Scorpions – Rock Believer (Album Review)

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I was just a kid in 8th grade when I wrote my first music review for my school newspaper in the very metal town of Albuquerque, NM. The year was 1982, and the record I reviewed was “Blackout” by Scorpions. I loved it, and made a passionate but poorly written case that, despite Klaus Meine’s occasionally thick accent, the record was a classic. So it’s with a mixture of nostalgia and amazement that I’m now writing a review in 2022 for a new Scorpions record. Klaus still has a bit of awkwardness in his pronunciations, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t sound astoundingly good for a guy still singing about girls and rock and roll in his 70s.

In fact, it must be stated right up front that the core trio of Meine, Rudolph Schenker and Matthias Jabs seem to all be taking steady doses of some unknown elixir, because despite their age, they’re still swaggering and delivering the goods.

For my tastes, the Scorpions hit their classic stride in a string of strong albums that began with 1979’s “Lovedrive.”—an album which had a hilarious, awkward album cover that was provocative enough that my Mom forced me to throw the record out. I fortunately found an alternate, non breast-baring edition of “Lovedrive” the following week and bought it again, so my withdrawal was limited. And I soon also picked up the strong follow up, “Animal Magnetism.”

But it was “Blackout” that seemed to vault them to next level, with the radio hit, “No One Like You.” They had a great guitar tone, some really memorable solos, and catchy songs that stuck with you right out of the gates. Lyrics were at times hard to discern, but I could always make out enough to sing along to songs like “Another Piece of Meat” and “Don’t Make No Promises Your Body Can’t Keep”—tracks my mother most certainly would not have approved of. Ah…the spoils of youth.

“Love at First Sting” with its MTV sledgehammer “Rock You Like a Hurricane” was the last of the classic Scorpions run. For my money, the records to follow had some good songs, but suffered from inconsistent quality. And eventually the band fell into an identity crisis as the tastes of radio changed in the ‘90s.

The point of all of that, is to say that 2022’s “Rock Believer” is in many ways a triumphant return to form to the halcyon days of the band. The guitar tones, the production and the song writing all feel steeped in that old tradition. Even the album artwork, with the classic logo in the upper left corner, a retro looking font for the album tile, and a close up shot of a screaming face give a dramatic sense of déjà vu. It’s on brand.

“Rock Believer” comes out 50 years after the Scorpions debut, “Lonseome Crow” hit the shelves in 1972. Vocalist Klaus Meine and Guitarist Rudolf Schenker are the only remaining members in the lineup, but second guitar player Matthias Jabs has been onboard since “Love Drive” and can arguably be credited with solidifying the sound that made the Scorpions commercially successful. In age-defying fashion, the trio still sound great here, and the rhythm section of Paweł Mąciwoda (on board since 2004) and Mikkey Dee (formerly of Motorhead) stays in their lanes and puts down solid, energetic backing. Striving for that classic Scorpions sound, things have really come full circle and God bless Klaus, who belts out in “It’s simply in my blood!” He sounds remarkably spry for a singer in his 70s.

The record comes as a bit of surprise because the band had previously announced its retirement, which as it turns out may have merely been a ploy to sell more tickets on the last tour. But maybe they just love music so much they couldn’t keep away, and with so much time on their hands thanks to a global pandemic, perhaps they regrouped and rustled up enough material to nearly make a double album. Despite their 50-year anniversary, there is still some “Gas in the Tank,” which is a pretty fitting opening track to the record.

There are two versions of the release, one with 11 tracks, and another with 5 additional songs. “Shoot for Your Heart” and “Crossing Borders” are two bonus tracks I’d miss if I didn’t have the expanded version. The final bonus track is merely an acoustic version of the only real ballad on the record, “When You Know.” The electric version has a classic lonely Scorpions vibe and makes a nice closer to the album—the acoustic version, quite frankly, seems a bit pointless.

There are plenty of songs that are reminiscent of classic Scorpions tracks. “Roots in My Boots,” “Knock ‘Em Dead”, “Hot and Cold” and “Peacemaker” are solid rockers that would have fit comfortably in the classic period’s catalog. “Shining of Your Soul” and “Seventh Sun” harken a little further back in the spirit of the catalog, when Uli Jon Roth was the spotlighted guitar player, with some more atonal grooves.

Now let’s be clear. There’s nothing ground breaking here, but exactly that’s why it works. Scorpions seemed to have identified what made them their best, and they’re leaning into it hard on this release. If “Rock Believer” is the final contribution to their catalog, they’re going out with fists in the air, and a nod and wink to the fans. And I’m happy for them.

Released By: Universal’s Spinefarm
Released On: February 25th, 2022
Genre: Hard Rock

Musicians:

  • Klaus Meine / Vocals
  • Rudolf Schenker / Guitars, background vocals, guitar solo on “When You Know (Where You Come From)”, guitar arrangements
  • Matthias Jabs / Lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars, slide guitar, guitar solos, guitar arrangements
  • Paweł Mąciwoda /Bass
  • Mikkey Dee / Drums

“Rock Believer” track listing:

  1. Gas in the Tank
  2. Roots in my Boots
  3. Knock ‘Em Dead     
  4. Rock Believer
  5. Shining of Your Soul
  6. Seventh Sun
  7. Hot and Cold
  8. When I Lay My Bones to Rest
  9. Peacemaker
  10. Call of the Wild
  11. When You Know
  12. Shoot for Your Heart
  13. When Tomorrow Comes
  14. Unleash the Beast.
  15. Crossing Borders
  16. When You Know (Acoustic)

7.9 Great

The German tank of melodic hard rock defies the odds and their ages, managing to make a respectable return to their glory days in vibe, performance and production, and pulling together nearly a double album’s worth of material that’s got a good ratio of killer vs filler

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 7
  • Production 8
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