun little number to sing along to, which is the niche the band is trying to fill these days.
The title track is ripped straight from the old Dio playbook, but Rolf's isn't powerful enough to drive such a simple hook. He needs more sugar in the melodies to be at his best, which “Adventure Highway” does a better job of illustrating. They're similar songs, but have a different take on how to emphasize the melody in the choruses, one of which proves far superior than the other.
Things pick up a notch when “The Drift” hits, a song that features some interesting riffing, those familiar pirate-styled guitar lines, and a sing-along chorus that reminds you that metal can indeed be fun. It's the first moment on the album that makes you believe Running Wild can indeed capture the glories of the past.
“Desert Rose” keeps the hits coming, this time bearing more than a striking resemblance to 80's hard rock, the kind that metal fans wrote off as lame back in the day. This is anything but, a sharp little number that would have tremendously improved Rock 'n' Rolf's “Giant X” project. He can clearly write in this style, and it seems evident to me it's what he would rather do these days. It's the more traditional numbers, like “Fireheart” that seem less inspired, and have less grabbing hooks than the more classic metal numbers.
“Resilient” is the second album by the resurrected Running Wild, and I think it puts something important in perspective. We attach expectations and memories to bands, and when time and people change, it's hard to see them in any other way. The bands themselves do this as well, and it may be even more sad in that case. Running Wild is expected to be a band of pirates, so the band delivers on that promise, even if it's not in their hearts. The half of the record that tries this doesn't do much for me, but the half that leaves the gimmick behind consists of a bunch of really good traditional metal. I wish Running Wild could shed expectations, because an entire album of that sort of stuff would be great.