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If what John Coltrane said about music is accurate- that it is in fact a representation of the performer's soul- than the five members of german heavy metal outfit Scorpions have among them a grand total of zero souls. Which is pretty bad to say of them during the seventies, because come the eighties they would sell what is worth five souls for the fame awarded to them for such awful rock ballads as Rock You Like a Hurricane and No One Like You. Once Beelzebub finds out he's been played, I'm sure there will be a Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash in this band's future. But onto the review of Virgin Killer.
In this vast genre called rock and roll- from which metal branched- there are two types of bands. There are bands who play music, your Led Zeppelins, Pink Floyds, Judas Priests, Iron Maidens, Black Sabbaths, etc. (Whether or not you like all of these bands is inconsequential. The point is that these are bands that have made a genuine attempt to express themselves in an artistic medium). And they have fun playing music but primarily what they do is play music. They write a series of riffs, vocal lines, bass lines, and rhythms that become a complete work of art. The second kind of band is the type of band that thinks it would be pretty nifty if they got into one of these band things for the strict purpose of scoring groupies and drugs. And scoring groupies and drugs isn't a bad motivation for living, it's only a bad motivation for attempting to spear yourself into an artistic medium, which, I remind you, music is.
It should be obvious that I think Scorpions fall into the latter category.
It's not that I think having fun with music is bad, or even that I think getting into music to have fun is bad; I just think that you should have a shred of artistic talent before you attempt to degrade an entire art form. And Scorpions degrades art like R Kelly degrades a fifteen year old girl.
Scorpions is not without talent, they are without soul; I would like to draw that distinction before I continue. The guitarist can play, the bassist can too, the vocalist can sing and the drummer can... okay, the drummer's actually not so hot, but the rest of them have at least thumbed through some literature on the subject of music. The problem is that functioning as a collective unit they have no idea what to do with themselves and end up running in place. Their riffs don't lead anywhere, so their solos don't matter. The vocal lines are filled with hooks but their subject matter is vapid and that's not a problem usually for heavy metal; it's only that in the sea of sterility that is this album something has to stand out and NOTHING STANDS OUT. Except that drummer who I imagine was a sad, homeless invalid pounding on trash cans in the band's hometown and they decided to take pity on him and let them into their group. Because, really, who needs drums when you've got slick riffs and hooky vocals, am I right?
This is formulaic, rock and roll drivel at its worst. The songs are formulaic and so is the whole damn album. It's the formula that made the glam bands of the eighties so nauseating. Rock anthem, ballad, rock anthem, ballad, occassional speed metal track sprinkled in between and the band proclaims, "We've made an art!"
My main problem with this album in particular is that it all sounds so full of holes, if you catch my meaning. It's as though each and every song is missing something in the writting. There are giant gaps in the music where there should be something- an extra beat in the drums, an additional note to the riff, or a guitar solo, perhaps a well-executed scream from the vocalist- but there's nothing and there never is anything because this band doesn't care about their music which is precisely my problem when bands forget that they are playing music and music is art. Imagine if Van Gogh had left pieces of his canvas empty and when asked about it, he shrugged and said, "The painting wasn't really fun anymore, so I moved on".
That's what this band is: a whole lot of canvas and nothing on it but some pretty colors. And vomit, but that's mine.
Hello ladies and germs, and welcome to a month-long reviewing odyssey project of mine that I like to call December is for Scorpions. I’ve got a lot of Scorpions albums to review, some of them good and some of them bad, and hopefully this month will clear up any doubts as to my opinions about this band. As if any of you care.
Doesn’t everyone just love Scorpions? I don’t mean the insectile beasts that sting with their ferocious bite or the Spider-Man villain, but rather the great 70s and 80s rock group that rocked the world with their smooth hooks and catchy tunes. People mostly know them for their later material where they sold their souls for money, but what those poor fools are missing out on is the brilliance of the material when Uli Jon Roth was handling the lead guitar duties. And as such…Virgin Killer.
Virgin Killer is just a milestone. In every sense of the word, it wows the listener with a fresh, rocking sound and an all around tighter musical base. It lacks the psychedelic noodling that I loved on In Trance, but the songs are catchier, more polished and Klaus Meine’s vocals are the best they’d ever get in the 70s. His light, attitude-filled crooning sails deftly over the crisp guitar riffs and energetic drumming. This whole album is just really tailored to perfection all around. The songs are short and manageable and the hooks are as sticky as Gorilla Glue stuck to a strip of Velcro.
