I have been a Running Wild fan for about 28 years, which means I was 12 when I discovered their first album, “Gates to Purgatory.” Released in 1984, “Gates to Purgatory” was part of the vanguard of albums that changed the sound of metal and popularized speed, thrash, and early black metal. To give a little perspective, here are some of the other metal albums released in 1984: Anthrax’s “Fistful of Metal”, Venom’s “At War with Satan”, Voivod’s “War and Pain, Celtic Frost’s “Morbid Tales”, Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning”, Mercyful Fates’ “Don’t Break the Oath” and the first Bathory and Metal Church albums.
Back then there was a very small heavy metal section in my local record store, and since there was not much to choose from, I would go in and pick up albums that either I had heard about through word of mouth or for which I liked the name/album art. This store gave me my first experiences with Metallica, Voivod, Dio, and of course, Running Wild.
I picked up “Gates to Purgatory” on cassette, and this was my first taste of what I would come to know as black metal. The album bears little resemblance to what people think of as black metal today, but at this point, the only widely known black metal was Venom (if you recall, the other early well-known black metal band, Bathory, was just releasing their first album as well) and I had not heard Venom yet. Running Wild’s third album, “Under Jolly Roger”, would establish the pirate metal genre for which they became known, but many of these early songs had dark and satanic themes. In retrospect, they were decidedly tame compared to the antics of black metal yet to come.
Every one of the ten songs on “Gates to Purgatory” is a classic in my mind. Listening to anything off this album reminds me of sweaty, summer days mowing my parent’s lawn and giant foamy headphones connected to a string of cheap, expendable portable cassette players. For some reason, I also connect my first taste of Mountain Dew with mowing the lawn and listening to this album.
My favorite song from the album, and probably one of my favorite all-time Running Wild songs, is “Prisoner of Our Time.” This was the most catchy and anthemic song on the album and was the first of many great Running Wild songs to use this melodic gang-vocal formula. It is hard to list other highlights as I love every song, but stand-out favorites also included “Victim of States Power”, “Adrian S.O.S” (Son of Satan), and “Genghis Khan.”
One of my biggest heavy metal regrets is that I have never seen Running Wild live. They have not played in the U.S. since the 1986 Prepare For The Blitz tour with Celtic Frost and Voivod, and only rarely play shows in general anymore. When they do, it is either at a festival or a show in their native Germany. They are releasing their fourteenth album (“Shadowmaker”) next week, and you better believe I am watching their site to see if they schedule any shows. I hate flying, but if I can hop on a plane to Germany and catch a Running Wild show, I am ready to do it.