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The sixteenth Scorpions album, Humanity Hour 1 was clearly intended to be a dramatic step forward for the band, a publicly certifiable pulse to prove that their creativity hadn’t withered just yet, that they could continue to break new ground now that the ‘safe’ comeback album Unbreakable was out of the way. Meritorious as this sounds in text, what they actually ended up with was the big, gay, overblown, modern rock production that everyone expected Unbreakable to be. It’s a very un-Scorpions affair, the band clearly not doing things the way they’d typically do them, and clearly doing it for the worst.
Primarily to blame is the outside collaboration of Desmond Child, who built the album’s concept around some loosely-tethered world-conscious pretension. Desmond Child, of course, is the pseudonym of a famous 70’s footnote who found great financial success writing pop songs for other performers in the decades after his own musical career came and went in the blink of an eye. As far as Billboard and Rolling Stone magazine is concerned, the guy’s a prodigious hit machine, churning out some of the biggest singles in all of rock ‘n’ roll. S'far as I’m concerned, he’s a prodigious shit machine, excreting out some of the worst songs of all humanity through mediums such as Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Joan Jett and Kiss. He’s tainted metal’s pool on rarer occasions, but now he’s gone and co-written an entire Scorpions album. It’s no wonder folks feel that Humanity Hour 1 doesn’t sound like Scorpions: it’s more like Desmond Child’s vision with an aging Scorpions performing as backing band. I’m not sure whose idea it was to create this piece or who predicted it would be a wonderful idea, but they’ve got fifty or so minutes of bland modern music to try and justify here. I sure as hell won’t be doing it for them.
The riffs, the melodies, the arrangements; the whole freaking sound of Humanity Hour I is so unlike the band’s typical production that one would have difficulty recognizing it as a Scorpions release. Only Klaus Meine’s familiar timbre establishes any association with the band of old, everything else is updated, modernized, dehumanized, and sanitized in some vain attempt to compete with the modern hard rock scene by blending right into it. Big downtuned guitars for the choruses and main riffs juxtaposed against mellow, effect-laden verses are the order of hour 1, a trick culled right from the tracklists of bands like Breaking Benjamin and Chevelle. Klaus’ vocal melodies are obviously not his own, and Mathias Jabs’ soloing sounds similarly restrained. All for the point of keeping faithful to the concept, or to keep up with the Joneses? Letting this band do exactly what they wanted resulted in a slew of hit albums; bringing in outside songwriters resulted in Eye II Eye. Indeed, this is the only other Scorpions studio release to have a numeral in the title. Coincidences can be very telling sometimes.
But oh, is it a bland one alright. Artificial heaviness now accompanies the band’s long stagnant balladry, completing the phony Scorpions sound that drones irrepressibly onward through thirteen tracks, repeating and recycling despite Klaus and Mathias’ occasional attempts to rise above the steady hum with a legitimate buzz of real innovation. But these are half-hearted at best, the big depressing subtext apparently sucking the fun out of everybody involved. Even Billy Corgan sounds like he’d rather not be guesting on here, and considering the weepy quality that persists in his work these days, that’s saying something.
I’m really not against a band trying something different, and I’ll admit it is at least interesting to hear a much different side of Scorpions, especially at this late stage in the game. But this is not a good twist of the band, and I think even they knew it. Desmond Child’s concept is dim, and as such, the band executing it is too. The upper-management type that introduced the two is in need of a serious caning.
I mean, come on, the guy was responsible for “I Was Made for Loving You,” and “Livin’ On a Prayer.” Enough said.
This is exactly what one would say when hearing this album. After the splendid Unbreakable the Scorpions really seemed back to rock the world once more, but now in a more modern way. Its follow-up, which is this album, Humanity Hour I has nothing in common with Unbreakable except for the more modern sound, but then this release is even more modernized. Actually this whole album does not sound like they are the Scorpions. It is modernized in every way and the trademark Scorps sound is gone. Mostly such a change would make me love the album, but Humanity Hour I actually doesn’t do that.
So the Scorpions adopted a modern sound, what do I actually mean? There are traces of downtuned guitars on some songs, the tracks are mostly short and don’t even contain solos and of course there’s this concept. Yes, this is a concept album by the Scorpions. Apparently this concept was the idea of songwriter/producer Desmond Child, who we’ll discuss later on. This concept is about how evil and bad mankind is right now and this is just hour one to our insanity. They believe the worst is yet to come. Well, that’s pretty optimistic, don’t you think? And that’s all made up by a man with vision, this Desmond Child guy, whose fingerprints are on all of the songs. Which brings us to the why and how of the soundchange. The songs are mostly credited for a whole bunch of people and only one bandmember. If the Scorps have stopped writing their own songs, then how can we expect to hear the trademark Scorpions sound? Seriously, this was a sad move.