And did I mention how innovative some of this was for the 70s? It’s just the all around fresh, tight style of the songwriting. Judas Priest were also innovating the rock world at the same time, but they did it a bit differently, mostly making it heavier and a bit darker, more maverick-like. But Scorpions took a hard rockin’ good time and added outside elements and songwriting finesse previously unknown to man. The first few tracks are straightforward but really good, with “Pictured Life” being a rumbling, groovy rough-n’-tumble rocker and “Catch Your Train” boasting the best chorus the band ever wrote. The pristine “In Your Park” is sappy, but also pretty genuine, holding an innocence that later bands wouldn’t always be able to capture – even Scorpions themselves in the future.
“Backstage Queen” is more hook-mastery, and the throaty title track has riffs that could be said to have originated Thrash – but really, that debate could go on for hours, and my reviews are already long enough.
Then the weird shit starts, as if the drugs had just begun to kick in, somewhere on the edge of the desert. What’s this? An upbeat rock tune with rapped vocals from the 70s? Color me surprised; it is! A lot of people cite Uli Roth’s raspy, strained wail as a detriment to this, but I do not mind it at all. He sings with energy, conviction and honesty, and he goes with the generally excited feel of the whole work.
“Crying Days” has archaic, wandering leads blended with almost proggy vocal lines – certainly not the drugged out fuzz of In Trance by a long shot! “Polar Nights” is more adventurous, ball-busting creativity, with some great riffs and tempo changes, and the somber “Yellow Raven” is soft and delicate, closing the album with class. If the beginning of the album was the equivalent of a pretty girl opening her legs and giggling voluptuously, the end is more like the same woman putting on a nice dress and going out with you for a night in Vegas.
So that’s Virgin Killer. It is aptly named, as its innovative curiosity and adventurous nature surely popped the cherries of a number of rock music’s untreaded grounds. This is the best album Scorpions ever put out, just an all around classy, fun album. It’s got everything enjoyable in music, from creativity to enjoyability. If you don’t know this, what are you waiting for? Catch your train tonight.
Talk about audacity. Who else but the Scorpions can come up with covers like this. An adolescent in all her naked glory on top is the kind of cover that just HAD to be controversial. But anyways, I am not here to talk about the cover. Virgin Killer is the logical continuation of the idea that the band had come with on In Trance. Although they were still far from worldwide glory but atleast musically, Scorpions were able to make a mark among the public with this release. The mediocrity displayed on their debut is nowhere to be seen. What we have here is instead is the refined hard rocking yet commercial approach that they had displayed on In Trance and to some extent on Fly to the Rainbow as well. They continued to improve after this (although with a few hiccoughs on the way) and as saintinhell noted before me, this was the album when the Scorps had finally arrived.
The album follows the typical rocker and ballad cocktail that the band is now associated with. The faster tracks get you charged up, then you have a ballad to mellow you down, and then the rockers are back. The songs themselves have simple structures and the average track length is around the 4 min mark. The band does deter from this formula on the two tracks sung by Uli Jon Roth. Even then it is quite obvious that the band wanted a commercial edge for this album. Tracks like ‘Backstage Queen’, ‘Pictured Life’ and ‘Catch Your Train’ all have catchy choruses and simple to follow melodies while the ballads are structured to appeal to the softer side of a listener’s psyche. To add to all this there is the title track which can quite easily be considered proto-thrash. Although there is no straight forward psychedelia here, elements of the same can be found on some tracks.
As far as the individual performances go, the album is based around Klaus Meine’s unique vocal approach and the solid guitarwork of the Roth-Schenker duo. Meine is quite good on the major part of the albums length. He is totally successful in getting you charged up with his shrill, energetic vocals and at the same time can soften you up with the restrained, controlled singing on the ballads. There are times when he fumbles a bit. The verses to ‘Backstage Queen’ are quite monotonous and he does feel a bit awkward on the opening track but overall I have no major issues with him. After all, he is nothing short of excellence on the other tracks. Maybe it’s just me but on some of the songs he seems to adopt a bit of Robert Plant’s approach to vocals. The work by Uli and Schenker on the backing vocals is impressive as well. In fact, the line “Shadows in the night, like angels by your side in an alley…” is one of my favourite moments of this album.
