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By far the most commercially successful metal act of the 70’s, the Scorps exited the heavy metal’s spawning period with soaring, flying colours; they released the finest concert (“Tokyo Tapes”) along with Judas Priest’s “Unleashed in the East” (thanks, Japan!), and bade farewell to the decade with the excellent “Lovedrive” which saw the arrival of the new guitarist Matthias Jabs who replaced the seemingly irreplaceable Uli Roth, one of the greatest musicians to ever grace the metal field. As though not very certain whether the new guy would do a good job on the new album, the band had also invited an old colleague of theirs, Rudolf Schenker’s brother Michael to take part in the recordings, but his involvement was hardly the major reason why this effort became such a resounding success and also the first heavy metal album with over half a million copies sold worldwide.
The German metal panzers were also the major pioneers/innovators on the field literally writing the rules of speed/thrash on the ground-breaking “Taken by Force” which left Judas Priest, Motorhead and the likes with plenty to catch up in terms of aggression and wild, brutal rifforamas. Not willing to lose the accumulated inertia, the band were ready less than a year later with this new opus. Their preoccupation with women and sex, both text and cover-wise, has been tamed a bit, though, after the “Lovedrive” cover caused quite a bit of controversy among some more conservative societies.
It’s a sheer mystery why the guys continuously refuse to include a lot of songs from here on their live performances; because here we have some of the strongest material the Scorps have ever composed. The album starts with the fan favourite “Make it Real”, a cool heavy rocker which was turned later into a wild power/speedster on the “Worldwide Live” album. Then comes the wild speed/thrasher "Don't Make No Promises" which bashes brutally with reckless abandon; how the band never saw the thousands of banging heads in the audience during its live execution, is beyond me... A certain pause must follow after this devastating barrage, and here come two more friendly heavy rockers, "Hold Me Tight" & "Twentieth Century Man", which will largely enchant thanks to the catchy memorable choruses. Some romantic tenderness after that with the obligatory ballad "Lady Starlight" which fortunately remains the only one here, unlike the predecessor where we had romantic "Holidays", never-ending "Somewheres", and what not...
From this moment onward the album takes off to reach other dimensions and gives the metal scene some of its most treasured 20-min of greatness. "Falling in Love" begins with one of the mandatory riffs in heavy/power metal history, a motif paraphrased and emulated by hundreds of bands; it's one of the finest moments in the Scorps' discography, a template to be followed by many a metal practitioner in the years to come. "Only a Man" is scarily intense with the brutal main thrashy riff which literally drills skulls slightly softened by the catchy chorus; Meine sounds quite sinister here recalling his standout lower-tuned performance from the shredding masterpieces "Steamrock Fever" & "The Sails of Charon" from "Taken by Force".
For many Scorpions, and non-Scorpions, fans "The Zoo" is one of the ten best tracks the Germans ever produced... It's a larger-than-life epic with a killing main riff which on the album is vintage doom, significantly enhanced later on "Worldwide Live" again with a hefty speed metal-ish boost although to these ears its initial seismic pounding qualities are the more preferable ones. It also inaugurates the final, most majestic, part of the album, the part which reminded of the early Black Sabbath repertoire in a great nostalgic way also having in mind the difficult for the Sabbaths period with Ozzy already out of the picture, and the band not exactly sure which path to take with DIO (R.I.P.) on board. Enters the title-track, the epitaph, the definitive doom metal hymn, a terrifying brooding, almost funeral-like, epic which back in those days may have made the listener run away like demented trying to forget these foreboding, pitch-dark, ultimately depressing riffs. In more recent times their terrifying significance has been rediscovered and brought to the fore once again, at times more faithfully (Helstar, Memento Mori, Testament), at times with a more dramatic death metal tone (the death metallers Wynjara). Its immediate "offspring" was the volcanic epic "China White" from "Blackout", a nice cover of it offered by the German technical thrashers Mind-Ashes in 1997.
