(TheBRHM.com) Over on AfroGamers, I did two lists of heavy metal for nerds. It didn’t have anything elaborate for music nerds but if you enjoy comics, video games, and stuff of that nature, check the list out. One album I mentioned was Under Jolly Roger by Running Wild.
Running Wild – Under Jolly Roger
Released in 1987, it was the German speed metal legends move away from lyrics about Hell, Satan, and fantasy and towards a focus on the Golden Age of Piracy and history.
It was an awesome shift that would result in a gaggle of highly acclaimed albums in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. As a matter of fact, it’s the same momentum that fellow German speed metalers Blind Guardian, Helloween, and later on Gamma Ray had in the same period.
But this is about the band’s third album Under Jolly Roger, an album that marked the beginning of Running Wild morphing into a power metal band.
Remember, speed metal—in simplest terms—is traditional heavy metal with a faster tempo. Power metal in Europe, Japan, and parts of South America came out speed metal and—for the most part—features a lyrical approach towards fantasy and sci-fi themes.
I’m aware I went on for a bit but I write not only for metal and rock fans but the readers who aren’t fans but might be interested in the genre. I don’t want to assume everyone’s knowledge of the music.
With the history lesson done, let’s dive into this album, folks.
Since TheBRHM is a new setting, we’ll grade these albums differently. We’ll look at the overall number of tracks and determine how many strong tracks are there.
If half the tracks are good one, it’s an average or mediocre album. Anything above that is a “good” or “strong” album. If all tracks are just amazing that’s an “unbreakable” release.
The A-side of Under Jolly Roger features four tracks and they all serve as introductions to the band’s new approach. Mind you, the sound established in Gates to Purgatory and Branded and Exiled is still there.
Running Wild had a vocal focus via lead singer and guitarist Rock n Ralf and overall, they established the pace of the band’s sound.
So, the stuff that makes the band recognizable have been cemented. For fans who were there since the 1984 debut album wouldn’t have been totally surprised to hear the change in lyrical direction.
“Oh, we’re not singing about freedom, Hell, and Satan anymore? It’s pirates, freedom, and history? That’s works.” It’s not like Running Wild went from straight-forward, digestible 80s speed metal to progressive rock or doom.
As for the tracks themselves, this side of album is strong. It rocks from the titular track through “Beggar’s Night.” Some of the songs ride and bleed into the next seamlessly.
Standout Tracks: Under Jolly Roger, Beggar’s Night
The B-side is the stronger of the two. This side just rides non-stop with another four strong songs. “Raise Your Fist” kind of slows down the rapid, raw pace of the album but not to a crawl. It helps that the song is the rock anthem among a number of pirate anthems.
While the titular track sets the tone of the album, the gruesome twosome of “Diamonds of the Black Chest” and “Merciless Game” are pure 80s speed metal and stand as the album’s overall best songs.
Fast, raucous, and head bang-inducing, these two songs are as beastly as you’ll get on Under Jolly Roger. “Diamonds of the Black Chest” comes in the same vein as “Adrian S.O.S” from Gates to Purgatory and “Evil Spirit” from Branded and Exiled.
That means we have a rapid anthem on our hands, folks. With the exception of “Land of Ice”, the B-side of this album is almost relentless.
Standout Tracks: Raise Your Fist, Diamonds of the Black Chest, Merciless Game
Under Jolly Roger is a dope 80s speed metal release. It might sound dated by today’s production and technical standards but it’s an extremely influential release in metal.
Also, it just rocks start to finish. There are fans who hold albums to certain standards from a musical ability level and others who award points for atmosphere or the enjoyment gained.
I’m an atmosphere and enjoyment guy and Under Jolly Roger delivers on both. For the period, Running Wild’s third release could be appreciated from an ability standpoint.
At this time, Running Wild was still a rawer version of Blind Guardian but the song writing ability of Ralf and his crew allowed for a seamless transition in theme and it works!
Not only that but the speed of this album makes for an easy, fun, and brisk listen to long time and new metal fans alike. As an introductory album, I’d put it as a top three intro into old school speed metal.
Album Grade: B (good)
Staff Writer; James Swift, Jr.
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.