Punk was meant to barge aside bands such as Scorpions, with their long hair, their album covers that even in the 70s raised eyebrows, their big riffs and their even bigger choruses. So, while we’re at it, was grunge, hair bands, industrial rock and the heritage circuit.
No chance; the wind of change didn’t even ruffle what’s left of frontman Klaus Meine’s hair. Extraordinarily, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Scorpions’ debut album, Lonesome Crow. Two 73-year-olds, Meine and rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, have lasted the course, while Matthias Jabs, a young pup of 66, has been lead guitarist since 1979.
Now comes Rock Believer, delayed by covid travel restrictions that detained bassist Pawel Maciwoda and debutant former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee in their native Poland and Sweden respectively. Uniquely for a Scorpions album, the songs contributed by the Schenker/Meine axis were written lyrics-first, but from its very title there’s a sense of real defiance about Rock Believer.
Titles such as the sirens-drenched Gas In The Tank (naturally this particular engine is not running low, especially since ‘the king of riffs is back in town’), Unleash The Beast and Knock ’Em Dead re-enforce the message: age will not wither them.
Not for nothing does Meine tease his audience with ‘Good morning, world. How do you feel? You look so tired’ on When Tomorrow Comes. The days of unashamed ballads such as Wind Of Change, pop-metal (Is There Anybody There?) and bold experiments (The Zoo) are long gone. Instead, bar two versions of the majestic, lighters-aloft When You Know (Where You Come From), they’ve gone full throttle with an intensity that would wind their grandchildren.
The formula remains gleefully intact: galloping guitars and deft choruses – or, as Meine encapsulates ungrammatically in Gas In The Tank: ‘louder, play it hard’. Meine’s vocals, as powerful as they were when he’d rock you like a hurricane, have retained their emotional undertow, Jabs’s guitar playing still sizzles, most heroically on the terrific Shoot For Your Heart, and the engine room could still power a small town.
Everything comes together on When I Lay My Bones To Rest, in which a classic guitar introduction gives way to a supercharged, tongue-twisting verse, which in turn yields to an instantly catchy chorus, before another Jabs master class seals the deal. Not a note is wasted, and it’s the band’s finest moment of this century. The subtext to all this is clear: what’s the point of Scorpions right now? The answer is right here.