When you’ve got masters like Uli Jon Roth and Rudolph Schenker on the guitars there is not much to complain there. Uli specially owns all with his guitarwork. Every solo, every riff, every chord has been crafted with utmost care and placed exactly where it is supposed to be. Schenker mostly plays second fiddle here but no denying his contribution. I doubt if Roth’s performance would have seemed even half as good without him. The duo shines even more on the ballads. Majestic is the only word that comes to my mind when describing the mastery present on tracks like ‘In Your Park’ and on the other hand there is the aggressive approach of ‘Virgin Killer’.
Francis and Rudy both give decent performances but that’s the best I can say about them. Sure here and there the bass will impress you and you’ll have good words to say for the drum-work. But at the end of the day, you wouldn’t actually notice their contribution too much, especially with the presence of the three heavyweights here.
Although the individual performances here are more or less good but the culmination of it all isn’t really as awe-inspiring as you would expect. The opening track as I mentioned before has its troubles during the verses and Klaus’ voice seems a bit too laid back for the proto-metal feel that this song has. The track ‘Backstage Queen’ is again a bit forgettable but thankfully the better tracks on this album cover up for that quite well and I don’t really mind these songs much. That said there is still a major problem here or actually two major problems; problems that will irritate you to no end.
I had restrained myself from talking much about the two Roth-sung tracks here. The reason for that is the fact that I wanted to vent all my anger at these two tracks in this one paragraph. The first one of the two, ‘Hell-cat’ is highly experimental complete with rapped vocals! The riffs are boring and this is the only track to which I’ll attribute this flaw. The drumming and bass are also uninteresting. You’ll hate Roth for touching the microphone on this track. But even though this track is the worst on the album, I don’t hate it the most. No, that’s left for ‘Polar Nights’. The music on this track is awesome and even the drumming on this one rules, but Roth kills it all with his extremely awkward vocal style complete with a thick accent. To top it all, he actually has a really bad voice on the lead. With Meine on vocals, this track would have been nothing short of killer but Mr. Roth ruins it all. Somebody should have told him that he is an amazing guitarist and an amazing guitarist only. What was the need to get bad rep for the highly irritating singing?
Overall, this obviously is far from being the Scorpions’ best. But it is a highly enjoyable album which could very easily have become one of the Scorps’ classics if not for the glaring flaws which could have been easily avoided. It was also the second last album to feature Roth on the guitar and his departure was a definite loss to the band. Although quite a few fans judge this album to be the best with UJR, I think his association with the band was at its best on the album which followed it. I’ll judge this album as one of the better ones from Scorpions’ work in the 70s and although the album following it, Taken by Force is slightly better, it is still an absolute must for any fan of hard rock/proto-metal. The high points of this album i.e. ‘Catch Your Train’, ‘In Your Park’, ‘Yellow Raven’ and ‘Virgin Killer’ are truly memorable and will etch themselves on your mind. An unsung classic, if only for these high points, is how I would describe this album.
Yes, that’s a naked, pre-teen girl on the original album cover. Her name is Controversy, the forbidden fruit with which the Scorpions would shamelessly flirt during their brief separation from previous lover Inspiration. Though they would reconcile for next year’s Taken by Force, the romance was simply not meant to be: the Scorpions would fall head over heels for that vapid, spoiled whore Commercialism, whose beauty is only equaled by her infidelity. But anyway, of all the Scorpions many notoriously sex-themed album covers (In Trance, Lovedrive, Love at First Sting, Animal Magnetism, etc), this one is definitely the most illegal (child pornography is rightfully frowned upon) and the album itself is definitely the least inspired of the Roth-era offerings.
