Scanner: 'The Judgement' day has arrived

German power/speed metal outfit has something to say
By Peter Lindblad
The German power/speed metal
group Scanner

Nobody can accuse Scanner of shying away from controversy. Serious subjects are addressed on The Judgement, the blazing new thrill ride of a record from the veteran German power/speed metal juggernaut that raises heart rates to dangerous levels.

From ecological devastation to genocide, corruption and greed in the financial markets and political arenas and the continued erosion of ethics and morality, Scanner has much to say about the deteriorating state of the world and they do it without sermonizing.

Opting instead for rich, imaginative storytelling, Scanner – its love of science fiction imagery splashed all over the record's attention-grabbing cover art – couches its political passions in intelligently designed, fast-paced, charging metal that's incredibly taut, sleek and arranged with ever-evolving complexity and interesting dynamics. And yet, it feels like a return to Scanner's intense late '80s and early '90s work, its explosive, overdriven guitars and punishing rhythms creating a wildly exciting and aggressive listen.

Once known as Lions Breed, releasing a 1985 album under that banner called Damn The Night on the Earthshaker label, the group soon took the name Scanner and released Hypertrace in 1988, followed by 1991's Terminal Earth, 1995's Mental Reservation, 1997's adventurous Ball of the Damned and 2002's experimental Scrantopolis. Despite having toured with the likes of Fates Warning and Omen and a show-stopping performance at Wacken Open Air Festival in 1997, label problems and personnel turnover at various points in the band's history undoubtedly slowed their momentum, but with The Judgement – out on Massacre Records – and some stability at lead vocalist with Efthimios Ioannidis, Scanner sounds more powerful than ever.

Guitarist Axel A.J. Julius took some time recently to talk about the making of the band's new LP.

If you were to compare The Judgement to any past Scanner albums, which one would it most closely resemble and why? 
Axel A.J. Julius: I think The Judgement definitely is the next door neighbor of our first four albums. That is what we intended also. After the experiment of Scantropolis we wanted to make clear again where our roots lie. We attempted to receive and revive the sound and the spirit of our '80s and '90s releases and we were guided by our old stuff from this time. And therefore the album sounds old school metal by default. If somebody likes Hypertrace he won’t hate The Judgement, that’s for sure. But you should never expect a copy of another Scanner album from us; I mean we would be bored by doing that.

Scanner - The Judgement 2015
Describe the creative process that led to the birth of The Judgement. Were there more difficulties than usual? Did obstacles crop up? Or did it go smoothly?
AJ: After a few years playing live primarily and having fun on the road, the record industry could not get us into the mood to record a new album. But we wanted to write new songs and build our own sound studio. Then when everything felt good for us it was the first time that we could pre-produce, record and mix the entire album in our brand new studio and you can say this was a more direct approach than with the other albums. You can determine all the schedules by yourself and you are independent. This has advantages. However, it can also tempt you to stretch the periods, which you must counteract with discipline then. So the process itself was smooth. Let's put it this way: For The Judgement we have cut off from the outside world and did exactly our thing. And we did not mind what was modern today. This was our main intention for this album: 100 percent Scanner. And I tried to let the album breath and sound more direct and raw by using again our own drum sound, for example, instead of using triggered samples for the album as done and heard on thousands of productions nowadays. It did not take us 12 years to make the album, but the motivation to do it just rose initially in 2012.

The riffs on this album are striking, especially on the title track and “Warlord,” a song that’s really heavy in parts and thrashing, but the mood and pace changes so frequently it’s dizzying. Talk about the writing and recording of that song in particular. Was it a complicated process? 
AJ: Oh dizzying? Ok, but for me it is not dizzying. It’s exactly my style of composing and I like the counterparts in a song, like fast and slow, loud and quit, etc.. Since Heavy Metal is hardly compressed music you often miss the dynamic expression a classical orchestra always has, for example. That’s one reason why rhythm changes are a part of my expression I use in a song. And "Warlord" is special because of its idea behind it. The song is about Africa and especially the genocides in Rwanda and Nigeria, Boko Haram and the Warlords and our ignorance about the coherences of our western governments and their world trade partners and beneficiaries in this area. So the theme does not really fit to a steady groovy, and sing-along track, I thought. So "Warlord" is a more sophisticated song. But the recording process of this song was not complicated because I’ve had a plan.

Listening to “Eutopia,” the first thing I think of is Queensryche. It’s another multi-part song with melodic shifts and thought-provoking lyrics. Tell us what the song is about, what inspired it and how it came together.
AJ: Actually this song was planned to be our first video of the album, but because of our small budget we had to scrap this idea. The song is about a time-traveling guy with visions of a land called Eutopia. The idea came up after the financial crisis brought major problems to some countries here in Europe and the idea of a United Europe has threatened to fail more and more. So a United Europe is kind of a Utopia. This brought me to EUTOPIA. This dude in the song is not a time voyager really; finally, the story reveals he is on drugs. So his stories were a flight of fancy, like some ideas of our politicians here in Europe are as well.

What song on The Judgement affects you the most from a lyrical perspective? Is it the title track? 
AJ: Yes, it is the title track. Somehow it is the most emotional and summing track. It is about our moral values; our personal ones and those of our whole society. And it provokes questions about where we are heading to when we have blown off all the “angels.” I think our ethical and moral orientation should not follow the dictation of Wall Street. I'm not a fan of religion either, but I think that our society should come to an anthroposophical approach beside all religions and adjust our ethic values right again. There is something wrong with us when we allow for example the Kyoto Protocol to be ignored by important states, although it is dealing with our air we are breathing. Meanwhile multinational companies are increasing their profit and ruining our environment. My guitar used to be from mahogany, but that was never the reason for the cleared woodland and for the diminishing rainforest, if you know what I mean.

After all this time, what drives you to keep Scanner going? 
AJ: Well, for sure our fans all over the world and their feedback and faith and my resulting deep feeling of owing them something since our first releases. Honestly spoken the band was a bit unlucky from that moment on when we signed with the wrong company at the beginning of our career. This company made us lose two singers in a row in principle. And it was the reason we lost so much time researching for new vocalists. But our fans did not forget us even when there were longer breaks, nor when the bigger magazines did not give a dime on us anymore. The business is hard, but I do not want to complain. I’d rather have fun against all odds with people who adhere to us on our long time journey. And now we are back again… although we had never gone in objectivity. Let’s have some fun, mates.

No comments:

Post a Comment