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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Scorpions

Taken By Force

Review by Gary Hill

This disc represented the final Scorpions album with Uli Jon Roth. While I’ve always appreciated the later period of the band, I’ve always preferred the Roth edition. Yes, their sound was less polished and a lot more quirky, but that’s the point. These guys didn’t sound like every other band in those days. They had an element of danger to their music. It wasn’t all hard rocking metallic hits and arena rock ballads, there were a lot of rough edges and chances being taken – in one word “character.” For my money this might be the best of the Roth era albums. I’ve always found myself drawn to it more than the others.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Steamrock Fever
Ryhmic textures, joined by a jack hammer lead this one off. The band launch into a raw and very cool metallic jam. Sections of this feature some intriguing guitar textures and layers. This is really a cut that could have fit on Virgin Killer or In Trance quite easily. It has that quirky off-kilter sound that made the Scorps so special in the day.
We'll Burn The Sky
The lyrics to this one are quite similar in theme to those of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” An acoustic mode begins this one and the cut grows gradually as a ballad here. The chorus segment rocks out in stark contrast, but also as a complement, to this mellower sound. This epic number has always been one of my all-time favorite Scorpions songs. Of course, part of that is due to the dual nature of the piece. It seems to me that music gains a lot from having both sedate and powerful sections – and particularly when the intensity of the number grows as it carries onward. The stellar guitar work and powerful arrangement on this one don’t hurt either.
I've Got To Be Free
This is a harder than hard metallic stomper that really feels a lot like the Virgin Killer disc. It’s a serious smoker and another highlight of a disc that has no shortage of them.
The Riot Of Your Time
A rocking acoustic guitar mode starts this. Then melodic, but crunchy, lines come over the top of this to create a mode that isn’t quite a ballad, but yet isn’t quite a rocker, either. As it shifts out into the next movement of the piece it becomes more of a metallic jam, but still they don’t go for the easy chording structure, instead choosing a longer riff that feels almost prog rock like. They alternate between the mellower and harder rocking modes as they carry forward. This song is a rather unusual one, but also a killer. It’s another of the highlights of the discs and features both a great vocal arrangement and some inspiring guitar sounds. They also manage to throw in a more metallic, but still rather dynamic, instrumental break for good effect.
The Sails of Charon
This one has a bouncy, almost ethnic texture to the melody lines, but also plenty of crunch. It’s another with definite musical ties to Virgin Killer and In Trance. It includes some exceptionally tasty guitar soloing, too. In some ways this is one of the heaviest cuts on show here. It also has one of the more interesting riffs. This one is definitely a highlight.
Your Light
This cut combines two rather disparate sounds into one cohesive piece of music. There are elements here that feel like mellower jazz club guitar arrangements and other sections that come across as more pure metal. This one is a bit quirky, but quite cool. Still, if there was a throwaway cut on show here, it would be this one. Considering how strong this one is, though, that says a lot about the overall quality of this disc.
He's A Woman-She's A Man
Treading the same lyrical ground as The Kinks’ “Lola” and Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” this one is far harder rocking than either of those. In fact, this is one of the most scorching songs on this disc. It’s also one of the simpler ones, but the raw power showcased here makes it work quite well.
Born To Touch Your Feelings
OK, I know there are people out there who will think this song really sucks. Yes it’s a mellow one, and yes the arrangement can be a bit over the top. The truth is, though, it really shows another side of the band and I like it quite a bit. It starts off as a classically tinged ballad and builds very slowly. The vocal performance here is quite evocative. I really enjoy the gradual building process of the piece, too. They manage to rearrange it after a time into a more rocking sort of sound that still carries the general themes of the piece. They rework it about five minutes in and begin a more dramatic take on the musical elements. Then there are numerous female voices speaking in different languages. I’ve always thought, but never confirmed, that they are saying the same things, but in different tongues. I know there are probably a lot of people out there who think this part of the arrangement is extremely self-indulgent, but I’ve always thought that it is a highlight of the album – although it does get a little busy at times. This cut ended the original version of the release in fine form – at least from my point of view.
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