LP Review: Scorpions ‘Rock Believer’ – They Return To Rock You Like…It’s A 1984 Hurricane

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I think I’m like most people. I’m guilty of not taking Germany’s hard rock/heavy metal band the Scorpions seriously enough. I don’t know why that is? They’re a great, melodic hard rock band. Yet they’re not spoken of or thought of with that same reverence people seem to have for say, Aerosmith. They’ve always been more of a fun band than a menacing one, maybe that’s it? The Scorpions have rarely been dour. And the Scorpions’ lyrics – typical for heavy metal – fixate many times on sex – and that may make them seem “sophomoric.” At the end of the day, they’re a really stellar (or in the parlance of heavy metal, kick ass) band who deserve more attention and respect. With a lead guitarist as skilled as Rudolf Schenker, you’d think they’d get more reverence from the hard rock faithful.

Perhaps its my lack of taking them seriously that has caused me to lose track of them for large gaps of their career, as I alluded to when I reviewed their first single from the new LP Rock Believer a few months ago, “Peacekeeper.” I admitted in that post that I have lost track of the Scorpions several times over the years. Oh, and by the way, I dug “Peacekeeper.” The first time I saw them live, when I was in early high school, they opened for Nugent (and Def Leppard opened for them) and I was sufficiently impressed to buy Animal Magnetism. The album didn’t hit me like I thought it would, although listening to it now I love it. The cover art probably kept some of the female fans away… a woman kneeling in front of a guy with doberman and a cold beer probably didn’t win them any points… (pictured below),

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But Klaus Meine was a charismatic front man and Matthias Jabs and the aforementioned Rudolf Schenker were a dynamic dual lead guitar threat. Those guys ran around the stage opening for Nugent that night like meth addled maniacs and we ate that up! I almost enjoyed them more than Nugent. Of course at the time I had no idea they’d been around for a decade already. I still don’t know anybody who has any Scorpion’s LPs from prior to say, 1979.

After a few furtive spins of Animal Magnetism, (another album cover that disturbed my mother much like the cover for Sabbath’s Mob Rules that I was listening to around that time as well) I sort of spaced off the Scorpions. It wasn’t until I was in college that the Scorpions exploded with the metal masterpiece Blackout. We were all into that album. There was a guy from Dodge City who lived down the hall from us and he’d show up drunk in the middle of the night and beg us to play the Scorpions. He loved the song “Can’t Live Without You.” His name was Les (name changed to protect the guilty) and he was a big dude, so it wasn’t like we were gonna say “no” to him. He more demanded the Scorpions vs begged us to play them. He’d stand on a chair and JAM with is air guitar. It was actually quite terrifying. At that point I was all in on the Scorps, Les’ frightening, drunken displays of rock n roll intensity aside. I bought Love At First Sting the day it came out. Songs like “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Bad Boys Running Wild” were in high rotation on my stereo… and coincidentally also in high rotation on MTV. Although I do remember playing the Scorpions for my friends back home that summer of ’84 and one of the many friends named Steve derided me for listening to “cheesy metal.”

Regardless of that particular Steve’s opinion, the Scorpions were huge in the mid 80s. All hard rock enthusiasts dug the Scorpions. At the time, it was rumored that Robert Palmer was thinking of dabbling in heavy metal and after some exhaustive research had reached out to the Scorpions to collaborate, much in the same way he had with Little Feat at the beginning of his career…sadly it didn’t come to be. But talk about respect! I didn’t know many people who didn’t own at least Blackout. Love At First Sting was actually more popular with help from MTV and the pervasiveness of heavy/hair metal in those days. The Scorpions even dabbled in politics on Love At First Sting with the anti-war and at the time anti Cold War track “Crossfire.” The Scorpions, after years of toiling, had finally gotten near the pinnacle of hard rock. They were thought of like Van Halen or Motley Crue. It was around that time I heard the older LP from 1979 Lovedrive and was again impressed. But then… things changed. The Scorpions waited four years – a lifetime back then – to release the follow up to Love At First Sting, Savage Amusement. By then I had left college and had entered my corporate exile in Arkansas. I was an adult now… the party was seemingly over. I would hear “Rhythm Of Love” on the radio occasionally when I was driving from Ft Smith to Shreveport, Dallas, Kansas City or any place but Arkansas but it didn’t reach me. Maybe it was because I was living in a rock radio void but I completely lost track of the Scorpions.

