Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
The word ‘Legend’ gets thrown about too regularly and has lost a lot of its importance but when it applies to Michael Schenker it fully inhabits the true meaning of the word.
A man whose style has influenced countless players, the German guitarist has led the way since his first outing with the Scorpions, his first gig with the legendary band aged eleven and recording debut with them on their first album ‘Lonesome Crow’ when he was sixteen.
From his time with them, moving onto the groundbreaking work with UFO and onto his solo career and switching between all three, he’s constantly proven himself to be one of the finest guitarists on the planet.
After two well received Michael Schenker Fest releases, it was time to shake things up again, the guitarist always seeking to stretch himself and so a change was made.
With this, the first Michael Schenker Group album since 2008’s ‘In The Midst Of Beauty’, the master is back and on blistering form, the ever-changing carousel of incredible talent with him taking the band to new heights.
Calling on old friends and some fresh blood has revitalized the project, giving the maestro both the familiar to rely on whilst also picking some additional musicians to come into the fold, making new connections.
Whilst his has been a somewhat mercurial career in days of old, the well covered excesses of the past causing some issues, the Michael Schenker that has emerged over more recent years seems to be able to balance a laser focus on the music whilst at the same time injecting it with an infectious joy.
This, along with the jaw dropping guitar playing, is what really stands out from this release and there is a real deft touch both to the performances and the songs themselves.
From the kickstarting heads down hard rock of ‘Drilled To Kill’ and the equally forceful ‘Knight Of The Dead’, there is the grit and power that MSG do so well, vocalists Ralf Scheepers and Ronnie Romero respectively giving their all over a maelstrom that will bring a smile to anyone who loves their music fast and heavy.
There are also some nice touches from the off, Schenker dueling with keys master Derek Sherinian on the opener, the epic Western movie soundtrack tinges in ballad ‘Sangria Morte’ and the echoes of the sort of grand rock that Rainbow used to excel at in ‘Sail The Darkness’.
Throughout the main man truly flies, his sense of melody and attack judged and performed with a skill that speaks of someone who was born to play guitar.
Whilst the performances themselves are hugely impressive, the material itself is equally as good and provide some of MSG’s strongest of their back catalogue. Solid throughout, the quality never dips as melodic blockbuster ‘Don’t Die On Me Now’, the AOR-centric ‘The Queen Of Thorns And Roses’ and 90’s metal charger ‘Come On Over’ thrill with a vigour that gives a uniformity, regardless of the individual writing styles.
The album closes, aptly, with a sparkling reimagining of ‘In Search Of The Peace Of The Mind’, the track the first song that Schenker wrote fifty years ago.
A real, multilayered epic it grows and grows from gentle beginnings into a journey that seems to encapsulate everything that the guitarist has achieved in the past five decades, the music as immortal as the influence that he himself has made upon the world.
With some superb material, a cast of hugely talented musicians and some incredible playing from the man himself, this truly is a masterclass.
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