Sound — 8
Granted, there were some hard rock fans who attended the band's 2011 "Get Your Sting and Blackout" farewell tour who felt cheated out of the bragging rights which come along with seeing one of the leading hard rock groups gracefully bow out, but for the most part there was some sincere applause to be heard when the Scorpions announced plans to not only continue hitting the touring circuit but also revisit their catalog of unreleased songs from their most commercially successful time period for a new album. The end result of this rediscovery is "Return to Forever," which likely refers to the band's previous statements that playing to new generations of fans was too appealing to pass up just sitting at home in the midst of retirement.
While I wouldn't entirely call the rock veterans' latest offering a redefining return-to-form, seeing as I personally thought "Sting in the Tail" and "Humanity: Hour 1" were solid active rock-influenced efforts with more than the occasional memorable moments, "Return To Forever" does gallivant some unignorable similarities to such celebrated releases as "Blackout" and "Animal Magnetism," right down to the melodic power ballads which separate the anthemic refrains of the album's high octane numbers. The classic hard rock sound of their earlier offerings from the 1980s also makes a proud revival on this new effort, which abandons the modernized elements found on the Scorpions recent releases.
Such selections as "Going Out With a Bang" and "Rock My Car" particularly showcase this stylistic approach, with the emphasis centered back towards catchy choruses, slamming chord progressions you can still wrap your head around, and an overall production that would sit easily amongst even the most casual of listeners. "We Built This House" is fueled by choice symphonic arrangements not entirely unlike mainman Klaus Meine's previous collaboration with Nightwish, whereas "House of Cards" is an articulate acoustic power ballad that could be considered the second coming of "Send Me an Angel." "All for One" and "Rock 'N' Roll Band" similarly don't reinvent the wheel, which for a band as far into their career as the Scorpions who are celebrating 50 years of activity in 2015 isn't an entirely bad thing. After all, kick ass consistency is better than hit-and-miss experimentation any day.
"Catch Your Luck and Play" is introduced by a ferocious guitar lick before transitioning into another classic Scorpions rocker propelled by energetic vocal harmonies. "Rollin' Home" attributes a grooving rhythm guitar core with some pop elements thrown in for good measure, which although palatable doesn't quite hit home like "Hard Rockin' the Place" does, which just like the title implies sets the focus back towards pick grinding compositions. "Eye of the Storm" is another exceptional Scorpions power ballad with a tad more kick than the preceding "House of Cards," while "The Scratch" applies some slight blues guitar arpeggios and more dominant percussion playing. The effort is concluded on a moderately melancholic note with "Gypsy Life," which channels a similar character that the band previously developed on "Still Lovin' You." While fans may have enjoyed a more ferocious ending to an all-around solid installment, it's still a high note on the Scorpions' eighteenth studio album.
Lyrics — 8
Klaus Meine uncannily has the same vocal range and delivery as he did fifty years ago, which has allowed the members of the Scorpions to get away with some of their more experimental efforts from recent years. Having that consistent addition proudly seated at helm has always reassured longtime listeners that some degree of familiarity would be present on a new album from the German hard rock veterans, however it's when the band returns to their distinctive approach on "Return to Forever" that one can truly appreciate how solid of a performance which Meine offers throughout the effort. Although the lyrics tend to get a little too repetitive for their own good (namely during "All for One," where he chants "We love Saturdays / We love Saturdays! / The band stars to play / The band stars to play!" during the verse), it fails to detract from the end result found here.
Overall Impression — 8
The Scorpions have returned from their abandoned plans for retirement with a new studio album that stands alongside their best from the past few decades. "Return to Forever" is filled to the brim with memorable moments that are bound to sit comfortably with both die hard fans and casual listeners alike.