Nuclear Blast Records [Release date 29.01.21]
You would forgive Michael Schenker if he announced he was about to step back from music for a bit and take things easy. Now 65 and celebrating not only 50 years in the business but 40 years as a solo artist, you would gladly concede that he had rightly earned a bit of free time. However, as Michael says on the album release blurb he doesn’t ‘live to play, he plays to live’!
With that in mind he has resurrected the MSG tag after a couple of ‘Michael Schenker Fest’ albums and has produced another classic rock gem. With no less than 14 different musicians on the album Michael has continued to enlist the cream of the rock world to his cause and the results prove that there is no substitute for talent.
If anyone were to suggest that Michael should plan a quiet retirement rather than heading back into the studio then the opening track ‘Drilled To Kill’ is the perfect retort. This is a hard and heavy track underpinned with machine gun like drumming and a soaring vocal provided in this instance by Ralph Scheepers from Primal Fear. This was the first track released from the album and it certainly grabs your attention with a relentless barrage of furious riffs firing from Schenker’s fretboard and a wave of Hammond organ.
Joe Lynn Turner then steps up to the mic for ‘Don’t Die On Me Now’ which has a chugging riff and a big, melodic chorus. Turner then hands the mic to Ronnie Romero for ‘Knight Of The Dead’ which again charges along at a furious pace. This is classic rock at it’s very best and well worth the multiple rounds of quarantine Schenker had to enduring as he travelled to and from Germany for the recording sessions.
Vocal duties are swapped once more as album producer, Michael Voss of Mad Max, steps from behind the mixing desk to add his voice to the big ballad of the album ‘After The Rain’. A majestic piece that can rightly rub shoulders with the very best epics in classic rock, a real album highlight.
The riff to ‘Devil’s Daughter’ is the closest Schenker will get to writing a country song but the double bass drum attack makes sure that this is an out and out rocker. ‘Sail The Darkness’ is next up with Romero back at the mic giving this a very ‘Ronne James Dio’ period Rainbow like sound which is no bad thing.
Things then take a lighter, almost AOR, turn on ‘The Queen Of Thorns and Roses’ which adds another element to the album and provides a breather before you plunge back into the full on rock of ‘Come On Over’ with Michael producing one of the best solos on the album in the mid-section.
That only leaves two songs to round off the album and what a fantastic pairing they are. ‘Sangria Morte’ is first up and is a real Schenker classic with excellent six string dexterity throughout.
The final song though is one very special to Michael as it was the first song he wrote at the tender age of 15. ‘In Search Of The Peace Of Mind’ was first released on the Scorpions ‘Lonesome Crow’ album and it is perfectly reworked here to great effect. The song twists and turns gently leading to a big final flourish complete with more stunning fretwork from the maestro.
I was slightly disappointed by the last two Schenker Fest album releases as they sounded like they were constrained and made to fit the musicians in certain parts. However, here Michael has been freed to cut loose and explore all avenues and this is his best release since the ‘Temple Of Rock’ albums.
He says in the accompanying blurb that on this album he has ‘played from the heart, as always’ and I am glad to report it is beating stronger than ever. Immortal may be pushing it but there is plenty of life left in Mr Schenker yet! *****
Review by Dave Wilson
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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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