Album review: Michael Schenker Group “Immortal”

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

It’s back to the future on the new MSG album as Michael Schenker celebrates five decades as an artist.

Michael Schenker never stands still. He keeps moving as a musician and artist. Throughout his long career, he has moved back and forth, in and out of bands. He often revisits old bands, albums and line-ups but always with a twist of some kind. Now, after some very successful years touring and releasing albums with Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock and Michael Schenker Fest and to mark his 50th anniversary as an artist, he has moved on – back to the future, if you will – to do another Michael Schenker Group album. “Immortal” is an album that manages to squeeze in many different styles. What I particularly like about Michael Schenker’s performance on this album is that, despite being one of the biggest, best and most innovative guitarists in the history of rock, he never lets his guitar overshadow the music or the songs. He shows off his terrific guitar skills but without too many extended guitar solos or over-the-top technical outings. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of guitar wizardry from the master on the album, but it doesn’t scare away listeners.

In this latest version of MSG, Schenker has brought back some MSG alumni in the form of Steve Mann on keyboards, Barry Sparks on bass and drummers Bodo Schopf and Simon Phillips. A new face is Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Foreigner, The Dead Daisies) on drums. On this new MSG album, Schenker is making use of several vocalists, including no fewer than three Rainbow vocalists! Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear fame lends his powerful voice to “Devil’s Daughter” and “Drilled to Kill”, a track which gives us a fine keyboard-guitar duel between Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper, Black Country Communion, Sons of Apollo, KISS) and Schenker. The album is quite varied, both because of the various musical styles and the different vocalists and musicians featured. My favourites include “Drilled to Kill” and “Sail the Darkness” which, with Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, Lords of Black) on vocals, has some Dio vibes about it. “Come On Over” and “Knight of the Dead”, both with Romero on vocals, are also great tunes. The oddest song on the album is “The Queen of Thorns and Roses”. It’s essentially a lightweight pop song with Michael Voss on vocals. It seems a tad bit out of place, but it isn’t a bad song at all. Voss is also singing lead on “After the Rain”, a bit of a power ballad. Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple) puts in terrific vocal performances on “Don’t Die on Me Now” and “Sangria Morte”. The ten-track album closes with what is perhaps its finest moment, “In Search of Peace of Mind”, a  track Schenker wrote when he was 15 years old. The song was originally featured on Scorpions’ debut album “Lonesome Crow”. Here we get it in a terrific extended version featuring vocalists Gary Barden, Ronnie Romero, Doogie White and Robin McAuley. It ends with an exquisite guitar solo that shows us who’s boss. I can only bow in respect to the guitar master Michael Schenker. A masterpiece by a master craftsman.

Michael Schenker Group ‘s new album “Immortal” will be released on 29th January in Japan via Ward Records and internationally via Nuclear Blast Records.

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