Like on In Trance, the songs on Virgin Killer are pretty evenly split between those composed from a Klaus Meine/Rudolf Schenker collaboration and those written by Uli Jon Roth, with but a single track being fabricated from the collective genius of all three. Ironically that single track, album opener “Pictured Life,” is probably the weakest track from the entire Roth-era Scorpions. With a riff that reminds one of The Police’s “Roxanne” (yes, I’m aware it hasn’t been written yet), it is the most painfully obvious track on the album. Both Roth’s guitar and Klaus’ vocals sound restrained and the song feels underdeveloped (a feeling that will occasionally resurface on Virgin Killer). And to think, these three wrote “In Trance” just a year prior. However, the first of side one’s string of Meine/Schenker compositions will render that song immaterial. “Catch Your Train” shows this particular Scorpions lineup at its peak: Roth’s guitar sears, Francis Buchholz’s bass flows meaningfully, and Klaus Meine’s vocals are completely unfettered. Rudy Lenners also begins to come into his own here as a drummer and the listener will be pleased to find him spreading his wings a bit, so to speak. The ballad “In Your Park” and the somewhat forgettable rocker “Backstage Queen” are less impressive, but provide an unintentional counterpoint to the Roth-penned title track. “Virgin Killer” closes the side with metal bravado and Meine’s most sensational vocals, showing that though the Scorpions are no longer seeing dear Inspiration, they are at least on good speaking terms.
Side two is mostly Roth material and he’s unfortunately singing on most of that. While his off-key yelping adds a chaotic facet to the already edgy “Hell-Cat,” he pretty much ruins “Polar Nights.” A mighty groove is the focus of that track and Roth’s leads are neat, but his vocals are incredibly distracting. Give the man a guitar and he’ll bring tears to your eyes with his beautiful lead voicing and classical harmonic sense. Give him a microphone and....well…he’ll bring tears to your eyes with his inability to maintain a pitch without going flat and his just plain inappropriate voice. There is a reason Klaus Meine is the lead vocalist in the band, UJR. Let’s all just stick to what we’re good at, shall we? And indeed, on the album’s touching closer “Yellow Raven,” he does just that by returning the microphone to whom it belongs and reminding those of us who still listen to 70’s Scorpions why we worship the ground he walks on. His ability to convey emotion through his playing his otherworldly.
The only track I haven’t mentioned at this point is the final Meine/Schenker track “Crying Days,” which is nestled right between the two Roth-sung tracks. Perhaps hanging out with the Roth tracks on side two rubbed off on this number, because it’s another one of those epic masterpieces the early Scorps were notorious for. But don’t take my word for it, listen for yourself and hear the power of Germany’s premiere heavy metal outfit.
Overall it is a disjointed effort characterized by strong tracks amid weaker ones and it’s the least enjoyable of all the pre-Mathias Jabs-era albums. It also suffers from brevity, clocking in at a mere thirty-four minutes. But it does more than enough right to be recommended along with the rest of their 70’s output, due in no small part to quality tracks like “Crying Days,” “Catch Your Train,” and “Yellow Raven.”
Scorpions's fourth album was actually the first release to define their sound with distorted killer riffs and screaming solos. While the earlier three records were more experimental, this is more heavier and straightforward. There's still some experimental elements left. Album contains even couple of power-ballads. Album has at least two different covers. Censored version has a naked girl with broken glass covering "it", while the other has a band posing on it. Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker have written half of the album's material, lead guitarist Ulrich Roth another half. And one with Meine/Schenker/Roth line-up.
Album's first highlight comes immediately. Starting track "Pictured life" is a fast and memorable song and a definitive Scorpions classic. The next song "Catch your train" is also fast and cathcy. Third song is under name of "In your park" (wonder what that is) is, not surprisingly, first ballad of the record. However, it isn't too sentimental with some guitar solos in it. "Backstage queen" is not a ballad, loyal to it's name. It's following the same path like the first two songs. Second highlight of the album is Roth-written title track "Virgin killer". It's rude and rockin', but still different compared to previous songs. A truly killer track alongside "Pictured Life".
After "Virgin killer's" raunchy guitar attack, the album changes course to more experimental waters. "Hell-cat" is not only Roth-written, but also Roth-sung! Roth's voice isn't pretty good, it's weak and thin, but he manages to do the job. Song is far more progressive than any of the first five songs. Riff is pretty odd, but not bad at all. Next song is "Crying days", which is of course a power-ballad. When Meine gets quiet, we get more Roth on vocals. The last highlight is Roth's "Polar nights" with awesome guitar riffs and Roth singing on it. Most progressive track of the album. Album ends to sweet and sentimental ballad "Yellow Raven". A song which represents Scorpions somewhat 20 years later.
Scorpions's best years were still ahead, althought this one has some good material in it. A real treasure to Scorpions fan.