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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Scorpions

Humanity Hour 1

Review by Gary Hill

I was a huge fan of the Scorpions in the Uli Jon Roth days. I stuck with them through the first part of the post Roth era. For my money the 1980’s had a similar effect on the Scorpions as it did on heavy metal in general – turning their output (or the lion’s share of it) into pop-oriented schlock. The Scorpions perhaps fared worse than some of the other bands of the time because they were really known for a lot of incredibly cheesy ballads. Well, I’m here to say that for the most part they have gotten rid of the demons that made it so hard to pick up a Scorpions CD. This is without question the best Scorpions music I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a tribute to the quality of material here that some incredible music winds up as the middle of the road fare on this album. There is one balladic nod back to the 1980’s stuff, but for the most part this is a great modern reawakening for the Scorpions. I like this disc a lot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hour 1
A quick little snippet of a female voice welcomes us. Percussion comes in from there and the band launch into a killer riff that reminds me a bit of Brutal Planet era Alice Cooper. This is one of the hardest rocking numbers I’ve heard from The Scorpions in a long time. They drop it back to a stripped down motif for the verse, but the chorus just plain screams. Now this is what I missed about a lot of the later Scorpions album. The bridge particularly feels like that aforementioned Alice Cooper album and the guitar solo simply screams.
Game Of Life
The sound that starts this off seems to combine the thicker texture of the opener with a more typical Scorpions song. When they drop it down to the verse this is definitely more in keeping with the more mainstream Scorpions sound. That said, the chorus on this is amongst the best the band have ever produced and I like the harder edged guitar sections of this a lot. I’m not overly crazy about that verse section, but once they hit the bridge they don’t go back there and this is a great rocker that’s trademark Scorpions.
We Were Born To Fly
In some ways this doesn’t differ much from the previous piece – a hard crunch segment gives way to a more stripped down verse. The thing is, the verse section on this one really works well for my money. I like this song a lot. It’s not breaking any molds – rather it’s pretty typical of the type of music we’ve come to expect from this band. It’s just exceptionally strong. It’s one of my favorites on show here.
Future Never Dies
When I heard the piano open this off, I seriously cringed. It seemed like we were about to launch into one of the cheesy ballads that were part of the problem with the “pop” era of The Scorpions. Well, I needn’t fear. They do start things with a ballad approach, but the vocal line raises it well above the type of thing I was expecting. The band really turn this into a powerful epic magnum opus. We get strings in the mix, but they aren’t cheesy. This is an exceptional strong piece of music that’s perhaps not worlds apart from modern epic metal. It’s actually one of the highlights of the disc and certainly one of the most dynamic numbers.
You're Lovin' Me to Death
Now, this is more pure metal. It’s a good tune, but a bit generic. Still, the chorus is cool. The instrumental segment is another nice touch that helps to elevate the track. In fact, the riff that starts that portion off would fit in quite nicely on a modern metallic prog album.
321
An incredibly mean sounding riff starts this. They drop it back quite a bit for the verse, not a huge surprise. The first line is cool, “Time is a cruel master.” This is another track that in some ways is not a big surprise, but yet it just works worlds better than some of the group’s previous efforts. The guitar solo on this is a killer. That section gives way to a little interlude where a woman’s voice (the same one from the opening of the disc, I believe), starts a countdown that the chorus finishes for us.

Love Will Keep Us Alive
Now, this is precisely the type of demon that should have been exorcised from the band. This is one of those cheesy anthemic ballads. This is the low point of the CD and I think the track most deserving of the “skip” button. The guitar solo on this is tasty, but the section that follows the first occurrence it is just plain awful in its cheesiness.
We Will Rise Again
They start this off with another of those incredibly crunchy ultra heavy riffs. This turns into another tune where a mellower verse is counterpointed with a harder edged chorus. The thing is, this one works so well that you just don’t worry about the fact that the formula is a bit overused here. The mellower section almost has a jazzy feel to it at times and they rock the rest of it out so well. The bridge on this one is amongst the best musical sections on the CD.
Your Last Song
The Scorpions were not always a pure metal band. They used to occasionally put out a soaring jam that was nearly progressive rock in nature. This is one in that vein. I really like this a lot and at times I can see it as similar to some of the less metallic Dream Theater music. This is a great inclusion and a nice piece of variety brought to the table. It’s actually one of my favorite songs on the disc.

Love Is War
This one is cut of out similar cloth as the last one. It’s perhaps not as powerful at the start, but by the time it works out in a more powerful way this is every bit as strong as that one. I love the lines, “I will rewrite history / You will no longer exist to me.” This is definitely another highlight of the disc.
Cross
Another track that’s pretty much pure straight ahead metal, this is far more powerful than “You're Lovin' Me to Death.” The central riff is extremely meaty and they keep it rocking pretty high throughout. Billy Corgan appears on this track and they create a cool slower moving section around his appearance. I don’t think I’d put this one as one of the two four or five tracks here, but that’s mostly because some of the other stuff is so good. This song is a killer.
Humanity
While The Scorpions used to have a problem with cheesy ballads, not all their ballads were weak – witness “We’ll Burn the Sky” and “Holiday” for only two examples. Well, the opening section of this comes cut from that type of cloth. When they power it up it’s obvious that this is another powerhouse epic. I love this song, even if the lyrical content is bleak – it foretells the end of the human race. They turn this into a section later that embraces the neo-classical side of European epic metal. There is a killer melodic guitar solo on this track, too. A short jazzy interlude takes this out. It’s not quite the last sound heard, though. That is a child’s voice that announces, “It’s time.”

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