CD Review: Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock – Bridge The Gap

Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock – Bridge The Gap
All Access Review: A-

Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock - Bridge
The Gap 2014
There's only room for one high priest in this Temple of Rock, and that's guitar god Michael Schenker. Although for Schenker's new album under that moniker, the near religious experience for guitar freaks that is Bridge The Gap, he's assembled a small group of trusted heavy metal clergymen to help conduct these rock 'n' roll rituals, including his old Scorpions' mates Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz.

Not since 1979's seminal Lovedrive album have these three appeared on a record together, so this is, indeed, a momentous occasion. That, in and of itself, however, wouldn't be enough to recommend Bridge The Gap if it wasn't simply a marvel of dramatic song structures and synergistic guitar worship.

And it's different from Schenker's first Temple of Rock outing in 2011. A jaw-dropping spectacle of wild, blazing solos and torrential riffing, made with a loose gathering of guest stars, that sprawling record suggested that Schenker was chomping at the bit to reclaim his position as one of rock's most awe-inspiring guitarists. Though not without its moments of orgasmic six-string explosions from Schenker, who blends finesse and fury in crunching riffs and leads that can be understated and stylish or aggressive and staggeringly brilliant, Bridge The Gap feels more like a group effort, as Schenker steps back a bit, assuming less of a leadership role and becoming part of a spirited rock 'n' roll cavalry that charges forward with swords brandished and a sense that they have nothing to lose through surprisingly strong song-oriented material and barely harnessed bombast.

Out on CD, a glossy deluxe edition with a bonus track in "Faith" that's sung by Don Dokken or as a 180-gram LP, Bridge The Gap sees this united front building up a strong head of steam on "Rock n Roll Symphony" and the frenzied "Temple of the Holy," the rhythmic might of Rarebell and Buchholz – their performances generating great momentum – coming to the fore as Schenker fires off salvo after salvo of imaginative, wide-ranging fretwork. Heavy, bludgeoning intros to "Where the Wild Winds Blow" and "Horizons" set the stage for blazing sonic uprisings that build into great epics, thanks to massive synth swells from the band's secret weapon, keyboardist/guitarist Wayne Findlay. Darkly melodic, all caught up in a thicket of hooks and trudging forth with weighty, crunching steps, "Black Moon Rising" and "Dance for the Piper" find common ground with Dio's best work. And with its bounding movements and whirling neo-classical energy, "To Live for the King" sounds like latter-day Rainbow on horseback, racing to the finish in a mad dash with pulses pounding.

It's no accident that Bridge The Gap is reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore's former band, what with Doogie White writing the record's fantasy-based, romance-obsessed lyrics and singing with his usual masculine clarity. And like Rainbow, this Temple of Rock balances traditional metal power and melodic magic, dipping back into the past for inspiration while also managing to sound current and in the "now." Although scenes of Led Zeppelin in their prime drifting off in an opium den come to mind in the mysterious and intoxicating "Shine On," And while Bridge The Gap isn't the platform for unfettered shredding that the first Temple of Rock was, Schenker doesn't take the day off.

Amid the powerhouse riffing, beautiful plumes and soaring, well-articulated leads, there is interesting activity going on underneath the surface, as if Schenker is digging a complex series of underground passages. Take time to walk through them. Schenker has sublime surprises in store for those who do.
– Peter Lindblad

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