The avalanche of new music and – for sure – new styles that became available in the ’70s and ’80s to the early ’90s was absolutely tremendous. Metal found itself very strongly on the upswing from the early 80’s onwards. Whereas Hard Rock already started to lose a lot of its shiny luster by this time.
Many of today’s well-known metal genres were in full development mode back then. This led to this crazy and fragmented metal multiverse we (do not quite) enjoy today. The culprits? A number of major rock bands – some still fully in action today. Names like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest or again UFO heftily stirred this pot of wonders. And between themselves they created a series of stellar records that are – in turn – the perfect candidates for our Old’n’Tasty series. But those were of course not the only gigs active in this development.
You have other bands like the German Scorpions that probably had an equal impact on the development of rock and metal. Yet the international coverage they enjoyed was by far less intense than what – for example – Black Sabbath suffered. Even if the Scorpions went on to become a multi-platinum act that keeps going strong to this day – after some 50 years of activity. On top they boast a list of distinctions long like all the beards of ZZ Top stitched together.
Interestingly, their story is closely intertwined with the aforementioned band UFO, who stole Michael Schenker away from the Scorpions in 1973 to become a lead figure in their band until the late ’70s. As the lore goes, the old Scorpions setup did not survive young Schenker’s departure. As a consequence, they later dissolved. And molded themselves again somewhat by osmosis into a coherent unit later with Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker, and Uli Jon Roth in the lead guitar role. But I err on territory that should be the subject of an editorial on the band itself. So back to this review.
One of Scorpions‘ best, if not – arguably – THE best album ever created is their 1982 record Blackout. The style already fully embraces their winning formula to alternate ballads with pretty sturdy and already quite metallized rock songs. Debate rages if or if not this album is already Heavy Metal or simply Hard Rock. And indeed the album gets more metal kudos than their more experimental predecessors ever could. Tracks like Now clearly walk down the metal road. Famously so, complete with the pretty stern guitar work and Klaus Meine‘s trademark high pitched wail.
Speaking of which: The performance of Meine on Blackout never ceases to amaze me. The man just recovered from surgery of the vocal cords at that time, an ailment that many thought would end his career. But against all odds, he turned the tables and delivered beautifully. Problems of the human sound system continued to plague him throughout his career, though. Just this October 2017 Scorpions had to cancel their US tour with Megadeth due to troubles with Klaus Meine‘s larynx. I guess it is hard to be a dinosaur sometimes.
As Hard Rock and the emerging metal movement grew a bit more lighthearted, so did the lyrics. Same as other big bands of the moment like Rainbow, the Scorpions really went for simple texts. In other words, you are not gonna find any answer to the meaning of life on this album. The words are far away from the soul-searching kind. But then again, things slightly change some on When The Smoke is Going Down.
Now the sound is another story. Their modus operandi to move fast, play crisp and spicy no-nonsense riffs and inject sturdy solos whenever appropriate works really well. Together with the intense, high-pitched vocals they created a tune that remains irresistible to this day. As a consequence, the album contains some of the most memorable tracks made in the career of the Scorpions. Like for example No One Like You, Now or the UFO-esque China White. Not to forget the two ballads You Give Me All I Need and the excellent and emotional When The Smoke Is Coming Down. This material is so good it virtually hides the two near-duds Can’t Live Without You and Arizona. And despite those bad vibes Blackout still returns a stellar score. Regardless of a short playlist that usually does not allow for many DoA-esque tracks in any album.
Quality speaks by itself, doesn’t it? Blackout charted pretty well with a memorable 10th rank on the Billboard 200 in the US. The album went Gold in France in 1982 and reaped Platinum in 1984 in the US and Canada respectively. And this is – tataa – the year Love At First Sting released. Fertile ground indeed to issue a new album.
To wrap this up, the savvy mix of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal on Blackout convinced fans and critics alike since the Scorpions unleashed this record in 1982. It is interesting to see that the allure of this album still remains intact today – and still manages to foster debate throughout the community. The very strong performance of Klaus Meine and the outstanding guitar work by Rudolf Schenker and Mathias Jabs broke the ice and set them on course for a stellar career through the ages. They still go strong to this day. A success not many have mastered today and ever since.
If ever you build a new music collection of your own, Blackout is one of the must-have classics. This is one of those records that transcend ages and styles that will continue to shine for many years to come still.
Editor’s note: The record successfully made it on the second installment of the Old’n’Tasty series. Congrats!
Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Mercury Records / EMI| Web: Official Site