SCORPIONS – “Rock Believer”
By Colonel Angus
THE SCORPIONS and I go way, way back to 1976 with the release of “Virgin Killer”. I, like most of America’s youth at the time, was totally ensconced in all things KISS but my friend’s older brother played us “Virgin Killer” and we made that record part of our usual playlist. Fast forward a little bit and I was a first day purchaser of “Lovedrive” and the 2 records that followed. All of those records still hold a special place in my heart. As time marched on, I hate to say this but I was losing interest in the band starting with “Love at First Sting”. I would still go to see them in concert but their albums didn’t hold the same appeal to me and my friends.
All of that changed when, in 2004, the band released a criminally overlooked disk call “Unbreakable”. For a moment, I thought “my band” was back and this was going to be a second coming of sorts. Unfortunately, it seems that it was a “one off” as “Humanity: Hour” I greatly disappointed me. They have come up with some material on subsequent releases that I enjoyed but it never grabbed me like “Unbreakable” or their earlier records. When I heard they were going to release another album, my expectations were low but the early buzz was that this collection of tunes was a return to form and it was their best record since “Blackout”. I’ve heard those press releases before so I was skeptical to say the least. I didn’t bother to listen to the songs that were put out beforehand because I wanted to hear the record as a whole and make my judgement after a few spins. Well, I’m happy to say that the early reviews were not too far off and this is one of their best (certainly since “Unbreakable”).
“Rock Believer” starts off very promising with “Gas in the Tank” and “Roots in My Boots” with the latter kicking things up a notch with some speedy riffing. “Knock ‘em Dead” sounds more like late 80s SCORPIONS metal but it still retains the quality of the opening tracks. The next few tracks return back to that earlier SCORPIONS sound. The title track walks that line between older SCORPS and 80s metal but quite honestly, they are one of the few bands that can pull off that sound without being wimpy or cheesy. "Shining of Your Soul" has a great groove and, in my opinion, would have fit perfectly on “Animal Magnetism” or “Blackout”. It has that same swagger that made those earlier albums so unique. Next up, we start off with a “Runnin’ with the Devil” inspired bass intro that turns into a thumping rocker that is a surprising high-point on this album full of quality tracks. Breaking up that older SCORPS vibe, “Hot and Cold” harkens back to their heavier 90s sound. I like the guitar work on this tune but it is my least favorite of the single disk version.
Speaking of single disk version, the rest of “Rock Believer”’s disk one delves back into their early 80s territory with “Peacemaker” being the best at the tail end of the disk. I even like "When You Know (Where You Come From)" and I find it odd that they placed it at the end of the record. Normally, this is relegated to somewhere in the middle to give the listener a breather but they make the odd decision of putting it last. No matter its placement, I would recommend not skipping this song. It is one of the better ballads the band has released and it has that same feeling me as "When the Smoke Is Going Down" on “Blackout”. Normally, that would end the regular release but the band has decided that fans who want more can get the two disk version that contains five more songs. While I am one of those collectors that will always purchase the extended version, of the five tracks, three of them are worth the additional purchase. "Shoot for Your Heart" is a nice rocker that is more reminiscent of their latter day material but the performance really elevates the tune. The standout of the second disk is definitely "When Tomorrow Comes". The guitar tones sound like they were lifted directly from their “Animal Magnetism” album – it’s that good. The band end this album with a redone acoustic version of "When You Know (Where You Come From)" which works well but not quite as well as the full version. Either one is great but I prefer the version that ends disk one. So there you have it, a new SCORPIONS album that deserves your attention. I was a skeptic and they made me a believer (“Rock Believer”, perhaps) in the fact that they have plenty more to offer.