Genre: heavy metal
"Shadowmaker", the come-back album of German pirate metal legends Running Wild, really seems to have gotten a raw deal with the reviewers many of who have described it as a disappointment and compared it to Morbid Angel's controversial "Illud Divinum Insanus" in terms of the degree of outrage and disappointment it will generate among the fans, and some have even gone as far as claiming that "Shadowmaker" sucks.
You know what, I honestly think that it doesn't suck, and listening to it does not really make me disappointed in any way. It is, of course, no "Port Royal", "Pile of Skulls" or "Death or Glory", but I would say that it is lightyears better than "Rogues en Vogue", which was a big disappointment to me. I would go as far as stating that, although the power/speed metal aspect that characterized many of Running Wild's previous releases is pretty much absent on this one, "Shadowmaker" does capture and highlight the hard rock and traditional metal aspect that has always been part of Running Wild's sound.
Virtually every Running Wild album contains a couple of old school heavy metal songs about motocycles, rebels, rock 'n' roll and so on, so that's not a new thing in the universe of Running Wild. The new thing, I guess, is that such songs are dominant on one Running Wild album. Fortunately (for me at least), we are dealing with pretty solid heavy metal and hard rock tracks built on pretty solid classic metal-styled riffs and lead guitar melodies. I do miss the speed/power metal aspect, I must admit, but I definitely do not think that we are dealing with a weak album in any way.
Most of the tracks are good old school heavy metal tracks with more of a hard rock edge, with "Piece of the Action" and "Me & the Boys" being the weakest tracks. The former definitely has its moments, but perhaps it is not the best choice for an opener. The latter is more of a hard rock track bordering on melodic rock, and probably the least Running Wild-like track ever recorded by Running Wild. Fortunately, the amount of decent and good songs outweighs the amount of sub par songs, and a track like 'Dracula', for instance' does have inklings of the semi-epic sound that characterized Running Wild in the past, while "I Am Who I Am" is a strong heavy metal track with a powerful main riff and a catchy chorus (and a bridge featuring another very Running Wild-like melodic metal riff). Likewise, the heavy and groovy 'Black Shadow' and the straight up and pumping heavy metal tracks 'Locomotive', 'Shadowmaker' and 'Into the Fire' are actually pretty good classic metal tracks. While pretty much a Thin Lizzy-inspired hard rocker, a track like "Riding on the Tide" still features a very typical Running Wild-style chorus, featuring a catchy vocal melody and maritime lyrics.
I think that the problem that many reviewer in reality have with this album is, as mentioned above, the absence of the typical Running Wild speed/power metal sound, and, hell, I miss it, too. But that does not make this album a miserable failure per se. As a straight up heavy metal album, I think it is pretty good, and it does feature many of the elements found on previous Running Wild efforts. And, fans of good old heavy metal (if they can shed expectations of this being another "Port Royal") should be able to enjoy it for what it is: a solid heavy metal album of the old school.
So, yes, I like this one, but I still hope that Rock 'n' Rolf will reintroduce some of the more speed/power metal elements that I love about Running Wild on the next album.