Saturday, July 2, 2016

Album Review: Scorpion Child - "Acid Roulette"

Three years since its release, Scorpion Child’s eponymous debut record remains a wildly underrated experience, a true Led Zeppelin-style rock revival that moved and grooved in most of the right places and showed great promise for the future.  The band’s stock didn’t quite take off like fans would have hoped, but nevertheless anticipation remained high among the faithful for a second effort.

The band has obliged us with “Acid Roulette,” their new album that promises more of the same new age classic rock stylings that got us to this point.  Much of the story for Scorpion Child is the same as the recent story of Volbeat – this album shows greater maturity and complexity in songwriting, but may not provide the same punch that listeners are looking for.  Read on:

We see a more developed musical sense for this new effort, as the songs utilize all the usual dynamics of pace and rhythm and harmony to create full-bodied songs that paint a clear picture.  There are fewer rough edges on this record and more definition within the selections.  Album opener “She Sings I Kill” and following up “The Reaper’s Danse” remind one more of The Who or Deep Purple than they do a straight up and down Led Zeppelin vibe.  Which is perfectly fine, for the record – if Scorpion Child, their own identity aside, is going to remind of three of the great names in rock history, then more power to them.

The title track is where all this really comes to a head – “Acid Roulette” the song starts commonly enough, but by the middle third is developing into a multi-layered composition that layers classic rock guitars with Clutch-style riffs and a keyboard line that sits somewhere between Yes and Booker T and the MGs.  It’s a nice developmental step for the band and as the crescendo crests into the outro of the song, it’s easily the album’s most powerful song and an effective demonstration of the potential that Scorpion Child’s fans were so attracted to in the first place.

Yet, where the band’s debut album rocked with virile youth and authority, this album takes a step back, not putting as many powerful choruses into the total mix.  “Acid Roulette” has some punch, but it doesn’t bore into the ear the way that the best selections of their previous work did, relying instead on craftsmanship to sell itself.  This is where songs like “Survives” come into play and it’s worth noting that the emotion an developed atmosphere of that song could not have existed on the band’s debut effort.  It’s a fragile piece that wends and weaves while appropriately displaying a mature sense of loss.  Even for those listening to Scorpion Child with the intent of imbibing a lot of rock bombast, “Survives” is a starkly excellent piece couched right in the middle of the record.

So, as seems to be the case a lot lately, the listener’s ultimate appraisal of “Acid Roulette” will come down to what he or she is looking for.  If the intent is to find an album of power, speed and vitriol, then this new record may come as somewhat of a disappointment.  If, by contrast, the listener wants well-heeled songs with purpose, than there’s a lot here to like.

In any event, for all that the album offers to that latter point, it’s hard not to think of this new record as a decidedly lateral move, only because the rock revival possesses an arsenal of bands who can write capable songs, but not as many who can deliver the punch that Scorpion Child promised us on their first trip out.  The absence of that element leaves fans still wondering what the next evolution of Scorpion Child will be.

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