REVIEW: MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST – “Revelation”
Well, Michael Schenker needs no introduction from me. Having played non-stop since his days with Scorpion and UFO, the German virtuoso has always enjoyed flying solo, but he’s, of course, best known for his works with said bands and for being Rudolf Schenker’s baby brother. Being with MSG, Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock or now with Michael Schenker Fest, the riff master kept true to his roots and constantly provides tasteful hard rock akin to the late 70’s/early 80’s with some small glimpses of heavy metal here and there, and ‘Revelation’, second record by this particular party, follows exactly that same path.
In the promo sheet, Schenker himself states the following: “There is a deep meaning in the title and album cover of the new Michael Schenker Fest album. It illustrates my musical life at a glance with much to be revealed. Because of that, I called the album “Revelation“. Another title for this album could have been “Purity and Passion versus Greed and Corruption”. OK, so how does this whole “we’re purists and we’re here to save rock ‘n’ roll from the evil claws of mass-produced radio-friendly garbage” translates into the music contained here?
Well, this is a very heterogeneous album for hard/heavy standards, let’s start with that, which is a good thing, given the fact that there are thirteen songs here. I won’t say that there are influences here – because come on, the guy is shredding his guitar since before 90% of us were born – but there are definitely similarities with other bands and elements of the hard rock world.
The bluesy “Crazy Daze”, for instance, borrows much from the David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, while “Lead You Astray” has a very cool Hardline/Warrant vibe akin of the ’90s. There are small glimpses of Schenker’s other acts like MSG and UFO in songs such as “Under a Blood Red Sky”, “Sleeping With the Light On” and “Old Man” as well, which makes the experience less tiresome as a whole.
Curiously enough, it’s when Schenker and company go the full speed that they’re at their best. “The Beast in the Shadows”, “Still in the Fight” and the instrumental “Ascension” showcase the best instrumental and songwriting in the album, not to mention some killer vocal performances in the former two tracks.
The vocals, for that matter, are probably the best thing about ‘Revelation’. Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley, and Doogie White all provide awesome performances and there’s no key out of tune here, and there’s even a guest appearance by Rainbow’s Ronnie Romero on “We Are the Voice”. These are well-seasoned veterans and all have different pitches and vocal ranges, so the already heterogeneous nature of the album is amplified by this particularity, even if this sometimes becomes a little bit overwhelming to follow.
This wouldn’t be a Michael Schenker album if there were no pure, no-frills rock ‘n’ roll moments, though, so that’s why we have “Headed for the Sun” and “Blood Red Sky”, for instance. There’s a lot of old school energy put into these tracks, a necessary approach to captivate longtime Schenker fans.
As I mentioned above, all musicians here are old-timers and know exactly what they’re doing. Besides Schenker and the frontmen, Steve Mann (guitar, keyboards), Chris Glen (bass) and two drummers in Simon Phillips and Bodo Schopf lend their strengths to the endeavor. With a strong team like this, though, I can’t help but think that things could have gone better execution-wise, as the whole album just sounds too safe for its own good.
So, all in all, did Michael Schenker and his apostles save us from the terrible destiny of mechanical, uninspired and forgettable music that the German so gallantly states in the promo sheet? Well, partially. As I did get to notice the passion and drive to do something special, these old-timers have been doing the same thing for too long, so it’s practically impossible not to fall under the “one-trick pony” cliché.
‘Revelation’ would have been a great album if it were had fewer shorter and fewer people in the lineup. Don’t get me wrong, it all sticks together in the end, but don’t expect to be blown away by that one particular note that gave you butterflies or that marvelous chorus that stuck on your head for weeks; it’s all in good taste and all songs are pretty decent, but that’s it.
To sum it up, the legendary aura that surrounds Michael Schenker should be enough to make this album find its place in the German’s longtime fans’ playlist, as well as grab some laid back and casual listeners, even if there are some downsides here. This is a cool release to rock on to, but nothing that justifies the theatrical words of Schenker himself of the experience having “meaning with a deep emotion behind every note”. At the end of the day, it’s just another hard rock album; calm down, Mr. Schenker…just keep rocking without wanting to solve the mysteries of the universe and you’ll be fine.