I’m embarrassed to say it wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick around the turn of the millennium that I rediscovered how great the Scorpions were. She bought their 2-CD greatest hits album, Deadly Sting, on one of our first dates where we’d gone to a record store. We sat around jamming on that thing all summer. I did see the Scorpions a couple of times in that time after Arkansas and before the Rock Chick. I think I thought of them as more of a touring band – the type of act you go see live but don’t buy or investigate their LPs. Grunge had made my listening turn a little more serious. I felt at the time that the kind of anthemic, hard rock they played had no place alongside Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Silly me… there’s room for all kinds of music in someone’s collection. Play what you like, screw the trends. I took the Rock Chick to see the Scorpions but my friends got too drunk and we had to leave early… she still hasn’t forgiven me for that. They weren’t taking the show seriously. The Scorpions always delivered live. After the Rock Chick turned me back onto the Scorpions, I was actually paying attention again and picked up their 2010 LP Sting In The Tail, an album that to me was a real return to form. But as usual… after buying their Unplugged LP in 2013… I lost track of them again.

True to form, I didn’t even know they’d put out another studio album in 2015, Return To Forever. Oh well.. But I was thrilled when I heard that former Motorhead drummer Mikkey Dee had joined the band and brought back some of that early energy. They were re-energized enough to go back into the studio. They had been urged by a fan in Greece to get back to that sound of their 80s heyday. When I heard the first single “Peacekeeper” my thought was, “this could be from ’84-/85.” It’s a great first single and frankly with it’s theme of putting war behind us it’s even more relevant today than a few months ago when released.

2015’s Return To Forever was, by all accounts, a disappointment. If that album left you wondering if the Scorpions still had anything left, all you have to do is crank the opening track on Rock Believer, “Gas In the Tank” and you’ll have your answer. The Scorpions, re-energized by drummer Mikkey Dee (formerly of Motorhead) are still Klaus Meine on vocals, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs on guitars with Paweł Mąciwoda on bass. This album really does harken back to their heyday. If you dug them in the 80s you should absolutely check out Rock Believer. Oh yes, the Scorpions have plenty left in “the tank.” The aforementioned opening track’s lyrics include references to a “Trans Am,” and they actually say the words “Wham bam thank you ma’am.” What’s more 80s than that?

The album starts with a trio of classic sounding Scorpions’ hard rock tunes in their classic style. While the tracks feature squealing, crunchy guitars they are melodic and really drill into your brain through your ear. “Gas In The Tank” and the second track “Roots In My Boots” set the stage. They’re both big, arena-rock style tunes. You’re not going to find any introspective truths here, just fun. They follow those up with a crunchy rock song “Knock Em Dead” and I love that guitar sound. The songs are so upbeat they’re almost lilting.

The album shifts down to more midtempo, bigger riffing in the second stage. The title track is catchy as hell and I love that tune. I keep waking up with it in my head every morning. The song rocks but it’s a slower pace than the first three. “Scream for me screamer, I’m a Rock Believer, just like you…” Hell yes! “Shining Of Your Soul” is another slower paced rocker. I almost thought it would be a ballad, but with its big riffs and drums, its just midtempo. “Seventh Sun” has a slow, almost plodding, heavy riff but it builds and builds. The elastic guitar solo at the end is worth the journey on that song. The chorus is tailor made for a stadium full of drunken fans to sing along with. I’d be remiss not to mention that Klaus Meine’s vocals are still razor sharp. He hasn’t lost a step.

