Running Wild – The First Years of Piracy / Ready For Boarding (Expanded Edition) Reissues
Release Date: 27/05/22
Running Time: The First Years of Piracy – 00:42:41
Running Time: Ready For Boarding – 01:26:01
Review by Simon Black
The First Years of Piracy – 9/10
Ready For Boarding – 8/10
Overall – 8.5/10
Once upon a time, there was a rather wonderful independent record label known as Noise Records. Started by the force of nature that is one-time jailed anarchist turned entrepreneur Karl-Ulrich Walterbach. The label and its punk predecessor Aggressive Rockproduktionen were born in a Berlin squat, with Walterbach making all of his business related calls on their behalf from a payphone in the street outside. Despite these humble origins, the label is pretty much single handedly responsible for establishing the German Heavy Metal and Thrash scenes and lifting them by their boot straps out of the underground, which at the time were predominated by the USA and the UK (much as Metal Blade and Music For Nations were doing elsewhere). If you are interested in the history of this fascinating label, then I thoroughly recommend the marvellous “Damn the Machine – The Story of Noise Records” book by David E. Gehlke for a fantastic insight into both the label and its Marmite-like owner.
The biggest hit from this stable was without doubt Power Metal progenitors Helloween, but it also gave a voice to Thrash stalwarts Kreator and many others. At this point they became Noise International, but one foot remained firmly in Germany and mainland Germany and that’s where bands like Tankard and Running Wild had their core audience. The label suffered greatly as music consumption changed forever and finally folded early in the 2000’s. Since then a number of records from that period have been lost to time and impossible to get hold of. Enter BMG, who have swept up the IP, and this month have starting giving some long lost gems the chance to see the light of day.
Running Wild had not really come across my radar at the time and to be fair they never really took off in the UK, but they have remained a stalwart of the scene, without ever really hitting any major levels of success globally, which is a shame. The band are still cranking new material out, but these two releases have been like rocking horse droppings for some time. They also have the historical accolade of being the first band to bring the concept of Pirate Metal to the world, although to be fair this was only a part of their output.
“The First Years of Piracy” is in fact a re-recording of material from their first three albums. Now before you run away screaming at that thought, you have to remember that Walterbach had humble business origins and was good at making money … most of which was achieved by not actually spending any in the production process if he could possibly avoid it. Consequently those early albums were recorded fast and furiously and with a revolving door of a line-up, so in the main sounded dire. So the chance to re-cut their more successful tracks in a decent studio without the need for pre-production to bed in the new line-up was a wise decision at the time and it’s one of those rare instances were the re-recordings work infinitely better than the originals. This is as much due to the fact that vocalist / guitarist Rock ‘n’ Rolf had improved his technique 100% by this point in their careers, but when you’ve had a bit of success you can also get a bit tougher with your label, and since Walterbach always wanted his bands to press something new every year, this was clearly a stop-gap to gel the line-up and give them time to write something new. That and the fact that it’s been out of print for decades, make this a welcome reissue for many of the band’s stalwart fans.
The music is all thunderously fast Speed and Heavy Metal, without a single cod-Folk cliché or an accordion in sight – the piratical elements being kept to some of the lyrics and the original album artwork. Unlike a lot of material from the 80’s it actually stands up well (although it was re-cut in 1991), as it’s the kind of classic Metal that never goes out of fashion and passes the test of time – to the point that I am scratching my head as to why I had never really listened to them before. This is by the book Heavy Metal yes, but effective and lively with it, with a classic twin guitar style and the typical vocal style of the period that happens when your frontman also plays the axe. The production values are so much better than the original recordings to boot, so that it really sounds like a band re-born and is a great jumping on point if, like me, you are quite new to the band.
The expanded edition of “Ready For Boarding” seems to be a new beast entirely, expanded to a full two CD set. The original version had ten tracks recorded in 1987 in Munich on the back of the definitive “Under Jolly Roger” album, but this version has a full second disk from a later gig in Düsseldorf in 1989 when the band were touring “Death and Glory” (previously available only as a live VHS), so you are definitely getting your money’s worth. The sound of the first disk is rich and fat, with the crowd present enough in the mix to get the energy and a downmix that feels fresh, fat and intimate. It captures the formidable energy this band exude live, which was so often lacking in their early vinyl, which was one of the reasons the re-release above was such a step up from these.
The second disk has a way crisper sound, perhaps not surprising given that it had a visual counterpart (also available as a DVD on some versions of this re-package), and although it sounds a little further away, the mix is cleaner and crisper, allowing the depth of the instruments and the subtleties of the interplay to stand out a bit, compared to the slightly more rough and ready Munich show. This second disk is a band playing bigger shows and more confidently, and it’s really clear that they are at the top of their game here, as is the gradual improvement in Rolf’s voice as he hones his technique. Two live disks is not too hard on the ear either, as it’s only ‘Raw Ride’ and the perennially popular ‘Prisoner Of Our Time’ that get repeated on both, which keeps things fresh.
This pair of re-releases is a chance to see a band at their peak, and for a fan who has been deprived of these gems, a worthwhile edition to the collection. Here’s to more booty from the Noise treasure chest…
‘Prisoner Of Our Time’ Live Video
The First Years of Piracy
01. Under Jolly Roger
02. Branded and Exiled
03. Soldiers of Hell
04. Raise Your Fist
05. Walpurgis Night
06. Fight the Oppression
07. Marching To Die
08. Raw Ride
09. Diamonds of the Black Chest
10. Prisoner of Our Time
Ready For Boarding
01. Hymn of Long John Silver (Intro) (Live In Munich)
02. Under Jolly Roger (Live In Munich)
03. Genghis Khan (Live In Munich)
04. Raise Your Fist (Live In Munich)
05. Purgatory (Live In Munich)
06. Mordor (Live In Munich)
07. Diabolic Force (Live In Munich)
08. Raw Ride (Live In Munich)
09. Adrian (S.O.S.) (Live In Munich)
10. Prisoner of Our Time (Live In Munich)
11. Intro (Live in Düsseldorf)
12. Riding The Storm (Live in Düsseldorf)
13. Bad To The Bone (Live in Düsseldorf)
14. Raw Hide (Live in Düsseldorf)
15. Raging Fire (Live in Düsseldorf)
16. Tortuga Bay (Live in Düsseldorf)
17. Uaschtschun (Live in Düsseldorf)
18. Bass Solo (Live in Düsseldorf)
19. Conquistadores (Live in Düsseldorf)
20. Prisoner Of Our Time (Live in Düsseldorf)
The First Years of Piracy:
Rock ‘n’ Rolf – Vocals, Guitars
Jens Becker – Bass, Vocals
AC – Drums, Vocals
Axel Morgan – Guitars, Vocals
Ready For Boarding:
Jens – Bass, Vocals
Stefan – Drums, Vocals
Rock ‘n Rolf – Vocals (lead), Guitars
Majk – Guitars, Vocals
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.