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Music / Running Wild

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The band during the Death or Glory era.note 

We are prisoners of our time
But we are still alive
Fight for the freedom, fight for the right
We are Running Wild
— "Prisoners of Our Time"

Running Wild is a Speed/Heavy/Power Metal band from Germany and are considered to be the inventors of Pirate Metal. Originally formed in 1976 as Granite Hearts, they soon changed their name to Running Wild as an homage the Judas Priest song of the same title. The band's early work featured lyrics and imagery centered around Satanism and Dark Fantasy, but with the release of the band's third album, Under Jolly Roger, frontman "Rock 'n'" Rolf Kasparek decided to creatively change course with the band's theme, and so Pirates would define Running Wild from then on.

The band briefly split up in 2009, only to reform two years later in 2011.

Although Running Wild is mainly known for their pirate theme, they're not as gimmicky as you'd think. The topics of their songs range from ancient conspiracies, literature, Heavy Meta, and political and environmental issues to history in general.


  • 1984 - Gates to Purgatory
  • 1985 - Branded and Exiled
  • 1987 - Under Jolly Roger
  • 1988 - Port Royal
  • 1989 - Death or Glory
  • 1990 - Wild Animal (EP)
  • 1991 - Blazon Stone
  • 1992 - Pile of Skulls
  • 1994 - Black Hand Inn
  • 1995 - Masquerade
  • 1998 - The Rivalry
  • 2000 - Victory
  • 2002 - The Brotherhood
  • 2005 - Rogues en Vogue
  • 2012 - Shadowmaker
  • 2013 - Resilient
  • 2016 - Rapid Foray
  • 2019 - Crossing the Blades (EP)
  • 2021 - Blood on Blood

Tropes ahoy! Three-master off the starboard bow!

  • After the End:
    • "Straight to Hell", from Blazon Stone, is about a "stumbling few" trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
    • "Land of Ice" off of the Under Jolly Roger album speaks of an apocalyptic war and a resulting mutant-filled nuclear winter in 1999 A.D.
    • The closing narration of "Genesis (The Making and Fall of Man)" from Black Hand Inn also speaks of an apocalypse descending over the world in the year 1999, this time as a result of the aliens’ judgement.
  • Age-Progression Song: "The Ghost (T.E. Lawrence)", from The Brotherhood, chronicles Lawrence's life from being a young man trying to get in the army to the Arab Revolt.
  • Album Intro Track:
    • Port Royal opens with the aptly-named "Intro".
    • Pile of Skulls opens with "Chamber of Lies", a lead-in to "Whirlwind".
    • The Rivalry opens with the aptly-named "March of the Final Battle (The End of All Evil)".
  • Alien Invasion: "Iron Heads" (from the infamous 1984 Death Metal split-album note  and the Masquerade remaster). While the chorus tells that the alien invaders are going "to make the world alright", the end result is rather bleak ("Ruins are everywhere, the whole world is empty and dead").
  • Artistic License – Ships: In the intro of "Under Jolly Roger", it takes only seconds for the pirate crew to man the cannons and fire them after a suitable target for a Boarding Party is spotted.
  • The Aloner: "Marooned" from Death or Glory is written from the perspective of the lone survivor of a terrible shipwreck who finds themselves stranded on a foreboding Deserted Island.
  • Ancient Astronauts: "Genesis (The Making and Fall of Man)" from Black Hand Inn is a retelling of the supposed origins of humanity among the Anunnaki aliens as put forth by fringe author Zecharia Sitchin. Rolf has since clarified that he doesn't actually believe any of Sitchin's theories, but that it made for a "really cool story" to put to music.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: A theme particularly prevalent in later albums along with the history-spanning struggle against it by the forces of good who rebel against their authority. They tend to be depicted as a sinister pact between the church, military leaders, businessmen, and politicians to serve the demonic forces of darkness for their own enrichment, and cover up phenomena like UFOs to prevent a Benevolent Alien Invasion from dethroning them.
  • Anti-Anti-Christ: As "Adrian S.O.S." obviously states, Adrian is the son of Satan. But in an overlap Satan Is Good, Adrian is the "savior to the weak" like his father and destroys racists and other oppressors with hellfire while bringing eternal freedom to the downtrodden.