These were the times when metal was played merely for the sake of being loud and heavy, and no one was busy back then putting labels like power, speed, thrash, doom, etc. with everything being thrown into one big "melting pot" Scorpions appearing the most skilful "chefs" of the lot. It was just METAL and everyone was happy to be a part of this carefree, colourful merry-go-round; before greedy managers perniciously interfered, seeing the big potential this kind of music had, and turned it into the most commercially successful music style of the decade. Of the "holy five" (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Accept, Iron Maiden,...) Scorpions were by far the boldest and the most adventurous act stretching the boundaries of the not stable yet at the time genre to its extremes at will, nonchalantly, exploring its flexibility to the maximum thus laying the foundations of everything which followed (with a little help from the aforementioned outfits, of course). Roll forward to 1982, but "Blackout" didn't sound as original and innovative anymore; not in the company of others (their names mostly starting with an A) who followed down the path carved by the Stingers, like Anvil, the Belgians Acid, Accept ("Restlless & Wild, above all) again, and of course Aenom... sorry, Venom. Full-fledged thrash metal was already circulating in a demo form (Metallica, Metal Church, Slayer); Saint Vitus and Trouble had already suggested their own version of "the animal magnetism", again on a more underground level at this stage; it seemed as though Scorpions' collision course had done the job...
Mixed must have been the fans' feelings when an announcement was made in the mid-90's that the band had decided to replace Meine with either of the two Chucks, Billy or Schuldiner (R.I.P.) of respectively Testament and Death fame, for their eventual decision to venture into death metal for a couple of albums having in mind the waning interest in classic heavy metal...
ha ha ha; kidding, of course! But seriously, such a scenario could have been entertained in those times provided that the band possessed all the requisite arsenal to do that, if not the right age, and by no means the right singer. And definitely could have been the much better option to the rapid decline the band experienced, first with the hard rock non-sense "Pure Instinct" (1996), then with one of the biggest flops in metal history... was it "Tooth for a Tooth"; or "Eye for an Eye"... who cares...
Scorpions still deem themselves "unbreakable" through the new millennium as evident from their 2004 album-title which was another heavy piece of metal, but the only one so far since soon after the veterans showed their much more friendly face on a string of more hard rock-oriented efforts. Maybe their upcoming opus, promisingly titled "Return to Forever", will be this badly needed "sting in the" butt... sorry, "tail"? The heroes are tired, obviously, and "Animal Magnetism" 2 doesn't seem very likely to appear any time soon, at least out of their hands. People say the said magnetism gradually wanes from the human body/aura with age... With people anything fades away, true, but it's quite surprising that the scorpions lose it as well...
well, no one's perfect.
The second effort from the now 'classic' lineup of Meine, Schenker, Jabs, Bucholz, and Rarebell, "Animal Magnetism", clearly exhibits the formula of songwriting that would propel the group from mainly a Japanese and European based group to a worldwide attraction. Razor-sharp riffs; mixed with an up-tempo rhythm dominate most of the popular tracks on this album, such as 'Make It Real', 'Hey You' and 'Don't Make No Promises (Your Body Can't Keep)'. It was this type of musical structure that would lead the band into it largest commercial success, as seen by the album sales of 'Blackout' and 'Love at First Sting' in the US market. But for all the formula based hits, it is the slow tempo grinders, such as 'Hold Me Tight', 'Animal Magnetism', and the penultimate anthem about New York City, 'The Zoo', that give this album it's lasting charm.
While it is apparent that the addition of Mattias Jabs to the lineup significantly changed the sound of the group, from it's early Krautrock offering (Lonesome Crow); or neo-classical and Hendrix fueled lead guitarist Uli Jon Roth (Fly to the Rainbow), to enhance the riff first formula that was first offered up on the classic 'In Trance' release 5 years prior. That being said, whatever the band may have lost in intricate solo efforts, they compensated qute well with compulsive, catchy riffs, pounding rhythms, and stellar vocals (since Uli was not around to sabotage any more tracks by signing lead). 'Falling In Love', and 'Only a Man' are two examples of the new sound that would dominate future Scorpions' albums. Another classic cliche' of future albums, the power ballad, is heard here in the forlorn, yet beautiful, 'Lady Starlight'.
Perhaps two of the band's more underrated efforts play out on side one of this vinyl pressing, 'Twentieth Century Man' and 'Hold Me Tight'. Both are mid tempo rumblers, with Bucholz nearly taking lead; on the bass, no less!; on 'Twentieth', while Klaus gives a vocal definition of angst and frustraion within a decaying relationship on 'Hold Me Tight' when he belts out the chorus, "ALL RIGHT, have it your way!!!" It is this style that dominates most of the vibe of 'Magnetism', slow and brooding, like a stalking lion that is waiting for a chance to pounce on an unsuspecting victim. And it is fitting that the most popular cut on this album is entitled 'The Zoo', since it is within the chorus of this song that the pent up agression of the entire album is released in a fury, a climax rarely matched by any other Scorpions' (or any other band's) album, which allows the feline to feast. Even Klaus' smug laughter at the end of the title track suggests that the listener is merely an appetizer to the group's total appetite.
