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RUNAWAY, he’s a Virgin Killer - 81%

ScourgeOfDeath, July 5th, 2009

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.