  • Anti-Police Song: "Victim of States Power" doesn't focus on this exclusively, but calls them out as "cruel warpigs" and tools of Corrupt Politicians and the Corrupt Church.
  • Ash Face: This happened to one of the band's drummers while they were touring in the early eighties; too much fireworks were applied for a stunt, which left his face black and burned a chunk of his clothes away.
  • Author Appeal: It's safe to say Rock 'n' Rolf likes singing about pirates, as well as history, fantasy, aliens, conspiracies, epic literature, standing up against authority and oppression in general, and how much he hates fascists.
  • Author Catchphrase: The line "wild and free", which has appeared on every album from Blazon Stone onwards.
  • Badass Creed: Many songs' choruses are based around this, with "Prisoner of Our Time", "Branded and Exiled", "Chains and Leather", "Under Jolly Roger", "Raging Fire", "Raise Your Fist" and "Unation" being just a few examples.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The eponymous "The Drift" from Resilient is one, as it features all sorts of miscreants as its regulars.
  • Ballad of X: "Ballad of William Kidd", from The Rivalry.
  • Book Ends:
    • The Victory album begins and ends with a gong sound, which is played in reverse in the first track and normally in the last one.
    • Masquerade's intro track ("The Crypts of Hades") features the sinister heads of church and state gathering in an Omniscient Council of Vagueness to pledge their undying loyalty to the Ancient Conspiracy to serve evil in the name of their own gain, and the outro of "Underworld" features the same Redcoat from the intro gloating to the listener about them being made into a slave of their oppressive system before laughing evilly.
  • Burn the Witch!:
    • John Xenir is burned at the stake by a group of inquisitors in the intro ("The Curse") of Black Hand Inn after having been found guilty of "being in league with the devil and having used heathen and forbidden rituals".
    • "Bones to Ashes", originally appearing on the Death Metal split before being re-visited for Masquerade, is about the historical witch hunts of the 1500s and depicts bloodthirsty religious executioners hunting and burning anyone suspected of witchcraft.
  • Careful with That Axe: Some of Rolf’s falsetto screams on the early albums veer into this (especially “Diabolic Force” from Gates to Purgatory).
  • Concept Album: The album Black Hand Inn partially focuses on the story of a man named John Xenir, a pirate (what else?) with precognitive magical powers who fights against the Corrupt Church. The album also has a more broad theme of many different conspiracies spanning across history and the battle between good and evil other albums focus on.
    • Along with Black Hand Inn, every album from Masquerade up until Victory loosely tells the story of a war between the forces of light and the forces of darkness (who control the aforementioned evil church) stretching across history.
  • Cool Boat: "Adventure Galley" from The Rivalry is about the privateer William Kidd's ship with the same name.
    Adventure Galley, proudly she's staying her course
    Adventure Galley, the magical force, wild and free!
  • Cover Version: Running Wild has covered "Genocide (The Killing of the Buffalo)" by Thin Lizzy, "Revolution" by The Beatles, and "Strutter" by KISS.
  • Defiant to the End:
    • Calico Jack, in what else but "Calico Jack", taunting and defying the judge sentencing him to death:
    Judge: John Rackham; You are charged with murder and piracy of the high seas. In the name of Her Majesty you will be taken from this court and hung, drawn and quartered. What are your last words, accused?
    Calico Jack: My last words? Ha ha! Who do you think you are? What right have you to judge over my destiny? Take your pompous words and stick'em where the sun don't shine! I swear we meet again, bye!
    • John Xenir. In a similar vein to Calico Jack, he tells off the inquisitors even as they burn him at the stake:
    Your lies can't impress me, 'cause the truth will come to light! Yes, I will set a mark for that I will return to reveal the truth and who's the true evil!
  • Crystal Ball: John Xenir has one which can tell "tales of past and future", in the title song of Black Hand Inn.
  • Dragon Rider: "Dragonmen" from Black Hand Inn is about the eponymous holy dragonmen who ride the night skies, ridding the world from evil and oppression.
