Scanner – The Judgement (2015)

Scanner - The Judgement Artist: Scanner

Album: The Judgement

Label: Massacre Records

Reviewer: Dave

Scanner is a recent addition of mine to my library; it was just a few months ago that I heard Hypertrace and Terminal Earth for the first time. I have long been a fan of power metal, but recently have taken a liking to the older releases – before the genre became inundated with the riff-anaemic “flower metal” that dominates the scene nowadays. Scanner, of course, hit the scene before any of that with their debut and follow-up coming out in 1988 and 1989, respectively.

The first two albums are set apart by their bombastic style of heavy metal and the nearly perfect clean vocals that dominate every track. This newest effort is heavier in sound by a significant margin, but the vocal component is drastically different, with tracks like “Warlord” and “Eutopia” showcasing in places the style of vocals found on Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” – clean vocals but with a grit and grind that brings an intensity not always seen in run-of-the-mill clean vocals. Musically, this is a strong effort, which is pretty rare in comparison with the career arcs of other long-standing bands who often seem to run out of originality and inspiration after the first few albums. But Scanner haven’t softened up in the least, and the opening track “F.T.B.” (Fuck the Bastards) is all the proof you will need of this. But in spite of their maintenance of their heavy metal sound, they certainly haven’t lost anything when it comes to writing those catchy hooks that keep you singing in your head long after the album is over. When it comes to instrumentation, the single remaining original member, Axel Julius, doesn’t appear to have lost any amount of his guitar playing ability whatsoever and Andreas Zeidler plays a good number of beautifully scorching solos throughout the album. If anything, many of the riffs and solos are more daring than they were on previous efforts, even if they lack the aether that made the first couple albums such successful projects. The title track sits nicely in the middle of the album and is a nice display of complex musical layers with nicely-crafted and subtle changes of pace that keep it engaging. Lyrically, Scanner has moved along from science fiction and onto totally new themes:

Watch the churches burn

It’s the devil’s turn

Satan pulls the strings

Look what tomorrow brings

When all the angels have been slain

And Wall Street hustlers are your saints

The fragile bridge over troubled water of sins collides to the abyss

Thus read the chorus and bridge to the title track, which seems to be more concerned with social justice and economic disparity instead of warring factions of alien civilisations. “F.T.B.” as well finds itself tackling the mid-life crisis of Everyman, who is bored and frustrated with the daily grind and longs for a return to his primal roots. “Nevermore” is taken – both in lyric and in metre – from the iconic Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name, whilst “Pirates” is about, well, you guessed it:

Sword to sword

The fight goes on

Blood will soak the mermaids

Our treasures Lie ahead

Rotten and evil

We take every bet

Overall, I welcome any time a band chooses to take on new ideas, and this is no exception. For anybody put off by Scanner’s previous obsession with sci-fi novels and other things that cater to teenage boys, this is going to be a plus. For those listeners who don’t really pay attention to lyrics, you still have all the benefits of a great German power metal album. After several listens, I think most would agree that this album doesn’t match up to their previous works. But it’s far from a bad album. In fact, its many differences from their previous works alone merit giving it at least a listen or two. If there’s one thing for certain, this album isn’t a rehash of their legendary tracks. And that in and of itself is commendable for a band that has been in the business for nearly thirty years. 7/10 – Dave

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