Via Ultimate Classic Rock
“The king of riffs is back in town,” Klaus Meine declares at the start of Scorpions’ new album. And they are not holding anything in reserve. Though it’s an old showbiz conceit, there was some genuine concern about whether the long-lived group would follow up 2015’s Return to Forever, a 50th-anniversary commemoration that itself seemed like an effort to produce. Scorpions themselves seemed truly uncertain if they had it in them to do another one, to find the proverbial gas in the tank.
Rock Believer, coming seven years later and in the 50th anniversary year of Scorpions’ first album, shows there is no fuel shortage – with, in fact, “Gas in the Tank,” the blazing opening track that references Trans Ams, “slam, bam, thank you ma’am” and urges “Let’s play it louder and play it hard … There’s gotta be more gas in the tank” while celebrating the camaraderie forged over the decades. The rest of Rock Believer keeps that faith, with blistering riffs, pounding anthems and stinging guitar interplay between Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs that make Scorpions sound more like heavy-rock evangelists than believers, happy to still rock us like … well, a hurricane. It’s as if Scorpions’ songwriting tandem Meine and guitarist Rudolf Schenker want to defy their years (both are 73) and prove that there is no statute of limitations on their craft, even if they’re better advised to let the audience handle the actual act of headbanging.
Recording at home in Hanover and co-producing with Hans-Martin Buff after working remotely with Greg Fidelman proved untenable, Scorpions sound refreshed on Rock Believer, as well as tight following two world tours since Return to Forever. New drummer Mikkey Dee, late of Motorhead, brings new energy to the band, driving the fastest tracks with his previous group’s ferocity but also leaving space when required on the stomping “Seventh Sun” or the more measured attacks of “Call of the Wild” and the near-power ballad “When You Know (Where You Come From).”
Rock Believer is best when Scorpions are full-throttle, however, and flooring the metal pedal on high-octane numbers such as “Roots in My Boots,” “Knock ’em Dead” and “Hot and Cold.” The title track and the grooving “Peacemaker,” both pre-release singles, apply the studio spit-and-polish that’s taken Scorpions to radio playlists before, while “Shining of Your Soul” breaks from twisting, proggy guitars into reggae rhythms for the verses – a bit messy but also a welcome break from the assault. And the galloping “When I Lay My Bones to Rest” is just a clean tone away from psychobilly, surging with a swagger that would make Lemmy proud.
In the buyer-beware department, meanwhile, Rock Believer is better in its standard 11-track version than the limited deluxe edition, which adds five songs including an acoustic rendering of “When You Know (Where You Come From).” Of the bonuses, only “Crossing Borders” holds up alongside the main album, and while the others have merit, it’s also easy to see why they were held back for add-ons. It’s pleasing to say that Scorpions are still true believers and still have the goods to convert others. “Be true to yourself, it’s your life,” Meine advises in “When You Know” – and his band is doing exactly that.
The list of rock bands that have managed to release a brand-new album fifty years after their debut record is not exactly overflowing with names. The list of bands that have released a new album fifty years later and managed to not sound like tired retreads of past glories or sad attempts at modernizing their music is even shorter. SCORPIONS have avoided both pitfalls with “Rock Believer”, their first new album in seven years. The rock icons revisit many of the sounds that fueled their superstardom’s peak. The level of energy and songcraft present though keep those tracks from feeling tired, and perhaps for the first time in several records, there are even a few anthems that hold up next to the classics we’ve been re-purchasing on multiple formats over the decades.
“Gas In The Tank”, the album’s opening salvo, immediately re-positions the band as masters of the energetic rock anthem. The song has an inherent catchiness that fits in snugly within the horde of crowd pleasers that have been longtime staples of the band’s live set. The beloved hallmarks of the band’s sound are omnipresent, with Klaus Meine’s vocals continuing to hit that perfect mix of triumph and wistfulness, and Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jab’s guitar work once again delivering tastefully blistering shred with their solos. Thankfully, while the list of legacy bands that put together an impressive opening track and then coasted throughout the remainder of their latest record is lengthy, SCORPIONS have enough gas to fuel them through “Rock Believer”‘s long haul.