  • Dressed to Plunder:
    • The band mascot Adrian has appeared in pirate regalia (a longcoat and a tri-corner hat) on the covers of Port Royal and Lead or Gold single, and on the covers of tribute albums Revivalry and Rough Diamonds.
    • The band has also donned pirate-themed outfits for live performances ever since Under Jolly Roger.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first two albums; both because they’re devoid of the band’s famous pirate image and that they feature much more raw and straightforward Speed Metal (or arguably even first-wave Black Metal) mayhem without the pirate era’s much more melodic and complex instrumentation that would influence US and European Power Metal to come.
  • Epic Rocking: The band has a lot of songs that go over seven minutes, but "Genesis (The Making and the Fall of Man)" from Black Hand Inn takes the cake for being over fifteen minutes long.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: The intro of "The Battle of Waterloo" from Death or Glory opens with a military march backed by blaring bagpipes.
  • Evil Laugh: The last song of ''Masquerade, "Underworld", ends with Redcoat telling how humanity is deaf and blind to the machinations of evil, and caps it off with an evil laugh.
  • Eyepatch of Power: The band's mascot Adrian has had one since Under Jolly Roger.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Used in Death or Glory, between the title track and "The Battle of Waterloo".
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: After a lifetime of searching, the protagonist of the song "Diamonds of the Black Chest" (from Under Jolly Roger) finds the titular chest... and it's empty. He goes insane on the spot, and the song ends with him laughing madly while imagined riches rain down.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Several have been released, some to warmer reception than others:
    • The First Years of Piracy, which has songs from first three albums remade by the 1991 line-up, including "Walpurgis Night", which at the time was only available on the band's first EP, Victim of States Power.
    • 20 Years in History, which has couple of new songs and little touches of improvement in their past catalog.
    • Best of Adrian, which only covers the era between The Rivalry and Rogues En Vogue, including the live album Live 2002.
  • The Greys: Featured in "Sinister Eyes", from Pile of Skulls. They reveal secrets to the protagonist through his dreams, and haven't contacted mankind due to the all hatred it is infested with. The cover art for the song's single (which was never released) has one holding a key and shedding a Single Tear.
  • The Grim Reaper: "Black Wings of Death" from Pile of Skulls is about the psychopomp, who spreads his terror of inevitable death.
  • Hellbent For Leather
    • "Chains and Leather" from Branded and Exiled, along with other metal goodness.
    Even Satan wears leather, our souls do it forever
    So let us pray our rules tonight!
    • "Raise Your Fist" from ''Under Jolly Roger" makes a mention of dressing in "shiny leather like a second skin".
  • Heavy Mithril: Was a significant part of their songs from the Gates to Purgatory and Branded and Exiled era. Even after pirates became their primary theme, the band often still delves into the realm of fantasy, like with Black Hand Inn's precognitive Undead Pirate protagonist named John Xenir, the benevolent dragon-riding tyrant-slayers of "Dragonmen" from the same album (and The Rivalry in "Return of the Dragon"), or the ancient and frequently supernatural battle between good and evil running across a number of their later albums.
  • I Am the Band: Rolf Kasparek, who writes most of the songs and is the only permanent band member. Since The Brotherhood, he has been the sole credited songwriter..
  • Instrumentals:
    • "Final Gates", "Highland Glory (The Eternal Fight)", "Over the Rainbow", "Final Waltz" and "Siberian Winter".
    • Some albums open up with an instrumental intro.
  • Jolly Roger: Their version of the Jolly Roger insignia features the face of Captain Adrian, their Metal Band Mascot (with an eyepatch and either a black bandanna or a pirate captain's hat) in place of the skull, as well as the bones crossing behind his head rather than below the skull, as shown, for example, in 1987's Under Jolly Roger.
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: Used on "Running Blood" from Death or Glory.
    They left a sea of running bloo-ooo-oood!
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • Gates to Purgatory closes with "Prisoner of Our Time" (5:26).
    • Branded and Exiled closes with "Chains and Leather" (5:45).
    • Port Royal closes with "Calico Jack" (8:15).
    • Pile of Skulls closes with "Treasure Island" (11:14).
    • Masquerade closes with "Underworld" (6:15).
