Sigh. I had high hopes that "Sting in the Tail" would prove an edgy, fitting coda for the decades-spanning career of the once-mighty Scorpions. Instead, the album is a mediocre exercise in Scorpions-by-numbers, with far too many sections that are reminiscent of acts long gone by.
I am glad to report that the Scorpions have retreated from the edge of the cliff they were headed toward during the "Crazy World" era. Still, "Sting in the Tail" hardly comes back to the heady days of "the Zoo."
There are absolutely zero risks taken by the band, and from end to end, the album sounds, for lack of a better descriptor, tired. The album sounds exactly like you would expect the last album of a legend to sound. They've given all they can, thrilled millions, lived amazing lives, but now this relatively hollow shell is all that's left.
There are the usual assortment of big dramatic choruses and loud, forceful percussion. I can give them that; the production is extremely high caliber, and each song sounds flawlessly arranged and pro-tooled til it's almost too perfect. The problem is, the base substance is exactly the same as it has been for their entire career.
Many of the early songs sound eerily similar to many of the Scorpions' contemporaries. There are a lot of hallmarks of "Heaven isn't too Far Away," or "I Want to Rock," songs like the title track or "The Good Die Young." "Rock Zone" seems to be an attempt to channel the foot-tapping punch of "Blackout," but it feels forced and falls short. Much later on, "The Spirit of Rock" is just plain gang chorus hair-metal awful. It's too flat, too uninspired, and the repeated bridge of "yeah, yeah, yeah..." ad infinitum is irritating.
There is some really nice old-school guitar work laced throughout "Sting in the Tail" that lends an honest sense of nostalgia for the days when the Scorpions ruled the musical world. "Raised on Rock" has a certain throwback feel not to their heyday in the 80's, but to the band's 70's origins, which is an interesting addition. Other than that, there's not much to draw the ear. As I was listening to the album, I realized that "No Limit" had gone by and I had no memory of it.
The ballad "Lorelei" is I think at least loosely based on the German epic poem of the same name, and that's a nice touch, but if you're a fan of ballads, the Scorpions have done much better in the past.
Notice that a lot of this review references things that have happened in the band's past, or are an attempt to channel that feeling again. That's really the overarching theme of "Sting in the Tail," and it may be that the album is meant to invoke memories of times gone by as the band says farewell. Still, even a one-trick pony like AC/DC comes with up tight, snappy riffs when they write new material. As a Scorpions fan, you could miss this and your catalogue would still be complete. "Sting in the Tail" isn't bad. Really, I mean that. It's not unlistenable. It's just not compelling.
I have a hard time picturing any of these songs on some Scorpions' "best-of" boxed set that will undoubtedly be published in a record label's attempt to cash in a decade from now. Speaking of which, I think I'm going to dig up my copy of "Best of Rockers and Ballads" again, and enjoy the Scorpions at their best.