By Avinash Mittur
In the seventies, the Scorpions were an obscure, yet trailblazing hard rock group that only those in the know truly appreciated. On March 29th, 1982 though, this all changed. The band released Blackout, their all time greatest record, and cemented themselves as one of hard rock’s all time greatest acts. Even though the band released more commercially successful albums afterwards, none ever truly achieved Blackout’s perfect balance of heavy riffs, blazing solos and endlessly catchy hooks.
Even though Blackout was the band’s breakthrough record, this wasn’t their first attempt at commercial success. The Scorpions’ two previous albums, Lovedrive and Animal Magnetism, were noticeably simplified from their more psychedelic and heavier early records. Rock history has solidified their status as classic albums but at the time, the Scorpions needed something more. Much like the way Judas Priest sharpened their sound for Hell Bent for Leather but didn’t find their winning formula until British Steel, Scorpions still needed to perfect their songwriting before achieving the success they desired. Blackout is the manifestation of that effort, and the band earned their newfound fortune after nearly a decade of paying dues.
Many of the songs on Blackout continue to feature in the Scorpions’ live set to this day. The title track’s timeless opening riff has incited thousands of cheers at nearly every Scorpions show since the album’s release. No One Like You on the other hand, showed that metal music could appeal to a pop audience without compromising its heaviness or virtuosity. When it came to that virtuosity, there were none better to supply it than guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs. Their harmonies and mach-ten minor scale guitar solos are still heard today in the countless amount of power metal and traditional metal bands that came about because of albums like Blackout.
The voice behind these amazing songs, Klaus Meine, remains one of heavy metal’s greatest gifts. Even though he apparently blew his voice out during the recording of this album, one certainly would never be able to tell. His inspired and soaring vocals had the ability to power aggressive bullet trains like Dynamite, but still give emotional and dynamic performances to ballads like When the Smoke is Going Down.
Even though the band had gained a new appreciation for hooks and anthems, they hadn’t forgotten their heavier and more progressive roots. Matthias and Rudolf still can’t help but sprint across the stage when the band pulls out Dynamite, and the audience can’t help but furiously bang their heads and bust out the air guitars. Blackout’s sole epic, China White remains an underappreciated tour de force of lurching riffs and howling vocals from Klaus. This song alone showed that Scorpions were well aware of their long journey to this record, and that they weren’t about to compromise heaviness for a hit single.
Blackout continues to have a lasting presence in rock music and culture in 2012. Whether you’re in a mall, listening to the radio, or even in a sports arena, there’s a chance that the waves of No One Like You could be flowing through the air. Even though the Scorpions are calling it quits, their body of work will continue to tower over groups wishing to find success in the hard rock and heavy metal realm. This record has dazzled listeners for thirty years now, and I know it will inspire kids for decades to come.