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Scorpions’ “Taken by Force” is the best metal album of the 70’s (with Black Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality” a close second, of course); period. Throwing the safest bridge between the heavy, brooding riffage of early Sabbath and the more aggressive trends of the 80’s (speed and thrash, that is), which at this stage had only been slightly hinted at, if at all, this pivotal album is anything an early metal fan would look for. And this is the album on which the Scorps finally found themselves: the road more or less travelled had already started with “In Trance”, but the metallic numbers were dissipated by too many ballads, a tendency which was closely followed on “Virgin Killer” as well. So the band needed something as compulsively aggressive as this in order to take off... by force. And here it was:
The brutal shred of the opening “Steamrock Fever” was one of the first signs at the time that something more ominous and intense was going to come in a few years; a thrash/speed meta precursor second to none, this track also saw Meine acquiring a more sinister tone to fit the aggressive guitar approach. Frowns would inevitably appear on the listener’s face, after hearing the opening cords of the next “We’ll Burn the Sky”, but later on this song contains some of the most compulsive headbanging riffs of the decade, the guys shredding like demented turning this song into one of the mandatory tracks in the band’s catalogue.
So far, so great… The band’s past shows up briefly on the next two cuts, both mild heavy rockers with a big hit potential, far from a disappointment, but totally overshadowed by “The Sails of Charon”: a superb power/doomster with some of the darkest, most brooding riffs around at the time, and some of the greatest lead guitar work to ever grace a metal album: yes, the Scorps suffered a great loss when Uli Roth left after this album’s release. Time for rest (you’ll need it, trust me!) with the more radio-friendly “Your Light”, before the explosion which “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” is: thrash metal was literally born with this piece making the Motorhead speedy rock’n roll boogies at the time sound like an infant lullaby. No wonder quite a few speed/thrash metal acts (Evildead, Helstar, Helloween) have picked this song to pay tribute to its pioneering, groundbreaking, significance.
Even the kindergarden children know that Scorpions used to end their albums with a ballad so “Born to Touch Your Feelings” should come as no surprise to both the more and less initiated, one of the most romantic songs the band have ever come up with, but its impact would be minimal after the preceding “carnage”, and may remain hardly noticed at first listen. And here we are, at the end of this roller-coaster of a metal album.
Logically the band followed it with their first recorded live performance (“Tokyo Tapes”) right after, having finally accumulated enough hard-hitting numbers to rock the heads of the fans worldwide. With the future course well outlined now, the guys’ way to the top was fairly clear, not without the guitar wizard Roth’s leaving after a clash with the rest as to what direction the band’s style should take from then on. Without him the band’s approach became colder and less melodic, and arguably less striking, but this proved no obstacle for the making of other great efforts, like “Animal Magnetism, “Blackout”, etc.
Gracefully topping the “holy three” of 70’s metal (the other two: the aforementioned Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality”, and Judas Priest’s ‘Stained Class”), this great album may not sound as impressive nowadays, if taken (by force) as a whole, but the superior side largely compensates for the several pitfalls which were a pretty common occurrence for the metal albums at the time when older and younger practitioners were still looking for their most-fitting face, experimenting with all kinds of influences and nuances, more or less metal-related. Did the Scorps ever manage to top it up? Well, this is a polemical question, but it’s undeniable that with it in sight the way to “Blackout” and “Love at First Sting” seemed way clearer. And the journey on Charon’s boat by all means safer…
Germany’s Scorpions were a force to be reckoned with…. in the 70’s. This early period is often unheralded in light of the commercial success they’d achieve in the following decade, but it is undoubtedly the era in which they were the most powerful, musically speaking. They were once a band that weren’t so concerned with writing hits and selling records that they forgot to put their hearts and souls into their songwriting. This is the band they still were for 1977’s Taken by Force: a band of integrity and musicianship forging a new sound that combined their psychedelic rock roots with the soaring harmony leads and intense riffage of proto-power metal. I haven’t heard their entire back catalogue at this point, but I feel it’s safe to say that this is their finest recording.
