Released: 2007, Universal Music
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Many people—including myself—wrote Scorpions off in the mid- to late-nineties as fallouts from a forgotten time. The hideous EYE II EYE certainly didn’t help matters and a string of live albums pretty much sealed the coffin. However, 2004’s UNBREAKABLE saw the band return to their “classic” sound which sparked a renewed interest in the German veterans in North America and abroad. Fast-forward to 2007 and with the help of eighties’ uber-producer, Desmond Child, Scorpions return with HUMANITY – HOUR 1, a daring concept album based on a futuristic war between robots and humans. Not unlike Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, HUMANITY – HOUR 1 is a clear attempt to garner radio airplay and appeal to the masses while maintaining Scorpions’ own aging but loyal fanbase. Child’s slick, Pro-Tooled production combined with a slew of outside writers has given HUMANITY – HOUR 1 an immediately accessible sound that is both a return to and a reinvention of the sound that Scorpions fans have grown to expect over the years. There are a few arena-worthy anthems here but the band has definitely played it safe. Every song is dripping with infectious hooks and ear-friendly vocal melodies that are swathed in the band’s stinging guitar attack but a dependence on mid-tempo, and at times, schmaltzy material will have those looking for a return to “Rock You Like A Hurricane” bombast sorely disappointed.
The swaggering “Hour 1” boats a tight rhythm section and an especially noteworthy drum performance from James Kottak. “321” is ready for the stadiums with a fist-pumping chorus and a wicked bass-driven groove. “The Game of Life” and “We Were Born To Fly” will take listeners back to the CRAZY WORLD-era with tempo changes in the chorus and soaring guitar melodies that wrap around the still-smooth vocals of Klaus Meine. “You’re Lovin’ Me To Death” and “We Will Rise Again” showcase Meine’s amazing voice and the occasional display of guitar bluster from Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs will please longtime fans. A mysterious guest appearance from Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan on “The Cross” doesn’t really add much to the song which is chock full of a wall of guitars and is a great rocker otherwise. “Humanity” is a little heavy-handed in its socio-political commentary but the slinky chorus and symphonic angle makes up for it (love the scratchy, oompah outro, too!). Fans of the band’s softer side will revel in the Queen-like ballad, “The Future Never Dies,” but the overly-saccharine “Your Last Song” and “Love Is War” are the kind of treacle that Child tends to bog down his projects with.
HUMANITY – HOUR 1 is another step back in the right direction for Scorpions. As the core of the band resides in their mid-fifties, reverting back to the cock-rock material of the eighties would be tacky but once Rudolf Schenker’s instantly-recognizable style comes sizzling out of the speakers, there is no denying that Scorpions “sound.” Augmenting the basics with some modern sheen is a smart move and HUMANITY – HOUR 1 is very much a classic Scorpions album which will have broad appeal. The album is not without its faults but given the option of Desmond Child or the Euro-dance fluff of EYE II EYE, this one is a no-brainer.
KILLER KUTS: “Hour 1,” “The Game of Life,” “We Were Born To Fly,” “You’re Lovin’ Me To Death,” “321,” “We Will Rise Again,” “Humanity”