On to the songs. Even though the overall feel is very modern and not Scorpions-like, it’s not an awful album. The whole army of songwriters did know how to write songs, so it seems. As soon as opener “Hour I” begins we have a bit of a nu-metal feel through our veins. It starts off with a bombarding drum intro, soon accompanied with a heavy drop C guitar riff and a shrieking lead guitar trying to imitate sirens. We are alarmed now and when Klaus comes in to preach of our downfall we finally recognize the band we listen to. Have the Scorpions ever been this heavy before? No way! It’s a cool song, that’s for sure, but it really doesn’t fit the Scorpions. We have a slightly more Scorpionized riff at “The Game of Life”, but the rest of the song continues in the modern feel. Then there are these heavy riffs on “We Were Born to Fly” and “We Will Rise Again”. In a way these songs are great. They are well-composed with good and nice riffs, vocal melodies and arrangements, but unfortunately something is missing. If it’s not the solo that’s missing it’s either something else. There are some radio-friendly modern ballads or pop songs on this album such as “Love Will Keep Us Alive”, “Your Last Song” and “Love is War”. As the titles might suggest, they are about love, but not with the cheesy ‘I want you tonight’ lyrics we are used from the Scorpions. Again, these songs are really nice and they are good songs, but there’s something missing in them. I can’t believe I would ever complain in a review about a band not having its trademark sound, but Humanity Hour I is just not a Scorpions album.
I might be complaining a lot about the lack of Scorpions sound here, but there are a few songs with typical Scorpions lyrics, only a new kind of music as an accompaniment. “You’re Loving Me to Death” for example has lyrics in the vein of 1990’s “Don’t Believe Her” and the terribly cheesy “321” has the well-known ‘I wanna rock’ type of lyrics, which really looks odd compared to the rest of the album. Perhaps it was included to give a short break after all that optimism about humanity? There are two more great songs to discuss and discuss them I will before coming to a close. “The Future Never Dies” is a very catchy powerballad with a hidden hint to the Scorps sound. It comes to your attention immediately when listening because it’s actually very full of heroic melodies and is slightly epic. If only it had a solo... Album closer and second title track “Humanity” is also quite a blast. It begins really gently with some plucking on the strings, then Klaus joins in with his everlasting optimism and from there it bursts into a melodic epic song. Again, all what’s missing is a convincing guitar solo. There’s one big star on this album besides the splendid performance of vocalist Klaus Meine and that is James Kottak on the drums! We get to hear a lot of drumming from him with his bass drums, like on “Hour I” and “Humanity”. He drums very varied and stylish and that’s what I like about drummers.
To come to a close, Humanity Hour I is not a bad album, but it’s not a Scorpions album. They hardly wrote the songs themselves and their fingerprints are missing everywhere. Furthermore there are mostly shorter songs and fewer solos. I guess we have to deal with that and take this album for what it is. Therefore I will not recommend this album to anyone but a die-hard Scorpions fan who likes modern touches.
Strongest tracks: “The Future Never Dies”, “Love is War” and “Humanity”.
Weakest tracks: “321”.
I was pleased when Scorpion's Unbreakable came out, as the band had been putting out women-oriented, radio friendly albums up til then, and I really missed their 70's and 80's sound, back when the band really rocked. The 90's were very frustrating for anyone into that good old days sound, as all they did besides the aforementioned Bon Jovish music were acoustic or symphonic renditions of their songs, definitely not what someone who'd grown up listening to Blackout and Love At First Sting wanted to hear! Unbreakable was therefore such a relief with its heavy rocking tunes, great songs, amazing riffs and excitement.
Now we get this. I was a little worried as soon as I heard Desmon Child was behind much of the songwriting on this album. Knowing him from some of his early work with other bands such as Kiss, I knew he'd write some very catchy songs, since he is some sort of hit producing machine, but not known for antyhing extraordinary in terms of heavy metal or really hard hitting songs.
And that's exactly what the problem is here. We're back to bland, radio friendly stuff, catchy as hell, but not hard or heavy enough, and just a bit mediocre at times. Nothing nearly as bad as what we heard on Eye II Eye, and not as wimpish as most of their 90's stuff either, but definitely a step back in relation to the previous album.
It is true that the lyrics are deep and Klaus sings with his usual emotion and professionalism, as the songs ponder about the all too well known world problems of today. But there are no killer riffs to blow you away, to make you want to rock out with the band, and most of the songs are just predictable and forgettable to the point of being boring. I guess both produtction and songwriting are to blame in this case, as well as the limited participation of the band itself in the process.
As a casual fan of Scorpions I was not dying to listen to this album, not that I thought it was going to be bad, but as most would agree theres been a drought of good material in the past decade for them. I myself may not be the biggest expert when it comes to reviewing the albums after Crazy World, as I have not listened to them more than once; but I have to this one, and I will say I was thoroughly impressed.
Stated by Klaus Meine in several interviews about this album; "It's suposed to be an album with a universal theme." That it is, the songs within the album have very little emphasis on nationality, religion or ethnicity. Underlying themes that all humans know; love, survival, birth, rebirth and most of all death.
All the songs appear to have something that we all can relate to. Depending how deep you look into the each song like "Humanity" being a song looking at human's time on earth as so brief as we are just a "Drop in the rain", each of our times on Earth is short and its nearly over. That song is a great finale to the whole album as (aside from it being the final song) provides a great summary of the album, that the end will happen and we need to live most for it, hope we never see the end ourselves.
