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Lovedrive and Animal Magnetism proved Scorpions definitely survived to the decline of 70’s classic rock, albums on which they reinvented their sound, making it heavier and faster, escaping from the progression and bluesy reminiscence of the early days to satisfy the new generation of avid heavy metal fans. The album was followed by an intense tour schedule during which Klaus lost his voice and had to go through vocal cord surgery, so Blackout wasn’t only a baptism of fire in musical terms – it also marked the beginning of a new era for the group, great times of commercial success, prevailing where others disappeared, reaching easily the top of the charts and the status of heavy metal icons, playing in huge stadiums around the world…the culmination of a long creative process had arrived.
The band delivers some of the most electrifying tunes of their career here, starting with the epic title-track, loose and energetic, whose spine are those slamming riffs and hooks, sharper than ever and executed with attitude and discipline by the combo Jabs-R. Schenker. Real aggression and velocity are accented to the maximum on following cuts like “Now!” as well, a sophisticated display of speed metal, frenetic and outrageous, featuring Meine’s enthusiastic screaming which certainly confirmed he recovered his voice with greater power and intensity. But the most spectacular moment on the album is undoubtedly “Dynamite”, the thrashiest, most brutal song these guys ever came up with – including the fastest riffing, most dynamic pulse and incendiary shredding solos of the Sarstedt quintet, setting the standards for both thrash and speed metal in a crucial year for the evolution of those subgenres. The incredible roughness and looseness of guitar lines, the accelerated beats and the meticulousness of that lengthy, intricate solo make the tune reach an unexpected high level of intensity and bestiality you might not expect from a heavy metal act – in fact, not many of the earliest first wave of thrash acts could match this overwhelming exhibition of sonic violence, which at the same time displays admirable control and rigor. Huge riffs of greater cadence, quieter but still blistering and lethal are combined with strong melodies on “No One Like You” and “Arizona”, which also add more notable harmonies and overtones, along with Klaus’ touching vocals. The slow cut “China White” achieves even bigger weight and presence with those pounding low riffs, creating a unique climax in the vein of “The Zoo” but darker. On the contrary, “You Give Me All I Need” and “When The Smoke Is Going Down” expose Scorpions’ sensitive side with lyrical arpeggios, tortured vocals and exquisite harmonies, completing a truly musically varied pack.
Meine & co. are still presenting lots of melodies and tenderness here, mostly mixed however with solid instrumental basis defined by this guitar combo’s killer tone and distorted dirty texture, which generally determines the direction of the music. The band is pushing away the ballads and quietness to play faster and rougher than ever before – the cadence and slowness of Animal Magnetism is eluded (with the exception of the crushing “China White”) to emphasize vigor and dynamism of rhythms, making use of double-bass kicks and frantic lines that obey a scheme, lacking no perspective, totally controlled and precise, revealing the remarkable experience and musicianship of these guys. These songs with heavier edge and predominantly uninterrupted up-tempos certainly satisfied the requirements of the metal scene back in 1982 when the NWOBHM was at the top, though the reinvention of Scorpions’ sound seems to be the result of a creative process throughout the years, not a commercial attempt to adapt to trends and tendencies, it rather evolved as a result of hard work and determination, determining the principles of 80’s heavy metal before the explosion of the British wave actually. Their music got straighter, more violent and metallic in contrast with the 70’s bluesy, jazzy stuff, yet maintaining the depth, musical richness, certain level of difficulty and progression as some elaborated instrumental passages here confirm. The chemistry between Rudolf and Matthias has been completely consolidated – the harmony and synchronization between those 2 virtuosos provide the group of a truly challenging, efficient instrumental basis, supported by Buchholz and Rarebell’s competent rhythm section. Klaus’ voice is at its best too, unleashed and passionate, heavenly and malicious depending on the tonality of the cut – who would believe he had just gone through surgery. The considerable musical diversity in the record gave him the chance to prove his capability and versatility, performing music of distinct feel and nature effortlessly from ballads to rabid thrashy speed metal successfully.
Blackout is probably the greatest thing Scorpions did in the 80’s, the heaviest, fastest record in their extensive career without pushing away finesse and melody totally. And we shouldn’t ignore either the huge relevance songs like “Dynamite” had on subgenres like thrash and speed, virtually setting its rules just like “He’s A Woman – She’s A Man” did back in 1977. Meine & co. had always been ahead of their time playing more aggressive, looser music than everybody else, which was the result I insist of a creative process which wasn’t intended to exclusively offer the most ferocious music in the planet, as it also put emphasis on strong melodies. Once again, another Scorpions record had an enormous impact on a new generation of musicians – undoubtedly, you have to check out pioneer albums like this to understand the evolution of the genre and identify its true roots.