“Hot And Cold” takes it up a notch at that point. It’s a very standard Scorpions song and it rocks. It’s the only track that didn’t resonate with me and I have no explanation as to why not. Things really kick into high gear for the “meet-me-at-the-finish-line” of “When I Lay My Bones To Rest.” I can’t wait to listen to that one in my car on the highway. “Let me see your haaaaands!!” The album finishes on some (relatively) mellower notes. “Call Of The Wild” is a sexy “come on” kinda song again with a great solo at the end. The lyrics tell the story, “I will treat you right girl, it’s a summer night..” which takes me back to my college days on summer break. You had to be there. Finally they end the main album with a ballad, “When You Know (Where You Come From).” I think it’s a gorgeous track but I’ve always been a sucker for those power ballads… well, some power ballads… Aerosmith went a little nuts with them.

On the ‘Deluxe’ version of the album – and I think it’s the only one you can buy – there are five additional tracks on a second disc. At first I thought they should have omitted the bonus tracks. I really did not like “When Tomorrow Comes” or “Unleash The Beast.” However, upon repeated listens I really liked the rockers “Shoot For Your Heart” which is a great driving rock song that would also be fun to, yes, listen to in the car. “Crossing Borders” is a crunchy rock song about a woman vs anything political but it’s a great rocking song. Then the bonus tracks end with an acoustic version of “When You Know (Where You Come From)” which is a perfect bonus track. I might have cut out “When Tomorrow,” and “Unleashed” and just given thirteen tracks as the proper album with the acoustic track as a bonus, but hey, when the music is this good I’ll take what I can get from the Scorpions.

While many people won’t take this review or the Scorpions themselves very seriously, this is a great hard rock album. The 80s are much maligned, rightly so, but some of that hard rock from the era was really quite good. I mean, we can’t listen to Leonard Cohen all the time, right? This is great, beer drinking, head banging rock n roll. It’s precisely the kind of album B&V was founded on. I told the Rock Chick that no one takes the Scorps seriously and she said, “I guess we’ll see how the tickets to their Vegas residency sell…” I see a trip to the hated Vegas in my future… I have to make up for those two drunk friends who ruined the show I took her too all those years ago. Turn this one up, dance around with a bottle of Southern Comfort and enjoy yourselves! Good times require good time music. You’ve earned it!

Cheers!

New Song: Scorpions Release “Peacekeeper”- First “Rawking” New Song From The Upcoming LP ‘Rock Believer’

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I don’t know what it is about the Scorpions but I keep losing track of them. I always know they’re out there rocking, or perhaps better said “RAWKING,” but for some reason I never know about it when they release new music. Thankfully I saw on Twitter a little while ago that they’d released a new single entitled “Peacemaker” and intend to release a new album in the spring, Rock Believer. I think the world is a better place when there is new Scorpions’ music out there to turn up to 11.

My history with the Scorpions is almost like a hide and seek game. They’re there, right in front of me on stage or on my turntable and then suddenly I’d lose track of them. I’ve probably mentioned this somewhere but the Scorpions were a part of my first ever concert. A friend of mine had tickets to see Nugent and couldn’t go. This was when Nugent was a guitar-wielding, rock n roll wild man, not his current incarnation as a gun-wielding moron. Nugent was still cool in the late 70s/early 80s. My friend sold me his ticket to “the Nuge” for something like $10. It was a crazy night at Kemper Arena. The opening act came out and they were all kids my age. It was Def Leppard on their first tour in support of On Through The Night. They played “Wasted” and “Rock Brigade.” And yes, we were a wasted rock brigade up in the cheap seats where I was sitting. I remember thinking that I needed to keep an eye on those nutty kids.

It was after Def Leppard… the drummer had a Union Jack diaper on, that lo and behold the Scorpions rushed the stage. I’d never seen a band with that much energy but admittedly, this was my first concert. The only song I recognized, well the only song of theirs I knew was “The Zoo.” I was completely unaware that they’d been around for almost a decade at that point in 1980. I had never heard or even heard of those Micheal Schenker led early records like Virgin Killer, In Trance or gads Taken By Force. I thought they were a brand new band and Animal Magnetism, their then-current LP, was their debut album. I’m embarrassed I hadn’t even heard the classic album Love Drive at that point. Although I have this funny memory of hearing Klaus Meine on an interview show and they asked him about the meaning of the title of Love Drive and in that heavy German accent that makes him sound like a villain in a World War II movie he said, “It’s both about making love while driving in the car but also it’s about that urge we all feel for “love.”” Oh Klaus, that ain’t love you’re talking about…

