When you’re talking about German metal in the mid 80s, the most common associations are the rise of Teutonic Thrash and Power Metal acts like Blind Guardian or Helloween. However, the tradition of up-tempo German metal careening out of the 70s fostered another interesting strain of bands, including Running Wild, Grave Digger, and Rage, which picked up on the legacy of Accept and Scorpions. They sat in a musical sweet spot somewhere between the more rock-oriented fathers and the savage Teutonic Thrash of their brothers. And these bands plugged away over the years. It might surprise you to learn Rage has released 23 albums, Grave Digger 18 and Running Wild 16, so while attention may have been focussed on the savage Thrash of Kreator or the immense soundscapes of Blind Guardian, these bands haven’t faded away.
And Running Wild have displayed an immense resistance to stylistic change over those years. While some may denigrate an aversion to ‘stylistic evolution’, it speaks something of the efficacy of the formula that Running Wild can still remain potent with their distinctly 80s brand of Speed Metal. While other bands may have been looking upward and outward, towards symphony orchestras or the eldritch embrace of Thrash, Running Wild’s progression has more been of introversion. Listening to a Running Wild album may perhaps be considered more an exploration of form than the progression of genre. That is, how we can make new songs and new sounds within a fairly strict and perhaps archaic framework.
By any means, all of the tracks off Rapid Foray could be labelled ‘classic’ tracks. “Stick to Your Guns” is a classic ballad, as if “By the Blood of Your Heart”, indeed, if you were feeling cynical you might argue that Running Wild are simply falling back on old formula. And this wouldn’t be too far off; the melodic tremolo figures common to nearly all Running Wild albums permeate the album, as does Running Wild’s characteristic melodic-tinged riffing and those little cadential tails which listeners will associate with them. They maintain the sense of flow and motivic cohesion which one can see in older tracks like “Treasure Island” off Pile of Skulls. And the album does fall back a little more on formula than one would hope, with none of the songs quite as characteristic or memorable as “Port Royal” or “Under Jolly Roger”. In fact, listening to “Black Bart” will recall “Sinister Eyes” for some listeners; the pieces are in the same key and make use of extraordinarily similar pitch collections.
However there are some little tweaks to the formula to keep the album from the grounds of being overly beige. You can see in Rapid Foray a greater division within the melody and rhythm parts, whereas in earlier albums you might have a melodic riff, you’re more likely here to have a split between distinct lead and rhythm parts. “Rapid Foray” makes use of palm muting which seems somewhat foreign in Running Wild’s arsenal. “By the Blood of Your Heart” is pretty cheeky – listeners will be struck by the bizarre mode in the intro, which eventually makes sense with the introduction of bagpipes later in the piece. “Depth of the Sea - Nautilus”, the album’s instrumental presents an intriguing narrative as it shifts from an atmospheric, understated opening through a strangely soft almost soft-rock section, before hammering into the old-school sound of Running Wild’s origins. It’s one of the few songs on the album which seems to grow organically and is structurally well-constructed. “Hellestrified” opens with some incredibly fat textures which are uncommon amongst Running Wild’s general higher, thinner spectrum.
“Blood Moon Rising” is perhaps the only track on the album I would label an outright banger. The stripping down of layers to just the guitar emphasises the distortion and picking, introducing a savagery which doesn’t often surface in Running Wild’s discography.
The only serious criticism I may have on the album regards the final track “Last of the Mohecans”. There are some fantastic moments, particularly the sombre opening, wherein the guitar has space to weep, and a brief section of Native American chant. But the piece is let down by a general impatience; just as these sections provide fertile grounds for some exploration in different directions, perhaps something a little more understated or reflective, a massive fat distorted guitar shits all over the soundscape, rendering such musical explorations fairly token.
In all, the album is a decent, if safe find. If you want a band which is keeping the spirit of that 80s German Speed Metal alive, Rapid Foray is a good purchase. Overall, you could put Rapid Foray onto a Running Wild playlist and snooze on the couch and rest assured that you wouldn’t notice any of the new songs amongst the lengthy discography. However, none of the new tracks would wake you up like “Treasure Island” or “Under Jolly Roger” would.