The high-energy rock anthems continue to come throughout the record. The opening track is matched by subsequent rockers such as “Roots In My Boots”, “Hot And Cold”, and “Peacemaker”, which has Meine deliver a snarling vocal performance on the chorus of the album’s most overtly metallic track. “Rock Believer”‘s title track is the most perfect slice of ’80s-style glam metal that has been released in the 2000’s. It puts everyone paying tribute to the Sunset Strip’s glory days to shame with its sublime mix of earnest rock balladry, sleazy guitar solos, and cowbell from drummer Mikkey Dee (MOTÖRHEAD), making his studio debut with the band after several years of live performances.
“Shining Of Your Soul” sees the band settling into a midtempo groove, but even that is fueled by some great rock guitar riffs. The band proves capable of stomping heaviness that is evocative of “The Zoo” with “Seventh Sun”‘s thumping bass lines and pounding drums, and “When I Lay My Bones To Rest” comes off as a dirty MOTÖRHEAD-style rocker. The band does deliver one of their trademark ballads with “When You Know (Where You Come From)” , though they save that for the album’s closing track. Otherwise, the driving force that motivates SCORPIONS here seems to be a pure mission of expertly crafted slabs of well-done hard rock, delivering that in droves.
It’s a testament to the band’s self-confidence that on the fiftieth anniversary of their 1972 debut album, “Lonesome Crow”, the band’s course of action was to simply do the things that they have always done best throughout their existence. “Rock Believer” serves as a comforting reminder that SCORPIONS are still capable of generating catchy rock anthems in their later years.
Via Louder Sound
Punk was meant to barge aside bands such as Scorpions, with their long hair, their album covers that even in the 70s raised eyebrows, their big riffs and their even bigger choruses. So, while we’re at it, was grunge, hair bands, industrial rock and the heritage circuit.
No chance; the wind of change didn’t even ruffle what’s left of frontman Klaus Meine’s hair. Extraordinarily, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Scorpions’ debut album, Lonesome Crow. Two 73-year-olds, Meine and rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, have lasted the course, while Matthias Jabs, a young pup of 66, has been lead guitarist since 1979.
Now comes Rock Believer, delayed by covid travel restrictions that detained bassist Pawel Maciwoda and debutant former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee in their native Poland and Sweden respectively. Uniquely for a Scorpions album, the songs contributed by the Schenker/Meine axis were written lyrics-first, but from its very title there’s a sense of real defiance about Rock Believer.
Titles such as the sirens-drenched Gas In The Tank (naturally this particular engine is not running low, especially since ‘the king of riffs is back in town’), Unleash The Beast and Knock ’Em Dead re-enforce the message: age will not wither them.
Not for nothing does Meine tease his audience with ‘Good morning, world. How do you feel? You look so tired’ on When Tomorrow Comes. The days of unashamed ballads such as Wind Of Change, pop-metal (Is There Anybody There?) and bold experiments (The Zoo) are long gone. Instead, bar two versions of the majestic, lighters-aloft When You Know (Where You Come From), they’ve gone full throttle with an intensity that would wind their grandchildren.
The formula remains gleefully intact: galloping guitars and deft choruses – or, as Meine encapsulates ungrammatically in Gas In The Tank: ‘louder, play it hard’. Meine’s vocals, as powerful as they were when he’d rock you like a hurricane, have retained their emotional undertow, Jabs’s guitar playing still sizzles, most heroically on the terrific Shoot For Your Heart, and the engine room could still power a small town.
Everything comes together on When I Lay My Bones To Rest, in which a classic guitar introduction gives way to a supercharged, tongue-twisting verse, which in turn yields to an instantly catchy chorus, before another Jabs master class seals the deal. Not a note is wasted, and it’s the band’s finest moment of this century. The subtext to all this is clear: what’s the point of Scorpions right now? The answer is right here.