    • The Brotherhood closes with "The Ghost" (10:23).
    • Rogues En Vogue closes with "The War" (10:38).
    • Shadowmaker closes with "Dracula" (7:29).
    • Resilient closes with "Bloody Island" (9:56).
    • Rapid Foray closes with "Last of the Mohicans" (11:11).
    • Blood on Blood closes with "The Iron Times (1618-1648)" (10:30).
  • Loudness War: Rogues En Vogue, unfortunately being released well into the peak of the Loudness War, clocks in at a dynamic range of DR6 with constant clipping and an absurd level of brickwalling on the final master. Shadowmaker is equally bad in terms of the dynamic range level, but thankfully it's at least clip-free.
    • Strangely Zig-Zagged with the 2017 remasters of the classic albums; while most of them were squashed down to DR9-DR7 from the far more sensible DR15-DR10 of the originals, the remaster of Masquerade actually improves the dynamic range to DR10 from the DR8 the original master was at.
  • Mad Scientist: The eponymous "Dr. Horror", from The Brotherhood, who spreads chemical warfare around.
  • Mascot: Captain Adrian, an undead werewolf pirate who is also the son of Satan.
  • The Men in Black: They are referenced in several songs, most notably "Men in Black" from Masquerade, and are portrayed in a villainous light as agents of the forces of evil.
  • Metal Scream: In "Diabolic Force", (from Gates to Purgatory) every verse ends with a high-pitched "Tonight!"
  • The Mutiny: "Mutiny", from Port Royal, is about a ship crew who go against their cruel masters.
  • Noble Savage: "Uaschitschun" from Port Royal is written from the perspective of a Native American who laments the death and destruction the white settlers have brought to his home and the natural environment.
    • The words before the song's final refrain were originally spoken by Abenaki filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin, who was in turn inspired by the famous "Yonder Sky" speech attributed to Chief Seattle.
    • The title itself is supposedly a word that some Native American tribes used to describe white men, with the nearest rough translation being "ghost" or "wraith". Evidence of the term's actual existence is dubious, however.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Gates to Purgatory has no title track, though the song "Purgatory" heard on the Ready for Boarding live album seems to have been intended to be it.
  • Number of the Beast: Mentioned in "Satan".
    Six sixty six is his number, he takes the crown of earth
  • Our Angels Are Different: "Angel of Mercy", from Rogues en Vogue, is about a sole angel rescuing the world from darkness (or, perhaps, a divine mecha).
  • Our Dragons Are Different: In both "Dragonmen" from Black Hand Inn and "Return of the Dragon" from The Rivalry, the dragons are portrayed as benevolent beings who fight against evil and oppression in the world, and the dragon slayers as evil.note 
  • Our Sirens Are Different: The eponymous island in "Bloody Island" (Resilient) attracts sailors with tales of riches and treasure. It's ruled by a Siren, whose calling ultimately leads them to their doom.
  • Performance Video: Their only official music video was for "Conquistadores" off the Port Royal album in 1988 and just consists of recut footage from various live performances of the song during the promotional tour.
  • Pirate: Running Wild’s quintessential image. Every single album since Under Jolly Roger features at least one song focused on pirates or seafaring.
  • Portmantitle: Used on "Evilution" (evil + evolution) from Death or Glory.
  • Precision F-Strike: Rolf rarely drops many F-bombs in his lyrics, so when he does, you know he really means it. From “Raw Ride”:
    I don’t give a goddamn what you want to force upon me
  • Protest Song: The band has quite a few of these, with Black Hand Inn‘s “Fight the Fire of Hate” (an anti-fascist anthem) and Under Jolly Roger’s “Merciless Game” (about class inequality) being among many prime examples.
  • Religion of Evil: Both "Preacher" and "Walpurgis Night", from Gates to Purgatory, are based on a happening of Black Mass.