Now, decades later, and with the most successful era of the band not yet realized during this album, it is easy to see why 'Animal Magnetism' could be considered a marginal part of the Scorpions' catalogue. But don't take this album lightly, for any true Scorp's fan will tell you it has all the elements of future commercial success, along with some essential Scorpions venom.
This is one of those Scorpions albums that doesn't get talked about a lot. I know it doesn't have "Winds of Change," but that's no excuse. The songs on here are better constructed and arranged than on the band's breakout album Love at First Sting, so what's the deal? Somebody needs to own up to that. Animal Magnetism was the band's lucky number seventh studio album, and their second since professional guitar wizard Uli Roth left the fold. The band did lose a little bit of their special musical nuance when he left, but they didn't lose their affinity for writing great hooks and songs that could cheer up Eeyore the Donkey and Charlie Brown at the same time.
Scorpions had an incredible knack for pleasing the crowd, and although that would kind of harm them later on as the 80s rock sound became more streamlined, here it just means we get ear-candy vocal lines and a simplistic but superbly entertaining rhythm base. The band wrote songs for the mass-enjoyment of many, and they largely succeeded, with a huge dose of adrenaline-pumping, hyper-catchy rock tunes. There's just no way to go wrong with this; it's too damned entertaining. There is beauty in simplicity, and Scorpions know how to mine that well. The best thing about this album is just that it's so damned innocent and unassuming - it's got no axes to grind, nobody to point fingers at. It just wants to have a damn good time. Just listen to the ballad "Lady Starlight" - Klaus Meine's pleading cries do not have even one hint of malice or smugness behind them. It is an ode to the lost loves of every heartbroken young 70s guy looking for a place in life, a powerful cry out for the dying innocence of the American youth. There is an innocence here that rock music would lose within the next decade. And it just sounds good.
This album doesn't really have any immediate classics like "Blackout," "Catch Your Train" or "Rock You Like a Hurricane," but it also has no downsides, either - sometimes that's what you need; an album that has a strong, consistent run of good songs. Just pick any song on this thing, and you'll find an abundance of hooks. "Make It Real" is a good opener, and it's followed up with concise examples of hard rock wizardry with "Don't Make No Promises," "Twentieth Century Man" and "Only a Man" following suit without hesitation. These songs benefit from being short, as most of Scorpions' early classics did. There's no room for them to outstay their welcome and they become endlessly replayable. And I really like "Falling in Love" for its endearing childishness, and one of the best lyrical musings that came out of the 70s, right on the tail-end of the decade - "I'm falling in love/It happens to me every day!" is just too good of a line. How can you NOT like that? And furthermore, what would falling in love every day be like, anyway? Questions that only the Scorpions could provoke. Important questions for our generation.
The final two tracks kick things up a notch to where older Scorpions fans might be a bit more pleased. "The Zoo" is a prowling, sex-crazed romp through a city at night, featuring grooving bass lines and a mean, thumping riff. This song is probably the best one on the album, making the listener feel just like he's chasing down the sexy babe who just walked by - enticing! The title track is metal incarnate, with its heavy-as-a-brick riffing layered over with epic vocal lines that would be put to even better use on "China White" in a few years' time. This song is still pretty good, although a bit dull in comparison to the rather homogenous hard rock marathon running before it. Perhaps it would have fared better on an album of more adventurous songs, for here it just seems out of place.
The lyrics are oddly schizophrenic. One minute the band is talking about finding love, as in "Lady Starlight" and, uh, "Falling in Love," while the next, they're objectifying women in "The Zoo" and the title track. In "Only a Man" and "Don't Make No Promises," we see the band complaining about women! Are they ever happy? And don't give me any guff about how I shouldn't analyze these lyrics so much, either! I know you were about to! Being a fake doctor, I must conclude from Scorpions' confused lyrical themes that the band probably had problems with their mothers growing up. My recommendation, guys? A lot of jaegermeister and a nice pillow to lie on to forget your woes. This is also applicable to all of you reading this review, as next week we have to grin and bear the terror of Savage Amusement. Buck up.