The Michael Schenker Group – Immortal (2021)

The Michael Schenker Group – ImmortalThe Michael Schenker Group – Immortal (29. 1. 2021)
Publisher: Nuclear Blast Records
Producers: Michael Schenker, Ralf Scheepers, Michael Voss
Duration: 44:34
Žanr: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Rating: 9

In honor of half a century of musical activity and forty years of solo career, Michael Schenker gathered a colorful team of associates to mark an important, great jubilee. The legendary guitarist began his career in the ranks of the Scorpions (along with his older brother Rudolf), continued with the band UFO, and then in 1979 formed The Michael Schenker Group (abbreviated MSG) with whose various incarnations he has so far recorded eleven studio albums. A record of an inspiring and somewhat binding self-conscious title „Immortal” according to the concept, it largely shares the idea with last year’s edition of Wild Strawberries “Jukebox”, with the fact that instead of old hits delivered in a renewed spirit, a completely new author’s content is present here. Thanks to the mostly even representation of four guest vocals (in addition to three, currently permanent, MSG singers), with each individual contribution to providing a different quality and new nuance to the album, an exciting diversity has been achieved that leads from speed metal to hard rock sound, from lavish seventies to positively ornate, melodic eighties.

The album opens with an uncompromising sound shock „Drilled To Kill“, whose explosive, galloping rhythm section, confident vocals Raplha Scheepersa, an excellent guitar and choral inter-refrain parts, do not leave even an hour of respite. It is important to point out the complete harmony of the instruments, so, for example, the keyboards turn on in the right places and naturally merge with the whole, with a certain influence of power metal sound. Scheeper (Primal Fear) also has a track „Devil’s Daughter“ which right in the middle of the album comes to shake up again, bring in the breath of the aforementioned speed metal and provide a great tempo without a single monotonous moment. Opposite him, another guest, experienced Joe Lynn Turner it reminds of the good old days and brings many recognizable souls into its performances. Therefore, with the second track, it becomes obvious that the album in front of us is an overview of the styles through which the “host” Schenker sailed over the years: „Don’t Die On Me Now“ leads further into the past, with a certain pathos, anthem and striking transition evoking the best works of Deep Purple. We meet Turner again in the penultimate song „Bleeding Death“, whose somewhat mystical introduction, superb vocal expressiveness and support of the rhythm section contribute to the whole narrative, although the text actually speaks of a Texas revolver, mostly associated with the confession of a wandering knight. In the guitar part, we clearly discern the joy of playing as a magical ingredient that contributes to the likeability of the album even on the first listen.

Michael Voss, as one of the producers and Schenker ‘s closest collaborators, he sang two songs that we can conclude without much hesitation are the special trump card of the record. The first is a beautiful ballad „After The Rain“, melancholic but striking guitar overtures, unobtrusive choruses, solid instrumental background and warmth of sound. It is noticeable that the expected, more developed solo is missing, with which Michael Schenker cleverly shows how the “podium” is generously made available to associates, without losing the authentic personal stamp. On the other hand, she is absolutely the most receptive „The Queen Of Thorns And Roses“, as created to be a radio hit, a classic hard rock example in the best tradition of the eighties. The fourth voice boost is Ronnie Romero (Rainbow) who, unlike the listed colleagues, instead of two, got – three “his” songs. The dilemma could only last until the initial bars of the first one, „Knight Of The Dead“: namely, Romero has an interesting color that could be described as a mixture of Dio and Coverdale’s vocals, so he adds completeness to the stylistic range of the album. While the aforementioned track is an unstoppable melodic roller coaster, „Sail The Darkness“ it has the most infectious chorus that immediately “sticks” to the ear, rich solos, striking drums, and the beginning of the melody is very reminiscent of “Holy Diver”. „Come On Over“ adorns the same tempo as in the previous “The Queen Of Thorns And Roses”, with a nostalgic-energetic sweep of the 80s “street” glam.

After all, the only old thing chosen to close the album was „In Search Of The Peace Of Mind“. It is Schenker’s first song, written at the age of fifteen, but also the first recorded for Scorpions’ debut album “Lonesome Crow” (1972). Michael calls it “the most important song, the one from which it all began”, and fans of the original agree that it is one of the most interesting, underestimated compositions from the Scorpions discography. The treatment is a worthy, yet independent homage, with a clear evocation of the first version (and even the beginnings of the group in general, say, the dreaminess of the ballad “Lady Starlight”) and a very archaic sentiment, to which the keyboards add something progressive. It is interesting that four vocals are included, primarily members of the current line-up of MSG – Gary Barden, Robin McAuley i Doogie White, as well as the already mentioned Romero, and with each inclusion of a new voice there is a change of atmosphere that creates the effect of monumentality. Part of the text, which reads: And I know a place to go / To find my peace of mind, really sums up the feeling with which rock’n’roll fills both creators / performers and the audience in a beautiful way, giving us all a refuge in an alliance.

Although the singers are the ones who, along with maestro Schenker, breathe the soul of the album most strikingly, it would be unfair to omit the rest of the engaged team: Barry Sparks (low), Bodo Schopf, Simon Philips, Brian Tichy (drums), Derek Sherinian (keyboards) and Steve Mann (keyboards, rhythm guitar). Thanks to all of them, “Immortal” is one of those records that you just don’t want to end up with: full of soul, warmth of the famous and at the same time inexhaustible creativity.

It is the vital element of resisting time that has been very successfully highlighted and fulfilled by choosing a title. The inclusion of several different bearers of the main vocal-interpretive focuses can be a trap, but in this case they have provided the whole with the necessary diversity and constant freshness that prevents falling into monotony. Michael Schenker does not show off his virtuosity for a moment, although he would have the justification, possibilities and space for that. Due to this fact, there are no “exhibitions”, every guest is given due respect, everyone takes turns in a very harmonious way and supports each other in creating harmony. Thanks to that, we got a lively and emotional, optimistic and sad, fun and above all honest musical story that in a convincing, authentic way marks the way so far and indicates the readiness for its heartfelt continuation. Before rounding one magnum opus, this is a review with a revival of the past and hints of the future, which all together show a distinct consistency. The celebratory album with intention and, perhaps more importantly, measure, is interspersed with styles, and coherent, a real small retrospective of a musical journey on the horizon of which promise and confirmation are indicated with undiminished energy – indestructibility. In short, like a successful themed hard’n’heavy party where there was something for every sensibility.

List of songs:

1.Drilled To Kill
2. Don´t Die On Me Now
3. Knight Of The Dead
4. After The Rain
5. Devil’s Daughter
6. Sail The Darkness
7. The Queen Of Thorns And Roses
8. Come On Over
9. Bleeding Death
10. In Search Of The Peace Of Mind

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