  • Religion Rant Song: A theme the band often touches on in the Type II and Type III varieties. Most prominent in their early pre-pirate releases, but later songs like "Into the Arena" and "Wild Animal" echo the defiance:
    The church is playing moral
    They say this piece of gum, it kills
    They build up funeral pyres, to burn people for the thrill
    They falsified the Bible for the power and the gain
    I never fawn on liars, the way they're gonna treat me
    If they wanna stab my back
  • Revolving Door Band: Aside from Rock 'n' Rolf Kasparek, the only constant member, the band has rotated through 10 different drummers, 9 bassists, and 7 backing guitarists. The only lineups to have lasted more than one album was the one from Branded and Exiled to Under Jolly Roger and the one from Black Hand Inn through The Rivalry.
  • Satan Is Good: "Satan", on the "Victim of States Power" single and the Gates to Purgatory re-release, portrays the titular character as a rebel who destroys the worst of the mankind ("Nazis, moralists and conservatives") and brings "liberty and peace to the good". His son, Adrian, fulfills a similar role in "Adrian S.O.S.".
  • Self-Plagiarism: The solo section in "Timeriders" is very similar to the one in "Merciless Game".
  • Signature Style: Rolf has his own very unusual picking technique (as can be seen here), which according to him he developed early on as a result of wearing his guitar extremely low in emulation of KISS.
  • The Something Song: "Pirate Song", from The Brotherhood.
  • Spoken Word in Music:
    • Port Royal: Album intro (a newbie arrives on the eponymous Port Royal) and the trial of the eponymous pirate in "Calico Jack".
    • Death or Glory: A doctor diagnosing the main character of "Renegade".
    • Black Hand Inn: Opening track "The Curse" (John Xenir is burned at the stake by an inquisitor) and ending track "Genesis", which lays out the story of the alien Annunaki first creating mankind as well as the prophesied apocalypse in which they will wipe them out.
    • Masquerade: Redcoat recruiting his agents of evil in "The Contract" and giving the "Reason You Suck" Speech at the end of "Underworld".
  • Subdued Section: "Chains and Leather" and "Prisoners of Our Time" have moments where the chorus is backed only by drums.
  • Take That!: "Purgatory" from the Ready for Boarding live-album was jokingly introduced by Rolf as being "dedicated" to the PMRC, who apparently objected to its satanic imagery.
  • Taps: The outro of "Little Big Horn" from Blazon Stone features "Taps" playing as the guitars fade out, signifying the defeat and death of General Custer.
  • Time Travel: In "Land of Ice", a group of scientists in then-present day 1987 build a time machine to journey to the future so they can retrieve the new weapons of war they believe will have been invented by then. When they arrive in the year 1999, they instead find that humanity as we know it has perished in the global winter following a nuclear war and only warped mutants remain.
  • Titled After the Song: The name Running Wild was taken from a Judas Priest song.
  • Title-Only Chorus:
  • To the Tune of...:
    • The main riff of "Little Big Horn" is based on the melody of "Girl I Left Behind Me", an old folk song about a man leaving to join the army noted for its popularity with American troops during the Civil War and Plains Wars.
    • The outro melody of "Tsar" (from Victory) is taken from an old Russian silent film.
  • Train Song: "Locomotive" from Shadowmaker.
    The railway's gonna squeaking hard, wheels are dragging over
    Red hot grease is on the steel, oiling all the bars
    Rhythm's gonna pounding hard, the monsters own thunder
    The whistle-pipe is blowing strong, foretelling what to come
  • Trope Maker: Running Wild pretty much invented "pirate metal" with Under Jolly Roger and their subsequent adoption of the pirate image. They continued to be the Trope Codifier throughout the 80s, 90s, and even a good portion of the 2000s, as the pirate metal band that originated a lot of themes, conventions, lyrics, and sounds that would influence later bands like Alestorm and countless other pirate metal acts.
  • Updated Re-release: Albums from Death or Glory to Masquerade have remastered rereleases with additional bonustracks.
  • War Is Hell: A number of songs deal with this theme, including "War and Peace", "The War", and "The Battle of Waterloo".
    You're dying in war, but you even can't live in peace.
  • Witch Hunt: "Bones to Ashes", from the Death Metal split-album and Masquerade remaster, depicts witches being burned to ashes on the stake, and the angel of death collecting their remains.
  • World War One: "The War" from Rogues en Vogue recounts the events of the war, backed by various marching tunes.