CD Review: Herman Ze German "Take It As It Comes"

CD Review: Herman Ze German "Take It As It Comes"
Dark Star Records
All Access Review: B

Some dime-store philosophers and would-be poets choose to drown themselves in misery, and who can blame them? The nightly television news is a horror show of unimaginable human suffering. Great numbers of people in the United States are out of work and desperate to escape the financial straits they’re in. Massive earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, drought and a whole host of other natural disasters have been visited upon the third world, wiping out fragile infrastructure and causing death, disease and homelessness.

How could anyone with any sort of sensitivity and compassion not gaze upon it all and succumb to incurable melancholy? Big-hearted and a true humanitarian, former Scorpions drummer Herman Rareball, aka Herman Ze German, won’t turn a blind eye to such tragedies. Nor, however, will he simply throw his hands up and give in to despair, as the title of his latest solo LP indicates. Rarebell enjoys life. Our time on this earth is fleeting, after all, and to not have any fun and joy during our short stay would be a waste of such a precious gift.

Believing wholeheartedly in the words emblazoned in scary movie graphics across the album cover, Rarebell is anything but dour here. Blazing away with heavy doses of adrenalized pop-metal spiked with saxophone flourishes courtesy of wife, and actress, Claudia Raab, Rarebell points a double-barreled blast of rock straight at your heart in the somewhat bluesy title track and the life-affirming epiphany “Don’t Lose Your Trust.” The dirty underworld of phone sex operators is explored on the darkly erotic “Rough Job,” before the seductively sinister “Freak Show” tears into reality TV and its shameless pandering to the worst in all of us.

Of course, there’s the obligatory string-laden power ballad “Your Love is Hurting” and it’s not without its melodic charms, even if it is a somewhat predictable exercise at this point in Rarebell’s career. “Let Me Rock You,” espousing how great rock and roll is, is also a fairly obvious cliché. But when Rarebell experiments with moody atmospherics and exotic rhythms, like he does on the mysterious, heavy cover of the obscure “Heya Heya,” a hit in Germany by the long-forgotten German trio Jeronimo, or Geronimo as their name mistakenly appeared on record in Holland, he reveals a restless artistry that is continuing to expand and grow. With its Native American beats and chanting, not to mention the heavy guitar magic courtesy of wunderkind Horst Luksch, “Heya Heya” is a beast of a track and clearly the heavyweight champion of Take it as it Comes.

But what of the mix of black electronica, robotic metal and almost spoken-word lyrical delivery of the Rarebell’s new, and possibly controversial, cover of “Rock You like a Hurricane”? Well, it’s different, that’s for sure, and Rarebell certainly doesn’t play it safe in tackling this Scorpions’ classic. Perhaps he should have played it safe and left well enough alone. In its original state, “Rock You like a Hurricane,” often cited as one of the greatest hard-rock songs ever, was perfectly carnal, a rush of sexual heat and desire that dripped blood and other bodily fluids from its mouth. This one, while perhaps a little more evil and aggressive, feels somewhat disjointed and awkward. Still, give Rarebell credit for not simply rehashing an old chestnut. This version is interesting, and given time, and an open mind, you might just warm up to it.

There are moments of astonishing brilliance on Take it as it Comes. “Backattack,” with its frenzied harmonica and hell-spawned, country metal vibe, is really a unique and thoroughly satisfying blending of genres, and Rarebell’s ability to mesh modern-rock elements with old-school metal is work in progress that is undeniably compelling.

-        -  Peter Lindblad  

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