All in all this is a great Scorpions album, its a great toss-up between the progressive Uli Jon Roth days and the 80's good time hard rock days. The music on this album features ballads ("Love Will Keep Us Alive") and rockers ("321") like most Scorpions albums. But unlike other Scorpions work each song flows nicely into each; no epic intros, no grand power cords.
The content of the album is 80% lyrics and 20% instrumental, Klaus is at his best and uses that unique voice like few others. Mattias and Rudolf do a perfect job to not over do the guitars, they are not too showy (like in the past) and do not over take the lyrics much or at all throughout the album. For the first time in awhile (I believe Rudolf with "Hey You" was the last) there is a secondary vocalist singing along with Klaus; Billy Corgan (of Smashing Pumpkins fame) joins Klaus in "The Cross" a song that I found as the oddball of this very well made album.
Scorpions enlisted the help of Desmond Child to make a hit album. I think they did but if they plan on making a better concept album I would have gone straight to Terry Brown. My only gripe with the production of this was the emphasis on it being made to be mainstream (thus why Child was brought in), But none theless a great effort indeed.
Long time rockers and an all-time personal favourite, Scorpions have undeniably had a see-saw time in recent history as far as creativity goes. 1999's Eye II Eye saw them try out lame euro electronic pop, then came the pretty good but still a cheesy idea for a hard rock meets orchestra album called Moment of glory. They continued to go this way with an acoustic album and a barrage of compilations to boot. Fans were worried, but their 2004 album Unbreakable saw them rocking out again. It was all back to form and as a big fan I was relieved. 2007 sees them releasing their next album, the 16th studio outing if I counted right.
First and foremost, it's a concept album. The Scorps have had the world-peace themed songs before but this time they do a full fucking concept album. Scorpions going all John Lennon on us doesn't sound all that delicious but that's not the worst bit about this album. Just look at the tracklist. These guys have hardly written anything. Rudolf has been the chief songwriter for over 37 years of the band's existence, but he's hardly got anything going on here. Jabs in fact has more co-credits than Rudy. Getting external songwriters and guest musicians are for washed up and desperate rockers and I'm afraid this band has reached this point on this album what with getting two hitmakers to handle the production duties. James Michael and Desmond Child who incidentally also contributes to some songwriting.
The music. Sure there are moments of catchiness, there are attempts by Jabs to play his signature sexed up pentatonic licks and during their metal moments they're heavier than ever before but the problem is, these are not Scorpions songs. No matter which line-up and which sound any given album throughout their 35 year-long discography has had, Scorpions have always sounded like no one else. But on Humanity: Hour 1, you can replace the vocals and these songs will invariably sound like any average bombastic clean produced hard rock band. And that's because these guys simply haven't written a large chunk of this themselves. What we have here is one of the most disappointing albums of 2007. Just lifeless boring plodding forced attempt at churning out another platinum. I'm not asking for another Sails of Charon, another Arizona and I'd really more than feel all right.
God! What can I say? I love this album. It's the best thing they did. Not only this record surpasses "Unbreakable" (a great release too), the older members (Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker) definitely don't sound like two near-60 guys.
The album starts with a powerful blast-beat courtesy of Mr. Kottak (which makes his best performance, for my understanding), and then a powerful, heavier as never, two-guitar riff from the duet Jabs-Schenker. In fact, "Hour I" is one of the band's most aggressive songs they've ever made. Afterwards follows "The Game of Life", another great song, keeping the power and aggressiveness, and with excellent lyrics too!!!
The third track, "We Were Born to Fly", inspires me a feeling of darkness (something weird for a band like Scorpions), it's another song that I love, it's slower than the previous ones, but still powerful (it's something redundant, but the power of this album is a thing you'll notice from beginning to the end).
Something you'll always find in a Scorpions' album is the ballad section. "The Future Never Dies" has an excellent piano accompaniment, and "Love Will Keep Us Alive" is a beautiful acoustic ballad, as they couldn't make it on "Acoustica".
There are most great and powerful songs, like "321", "We Will Rise Again" and "Love Is War". Hear them and you will give me the reason: the band sounds younger than ever, not like a more-than-30-years group. Here the band's chemistry works perfectly, aided with the excellent production from Desmond Child and James Michael. This is definitely the key of success.
But the closing track, "Humanity", deserves special mention, as it's the best closing they made for an album (I dare to compare with "Still Loving You"). Even my teacher from conservatory loves it (I made her listening and she really liked it). I can hear it over and over. It has great chances to become a new classic.
Why I don't give a 100%? The Cross is another good song, but the part "I believed in God, I believed in trust....", sung by Billy Corgan, is the only misstep in all this wonderful record. But it doesn't affect the final product in anything.
Conclusion: we are in front of the Scorpions' best album in many years. I totally recommend it, don't waste any time. Listen to this album, and you won't believe that the same guys years ago did something like "Eye II Eye". But that period is now definitely buried.