Ha argh me maties! Come draw by the fire, so me ol' bones don't get the chills. I 'spect you've come to hear of the tale of the Black Hand Inn, and the misfortunate misfortunes that befell that ill-starred place. But afore we travel the swashbucklin', rumscuzzlin', timbershiverin' road to adventure, we must be truthful with each other. I... I'm not actually a pirate. *cough*
Right, so, as we know, 1994 was a good year for music, at least it was for me. We had Carcass with Heartwork
, Pink Floyd's Division Bell
, Emperor released In The Nightside Eclipse
, and Therapy? brought forth Troublegum
. And yet with this kind of competition, Running Wild released my favourite album of this year, their greatest success Black Hand Inn
Those who are familiar with the (at the time) four piece will know what to expect with this, but I feel I should give a brief rundown of this amazing German power metal act.
Debuting in '84 as part of the most recent wave of power metal bands from continental Europe, Running Wild were your standard fare: big hair, loud instruments and mildly satanic lyrics. However, with their release of Under Jolly Roger
in 1987, the band changed their destinies and created a niche of their very own. Their destiny was to become known as the most outlandish German metal group since the Scorpions. Their niche was, quite simply, pirate metal.
By combining the traditional crunching guitar riffs of power metal with a swashbuckling vocal style and a jig-like rhythm section, the band had the musical style to back up their buccaneer stage presence.
And so Running Wild was born anew.
Jump forward 7 years, and we have Black Hand Inn
, the 8th release by the band, and their 6th pirate metal album. By this time, the formula has been perfected, the trimmings are polished and the contents are full of untold treasures and gold doubloons.
The album is loosely based around the story of an old sea dog sentenced to burn for witchcraft, but who rises again. As such, the album opens with the obligatory spoken intro The Curse
, which contains the overwrought theatrics we've come to know and love of bands who do their own voice acting.
The story is continued in fine power metal fashion with Black Hand Inn
, The Privateer
, and concludes with The Phantom of Black Hand Hill
. Each is brimming with the speedy guitar and drum work, abrasive vocals and pounding bass.
The majority of the other songs, such as Mr. Deadhead
seem to be imparting a message of how disgusting this world is, a sentiment echoed in Fight The Fire Of Hate
. Some of the band's best writing appears in these three songs, but the most lyrically complex and intriguing song of the album is the epic Genesis (The Making And The Fall Of Man)
. Featuring aliens, pirates and gold all in one song is impressive, but tying it into a story that manages to explain the origin of mankind is brilliant (at least to my mind). Unfortunately, it has a somewhat dubious bit of voice acting at the beginning, that is strangely reminiscent of Zordon, the omniscient wonder from Power Rangers
The actual music is great though. Never boring, despite its length, we progress from a symphonic guitar intro to a racing race of riffs to the triumphant finale, and (I presume) learn a valuable life lesson.
Of the latter songs, both Freewind Rider
and Powder and Iron
are a great excursion into the world of freebooting, raiding the governor's house and above all, having a great time sinking ships on the high seas. With some rather inventive melodies, they are an excellent addition to the album, but it is the second last song, Dragonmen
which really shines. Simply the best song on the album, it takes all the positives I attributed to the previous songs and rolls it into one. Beginning with a beautiful, haunting pipe solo, and featuring one of the catchiest power metal choruses I've ever heard, it is truly a magnificent song. I believe it is probably the one you should listen to if you've just acquired this album, and you will no doubt listen to it again, and again afterwards.
And that's a theory that holds true for this entire album. It's great power metal, nothing too different from the standard fare, but pulled off with such flair and a adventurous style that you too will pulling on your eyepatch, grabbing a parrot from the pet store, and swishing your cutlass through the air whilst watching The Pirates of Penzance
And I think that Running Wild would heartily approve.