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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – ‘Bridge The Gap’ album review

Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – ‘Bridge The Gap’ album review

Released on: inAkustik GmbH. Release date: Available now
Just so everyone understands, Michael Schenker - as anyone that has read Chambers of Rock before … - is without doubt, my all-time favourite guitarist.
When word had got out that he was releasing another album under the band project title ‘Temple of Rock’ again, I was of course excited with anticipation of what we would get this time around.
Well, this time there is a pretty straightforward lineup and it’s not so much of the all-star project that 2011 project was, that said, it is a strong lineup of players that Michael was touring Europe with over the past two or so years.
Fronting the band is vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Tank, Yngwie J. Malmsteen), then long stay MSG member Wayne Findlay on Keys, Guitars and B/Vocals, Francis Buchholz (Scorpions) on bass and Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell (Scorpions) on drums. Impressive, eh?!
Obviously the European live dates went so well, the guys decided to record the next album together.

One element that kind of surprises me is with Herman Rarebell’s successful co-writes with the ScorpionsRock You Like A Hurricane, Another Piece of Meat, Passion Rules The Game, Make It Real, Blackout and more! - that Michael did not ask for his input. Perhaps he and Doogie had already written the tracks, before they recorded them?
Whatever the case, they make for a pretty strong song selection.
Opening intro is ‘Neptune Rising’ that has some nice guitar work over a chugging riff for just forty five seconds, before leading into ‘Where The Wild Winds Blow,’ a track that perhaps brings to mind more of the sound / structure that Michael pulled together on ‘In The Midst Of Beauty,’ an album I have come to enjoy more now than I did at the time.
I actually prefer that to the ‘Temple of Rock’ release.
‘Where The Wild Wilds Blow’ is indeed is good solid track, capturing the familiar essence of great Schenker releases gone by.
‘Horizons’ next once more echoes how I feel about the previous track and it’s funny because Herman Rarebell’s playing typically I would never have compared to say Simon Phillips, but he really does a great job on this album and I think it is very similar in style on here to Phillips class playing.
‘Horizons’ is a great up tempo rocker with some great hooks. Nice!
This pattern indeed continues with ‘Lord of the Lost and Lonely’ next and it is certainly very reminiscent of classic MSG.
Even some of Wayne Findlay’s touches bring to mind either Paul Raymond or Don Airey, although I still sometimes wish – As I’ve said before – that Findlay was a little more audible in the overall mixes, that said it takes nothing away from the class track.
Wonderful solo from Michael here, surprise, surprise …, not!
The time change on the rhythm on this is clever, it effortless listening to it, but I wonder how long it took to get down.
‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Symphony’ hits you for six right off the bat. Up-tempo rocker with pounding bass, just crank it up guys! Solid rocker for sure, pummeling bass throughout, solid drums keyboards / Hammond flourishes here and there and of course Mr. Schenker’s solo spot.
Perhaps the only thing that it could’ve maybe left out is Doogie White’s dodgy scream around the three minute mark.
To me there’s an almost Dio or Rainbow like feel about ‘To Live For The King,’ from its chug along riff, through semi-mystical elements to the way Doogie phrases the song, but of course Michael’s guitar work and little lead touches make it distinctly MSG.
A driving riff with drums and bass pushes ‘Land of Thunder’ in your face from the get go, dare I say a little (Iron) Maiden like to a degree in some respects and some rapid double kick drumming from Herman Rarebell, drives this super quick!
The guitar has a harmonizer that also gives it a little of that Maiden vibe too.
Slowing things down a bit is the steady and much less frenetic side that brings ‘Temple of the Holy,’ with some little mystic twists, bringing to mind something again that Ritchie Blackmore would do from time to time in Rainbow and Michael’s solo even brought to mind Blackmore to a degree, although it did seem a perhaps little here and there in its whole presentation.
‘Shine On’ sounds a little dark like with its metallic verse riff and some of the kick drum fills and actually reminds me again at times like Ronnie James Dio (RIP).
Nice solo again from Michael if perhaps too brief.
With ‘Bridges We Have Burned’ next it opens with some nice melodic picking, before coming into the songs main groove, a little dark and edgy through each verse, then a familiar like uplifting chorus. Once again, Michael’s solo work doesn’t disappoint.
Sorry to have to say this, but I’m listening to a Michael Schenker album and next there’s a track that really does very little for me indeed. The punky like ‘Because You Lied’ is just off for me. Repetitive and disappointing, that’s all I can say.
A big reprieve comes with ‘Black Moon Rising’ next, even with its darkness as a slow and steady rocker.
Perhaps quite Dio, almost Dio era Black Sabbath like to be honest here.
Final track of the album is ‘Dance for the Piper’ that has a much more familiar MSG like groove, nice one to end the disc with.
Overall an album that has grown on me, as I wasn’t sure what to think the first couple of times I heard it.

Once again Michael has teamed up with Michael Voss (Mad Max, Bonfire) and who has also sung on the last ‘Temple of Rock’ album, to co-produce the release and he seems to have found the perfect foil to work with generally. 

I am sorry to say though that I really do not like the one track ‘Because You Lied’ and am surprised at its inclusion, but that’s just me.

As I’ve said many times before, I do love Michael’s guitar work though, it's so distinctive as well so that’s always good to hear for me and Doogie White’s voice, is one I’m not all that familiar with to be fair. I did hear the Rainbow album he did, but it was hit and miss with me, Tank I was never a fan of, I never heard him with Yngwie J. Malmsteen either.
The ‘Temple of Rock Live’ release was OK, but really didn’t blow me away, but again folks, this is just my opionion.

To my mind, it’s still a good album for the most part, but in places there are still times that I feel it’s just missing something …

Rating: 3.75 out of 5