Review by Rick Ossian
Unfortunately for Herr Schenker, the majority of the literary cognoscenti, myself included, will undoubtedly, and unfairly, forever compare everything he ever does to the benchmark riffing and leads of his UFO days. As any objective listener will be able to discern from the tunes on offer here, there is indeed much ‘juice’ left in Mad Mikkey’s gun. Witness the opening salvo, How Long, for immediate evidence. Incidentally, there are two versions of this track. One of the bonus cuts is a ‘Guitar-Battle Version’, which is a bit longer than the regular studio track. It’s a good thing that he is in good form, because his main competition (that of his former band) released a real scorcher (Seven Deadly) in February (see the review elsewhere on the site – Ed), and Mike will need all the fuel to the fire he can muster to combat that disc on any level.
The vocalists (there are three) are noteworthy throughout. On board this time around are Michael Voss, Robin McAuley (again) and Doogie White. As it happens, they will be touring all three vocalists, separately, of course, throughout the year. One leg of this tour will also feature Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buccholz (bass), formerly of Michael’s brother Rudolph’s band, The Scorpions. Fallen Angel and Hanging On could be wonderful AOR fodder, if they weren’t so riff-happy. Strange how it feels as if I’m almost complaining…Either track wouldn’t have been a bit out of place on the MSG releases of the past. Hanging On features a tasty solo from Mike about 2 1/2 minutes in.
The End of An Era speeds things up a bit. The vocals are a bit reminiscent of Jon Bon Jovi’s early work, oddly enough. Another excellent piece of guitar work graces the mid-section, in addition to a brief organ solo, then back to the rock. This is a decent 70’s style workout, featuring some very powerful drum work. Another really cool solo at the end of the track as well. Miss Claustrophobia is another track that is featured twice on this release, once here in its slightly larger glory, then later on in the bonus tracks as a radio edit. It is a good track, but one wonders if two versions were necessary. On this track the organ makes an appearance again, and this reader is reminded of Deep Purple and Yngwie Malmsteen upon listening. Nice scream at the end.
With You slows things down just a hair, beginning with a very pretty blues solo. This is a ballad that, unfortunately, stretches a bit to make itself seem valid. The guitar work is good, of course, but I, for one, can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with the vocal end of things on this particular track. I probably shouldn’t bitch because its highly doubtful that I could do better. Just sounds a bit whiny to these ears. Killer solo three minutes in, and more soloing on the fadeout. One thing is for sure: Schenker’s ability to shred remains intact. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a great title, and is befitting to the battle cry of a tune here. I believe the full expression goes something like this: “May your soul rise up to heaven before the Devil knows you’re dead”. It exists as more of a foreboding omen here, encouraging the listener to check him/herself ‘before (they) fall asleep at night/just reach up and switch off the light’. Another nice little solo about 1/2 way in. The violins on the chorus heighten the sense of ‘battle lore’, if you will. Manowar, anyone? A beautiful sparse violin closing gives one the image of the end of the war.
Storming In features a brief acoustic intro, then proceeds to do just that – storm in on you. There is an ominous, menacing creepiness to this number. It flits between slow sections and charged up, punchy riff-fests. As with the lion’s share of the tracks, there is some very tasteful soloing here. Scene of Crime, again, features a brief but beautiful acoustic opening section, just before Mike & company proceed to take your head off with the core chugging riff. There is some distinctly Asian interplay here as well, between the choral riffing, if you will. An interesting cog in the Schenker wheel.
Saturday Night sounds as if a crowd has come to party in the studio, and the song gives off that celebratory vibe: ‘Ready to rock/It’s Saturday night/Pick up your friends/we will rock tonight’. Granted, the lyrics are a bit cheesy, but there’s nothing wrong with a rock party song. More cheese in the mid-section, with the singer trying to pick up a bird from the sounds of it. Standard stadium fare – let’s hope Mike gets plenty of chances to play it! Lover’s Sinfony sounds distinctly McAuley. There is that chugging core riff again, but the vocal rises above a bit more than elsewhere in the mix. Solid melodic lead solo. Easy to imagine A & R suits nodding their heads here, almost in AOR heaven again, due in large part to McAuley’s pipes.
Speed features a killer, bass-heavy riff. I would imagine that this tune is about driving a fast car. Nuff said! Of course, it features an excellent lead solo towards the finish. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here with the soloing. Remember, the last of the tracks not already on offer here, is another ‘bonus’. It is a short track full of spit and vinegar, sounding almost as punk as it does metal. Long story short, there is a lot of good stuff here. Considering who we’re dealing with, this should come as no surprise. Forgive me for going on a bit, but I’m something of a Schenker disciple! Go out and buy this now if you like Mike!