Taken by Force was the last album to feature one Ulrich Roth, the most talented guitar player they’d ever have in their lineup. Sure, Mathias Jabs is good, as are the brothers Schenker, but Uli was the best. Roth and Rudolph Schenker deliver the performance of a lifetime on here, trading solos and crunchy riffs that would shame the band’s later work. Klaus Meine is also in rare form; his voice still resounding with energy and conviction. This energy is noticeable immediately in opener “Steamrock Fever,” a surprisingly heavy rocker with a delightfully catchy chorus. This treatment is repeated throughout the album, but this time around, Meine’s catchy chorus melodies aren’t the sole departure in an otherwise uninteresting song (as would be the case in their post-Blackout material). Quality instrumentation exudes from every pore of this album, from Roth’s undeniably Hendrix-inspired “I’ve Got to be Free” and “Your Light,” to cult classic “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man,” which has one riff that can’t really be misconstrued as anything but a thrash riff. There’s a notably darker tone on this album than on later ones, apparent not only in the phrasing, but in some of the subject matter. “The Riot of Your Time” is not the upbeat rocker that would have garnered mainstream attention in ’84 like one chart-topping song about rocking like hurricanes, while power ballads “We’ll Burn the Sky” and “Born to Touch Your Feelings” are infinitely more haunting than “Still Loving You” would be.
But the absolute highlight of this album is side two’s opener, “The Sails of Charon.” A Roth masterpiece, it’s the best Scorpions song ever composed. Carried by Roth’s exotic opening rhythms, an unstoppable groove, Meine’s inimitable vocal melody, a plethora of ear-pleasing harmonies, and one of the most brilliant intro solos ever conceived, it’s one of the best metal songs of the 1970’s, even in light of Black Sabbath’s early discography. Plus there are those lyrics; darker and more ominous than anything else they’ve ever done. “Dark night! There is no light in the realm of the black magic man!” This could be the only song on the album and it’d still be the best thing they’ve ever released.
This is a mandatory purchase for any Scorpions fans, especially fans of their later material who don’t know what they’re missing.
Highlights: “The Sails of Charon,” “We’ll Burn the Sky,” “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”
Taken By Force is one of the finest releases from The Scorpions. I like the darker sound that Scorpions had in their early days. Former Scorpions guitarist Uli Roth did some great heavy lyrics also on Taken By Force album. Your Light and The Sails Of Charon contains very dark lyrics and both are very good songs also. The album starts with fast and catchy track Steamrock Fever. Klaus Meine’s vocals sound different than usual on this song and I do like the rough singing in this one. The greatest song of this album is definitely We’ll Burn The Sky. It is a perfect half-ballad and I think it’s much better than the more popular slower Scorpions classics. Meine’s singing is awesome again. The song starts slow but the chorus part is heavy and catchy. In my opinion We’ll Burn The Sky is one of the greatest songs on the long career of Scorpions. It it sad, melancholic and beautiful. I’ve Got To Be Free is a simple rocker, but a good one. The Riot Of Your Time contains dark atmosphere which was quite typical element in the 70’s Scorpions. Next comes the two Uli Roth songs The Sails Of Charon and Your Light that contain even satanic feeling on their lyrics. When I listen to those songs they remind me of old Black Sabbath which is a cool thing. He’s A Woman, She’s A Man is a funny song but a kind of a legend. After this fast rocker comes the last song of the album Born To Touch Your Feelings. It is a very typical thing that Scorpions close their album with a ballad. In fact the song is good but too long for my taste. There are some women from different countries to spell some words in the end of the song. They speak different languages so it’s hard to find out what they’re saying. In my opinion that outro part is too long and boring.
Overall Taken By Force is a very good album and I’ll recommend it to everyone who likes solid 70’s heavy rock (bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep etc.). For Scorpions fans this is the “must have” record. The original version of the album had brilliant cover art and it’s a pity that the remaster cover isn’t the same. But that’s not a big deal. The remaster contains two bonus tracks: Suspender Love and Polar Nights (live). Suspender Love is a cool rock song with a fine chorus. Polar Nights is an Uli Roth song full of guitar jamming. It is taken from Tokyo Tapes live album. The remaster version of Tokyo Tapes doesn’t have this track on it, because the length of the album.
If you have heard only newer Scorpions stuff and a few radio ballads then you should listen to this album and change your view of this band. Although you don’t like the 80’s, the 90’s or even newer Scorpions stuff you still might enjoy this album.