When a band has notched up more than four decades of active service, releasing 16 studio albums along the way, the time for cynicism has definitely passed. RUNNING WILD have put the hours in and achieved the kind of legendary status that only true survivors are able to earn. Pioneers of power metal and, go on then, pirate metal too, Rolf Kasparek's enduring crew have little to prove, and a solid fanbase — particularly in northern Europe — that probably doesn't want the band to veer off course and make a jazz-funk record. And if at this point a lack of creative ingenuity is the only criticism one can reasonably level at RUNNING WILD, the Germans are obviously doing everything else right.
Kasparek has been quoted as saying that he believed "Blood On Blood" to be his band's finest album to date, and while he will struggle to find many diehard fans who concur with that assessment, RUNNING WILD's 17th full-length undeniably delivers the goods. The opening title track is an exuberant, melodically direct anthem with plenty of gung-ho folkisms in the guitar work and a singalong chorus of considerable girth. "Wings Of Fire" is a more straightforward metal thumper, an expected development on any RUNNING WILD record, and here executed with as much power and commitment as ever. "Diamonds & Pearls" is more of the vigorous same, and an obvious future live favorite; "Wild & Free" is a ballsy hard rocker with strong ACCEPT vibes and the faint stench of whisky and leather. There is one moment of moderate exploration: closing epic "The Iron Times (1618-1648)" delves into the Thirty Years' War between Lutherans and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire, building something pleasingly opulent and grand from that source material, with several killer hooks and a dash of orchestral, big screen bluster.
The downside to "Blood On Blood" may only apply to non-diehards. This is a solid and enjoyable heavy metal record, but RUNNING WILD are still occasionally dependent on well-worn cliches ("Wild, Wild Nights" sounds like a perfunctory composite of several '80s hair metal bangers) and production values that would have brought the house down in 1986, but which today sound self-consciously old school and lacking in the muscular cutting edge that the likes of JUDAS PRIEST and, again, ACCEPT have shrewdly embraced in recent times, with excellent results. For those who live and breathe this stuff, none of that will matter one tiny fuck. On this ship, the flag is still flying, and the sails still billow.