Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Kind of Temple

Michael Schenker
Temple of Rock

“…I run but there’s no escape/ heading out for better days, lights all over me/ all that I do is hanging on…” From the Gospel of Michael Schenker, Book Temple of Rock, sec. Hanging On

The great guitar mind of Michael Schenker is back with an all-star cast in “Temple of Rock”. This was not released under the MSG moniker because this is separate from that band as this is more of a collaboration with some of the greats and some of Schenker’s old working mates like Pete Way, his brother Rudolf Schenker, and Paul Raymond. “Temple of Rock” succeeds not because of the great cast, but because this album has something for everybody.

Right away it scores points with the opening speech performed by none other than William Shatner. The cover art is something to behold as well, with a bust of Michael being set upon a temple. It is something that would surely make the ancient Egyptians blush. While sounding quite serious, it bombards to the first salvo of “How Long.” It is a solid opener with strong guitar work from Michael and basically sets the tone for what the album is going to be: heavy hitting hard rock. Fortunately, there is a bit variation for how they attack.

One of the stronger numbers on here is “Hanging On”, with its ‘keep on fighting’ mentality. It’s a bit inspiring in a way and the underlying keyboards are a nice touch while vocalist Michael Voss does a great job delivering the urgency the track is trying to project. This song sounds like something that could have been in a “Rocky” movie, and that is a good thing. The up-tempo, fast volleys of “The End of an Era” changes the pace up a bit and the keyboard and guitar solo duel harkens back to the greatness of bands such as Deep Purple. This is one the strongest aspects of the record because with 13 songs, no two sound alike.

The band shows their softer side in “With You”. The soft ballad is a bit on the cheesy side, but the beautiful guitar makes up for it and the vocal delivery by Voss is touching. The use of violins is also a nice addition and adds to the mood of the song. When it seems like the listener is headed to the softer part of the temple, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” kicks in full blast. This is definitely the most metallic track and former Rainbow singer Doogie White makes his presence felt with bombastic guitar and also an orchestral attack. This takes the cake for being my favorite song.

Unfortunately, not everything is crisp. With a lot of tracks, there is bound to be some missteps and there are. “Fallen Angel” is one of the few tracks that show little inspiration the standard rocking falls short of being interesting or good. “Scene of Crime” has loads of potential. A nice acoustic intro followed by some nice riffing, but the vocals do not catch on with. There is some weird background voice during parts of the verse and I can’t stand it. The final thing is while Voss does a good job and his rasp adds edge to the songs; I can’t help, but think that Gary Barden would have done a better job. He could have given these songs an extra character and he is a reason why the first two MSG records are excellent.

With that being said, this is a great rock record. Clocking in at just under an hour, the album does not hold on too long. Thankfully the all-star cast did not falter. The standouts include “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”, “The End of An Era”, and “Storming In.” Those three are also the most metallic songs. This temple is one I will be visiting often.

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