While I was impressed with the Scorpions enough to go out and buy Animal Magnetism, I wasn’t moved to do any deeper inspection and figure out the back catalog. Let’s face it, on that crazy night in 1980 at Kemper Arena, I was there to see “Ted the Sledge.” It’s hard to believe that within two years the Motor City Madman would have faded so quickly and the Scorpions would explode with the landmark heavy metal LP Blackout. We used to stand on our desk chairs and air guitar to “Dynamite” all night long. I taped my roommate’s copy of that album and played it in my car almost constantly. I remember I still had that cassette in my “cassette briefcase” in my backseat when I was sent into exile in Arkansas… When 1984’s LP Love At First Sting came out, I bought it on the day it was released and pleased that I have the original album cover on that vinyl treasure. Walmart made them change the cover. Prudes.

After college, I again lost track of the Scorpions. Somewhere along the line I picked up Crazy World but that was it for me and the Scorpions for years. I did see them again in concert, this time as headliners, out at the local “shed,” Sandstone Amphitheater. They were even better that time but despite the fact that 15 years had passed, their energy level on stage was exactly the same – full tilt. Other than that show I wasn’t listening to much of the Scorpions. And then… I met the Rock Chick. On one of our first dates we went to the CD store. She bought a stack of CDs that day… and one of them was the two-disc, greatest hits compilation Deadly Sting: The Mercury Years. We poured some red wine and cranked those 2 CDs up loud! It was a revelation. I quietly admonished myself for losing track of those guys. They’ve got so much great music out there. I realize they changed their sound to a more radio-friendly, heavy rock sound vs the hard edged metal of their early years but still they’ve remained really consistent in terms of sound over the years. They haven’t really chased fads as far as I can tell. They’re kind of like AC/DC, they know what they do well so they keep doing it. And the thing they do well is to RAWK.

I actually picked up their 2010 album Sting In The Tail and it was a fantastic hard rock, Scorpions’ album. It sounded like not a day had passed since their heyday. It’s one of those LPs that B&V was founded to talk about. When I heard they had a new song out, I rushed to Spotify. It was then that I realized that, true to form, I had lost track of them again and missed that they had released an album in 2015, Return To Forever. That’ll be another LP I’ll have to put in the stack as I prep my review of the upcoming album this spring, Rock Believer. The fact that I didn’t know about that record tells me that the Scorpions need to fire their PR person. Either that or they’re purposely eluding me…

From the opening riff of “Peacemaker” I knew I was listening to a classic Scorpions hard rock track. Rudolf Schenker and Mathias Jabs guitars weave together for a heavy yet nimble riff to open this thing. When Klaus Meine’s vocals kick in it’s race to the finish line time. The guitars and drums start rolling faster. And by the way, I think the coolest name in rock may be Mathias Jabs. He’s like 7 feet tall too…or at least that’s what it looked like from the cheap seats. The Scorps can play a heavy riff and then jump to intensely melodic guitar faster than anyone this side of Metallica. Rudolf breaks off a tasty guitar solo in the middle. Pinch me, am I dreaming, is it 1985? I’m really impressed with the lyrics to “Peacemaker.” This isn’t their first stab at a socio-political statement in their lyrics. I can still remember the track “Crossfire” from Love At First Sting that also took up the cry for peace. I was impressed that in between calls to blackout or to be bad boys running wild they had the presence of mind to speak about peace. I think this opening lyric says it all:

“We could turn another page
Keep the lions in the cage
The battlefield is bleeding red
Land of glory, monster dead
Into a world without frontiers
With no hate, regret or fears
We’ll burn to ashes in a flash
If we don’t change, we’re gonna crash”

Here’s a link to “Peacekeeper”:

The only bad news here is we’re going to have to wait until February 2022 for Rock Believer. If Sting In The Tail and “Peacemaker” are any indications, this may be another great, late-period Scorpions LP. I know I’ll be looking out for it since it’s clear after all these years… the Scorps are purposely eluding my attention.

Cheers!