Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – Spirit on a Mission
Release Date: March 23, 2015
The enigmatic and uber talented, Michael Schenker has never been about agendas and musical politics. For the guitar virtuoso who began his legendary career with the likes of Scorpions and UFO, Schenker has only ever been about the music. His guitar is his muse, and the notes and riffs that pour forth speak volumes on his behalf. Spirit on a Mission marks the third album for his latest project, Temple of Rock. Once again the band features his former Scorpions rhythm section of Francis Buchholz on bass and Herman Rarebell on drums. Longtime guitarist and keyboardist, Wayne Findlay adds dimension and depth, while former Rainbow vocalist Doogie White returns to breathe life into the band’s sonic efforts.
Schenker and White penned all of the album’s tracks with Findlay joining in for five of the songs, giving the album more diversity than the previous two efforts. The dozen tracks on Spirit on a Mission find Schenker and crew reveling in the rock and roll grandeur of the past while continuing to evolve into new territory.
Michael teases open the album with a frolicking guitar intro then kicking into the blood-pumping, double-bass rocker, “Live and Let Live”. The song is propelled by the classic rhythmic juggernaut of Buchholz and Rarebell along with the aggressive riffing of Schenker. White jumps right in the listener’s face.
This is followed by the bluesy groove of “Communion”, which struts in with swagger and attitude. Doogie preaches away while Michael’s guitar nuances dance in and out, filling the open spaces brilliantly.
Next up is the album’s first single, the classic riff ’n’roller, “Vigilante Man”. One doesn’t need to see the video to envision Schenker rocking side to side in his trademark fashion on this one. The riff and tone of the song create a predatory feel and an addictive melody quickly becomes infectious.
The opening trio of songs represents a tasty dose of what listeners can expect over the course of the remaining nine tracks. While there is nothing overtly new here, the quintet creates plenty to sink your ears into: “Howling winds and the wolf is hungry,” sings Doogie, and with each song that hunger builds for more.
Michael’s fret magic is on full display as he drives into the up-tempo, “Rock City”. Rarebell is in rare form, and on this track he really takes it up a notch. When you later find a certain sonic ear-worm wriggling around your cranium, do not be surprised if it is this song: “When gonna rock this city…”.
The band dips into an almost dirty 90’s grunge on “Saviour Machine”, which is one of five tracks where Wayne Findlay adds his own songwriting chops to the mix as well as adding some weightiness with his 7-string fretwork.
“Something of the Night” opens with a frenetic flurry of guitars akin to swarming insects, while “All Our Yesterdays” has an almost Egyptian feel to it that might have fit perfectly on any Dio album. The latter features some of Schenker’s tastiest soloing on the record. That Dioesque feel continues to resonate on “Bulletproof” even as it embraces Schenker’s full body of work. A nice acoustic interlude adds a perfect touch to the track, and Rarebell’s pounding stickwork to open the song reminds us what a beast he can be.
With the grinding groove of “Let the Devil Scream” fans of the Black Label Society ilk will find a track to love, and Findlay’s opening keyboards set a perfect tone. Dare I say, it even has some sexiness to it found writhing in the melody. Schenker once again proves his adaptability with blending vintage rock elements within a modern context.
“Good Times” marks a moody and somewhat soulful ode to personal remembrance and perhaps regret: in the feel of the song there is a ring of Schenker’s vintage UFO years. This is followed by the rapid-fire rocker, “Restless Heart” before the album closes out with the slightly sleazy jubilation of “Wicked”.
With each Temple of Rock album, Schenker’s latest brainchild becomes more of a cohesive band rather than just a vehicle for Michael, which is fantastic to see…and hear. Doogie White’s vocal prowess runs the gamut on Spirit on Mission, and the songs strike the right chord at each turn. Schenker remains brilliantly Schenker, and Findlay adds his own quiet magic.
Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock is a band that delivers flawlessly and with understated genius. Lest I wax hyperbole, I will simply say Spirit on a Mission is a monster rock and roll record created by masters of the genre.