Review Summary: There was only one way to overshadow Uli Jon Roth’s guitar playing on Virgin Killer but even the controversial cover art failed to do so.
On any other album, Ulrich Roth’s constant heroics would have eclipsed the performance of the other bandmates or even proven detrimental to the songs. However, on Virgin Killer
, Scorpions were on top of their game during a genre-defining four album run which would cost them one of the members who shaped their sound but eventually brought them increased fame and fortune.
Collaborating with the legendary krautrock producer Dieter Dierks for the second time in a row, the Germans moved further away from their psychedelic roots, fusing their sound with even more hard rock and proto-metal elements; a transition that had become fairly apparent on In Trance
. Essentially, Virgin Killer
is a natural evolution of the definitive In Trance
, as it offers a Hendrix-influenced hard rock sound fused with some early Scorpions melancholia and neo-classical tendencies. In addition, like on its predecessor, only two songs on here are close to the five-minute mark whereas the majority of the album consists of fairly straightforward material, which in some cases doesn’t work in favor of the songs.
Furthermore, it spawned two undisputable classics in the form of “Pictured Life” and “Catch Your Train” while also including a couple of underrated songs. What makes the aforementioned tracks staples, is the heroics of Uli Jon Roth who delivers an array of brilliant leads accompanied by his impeccable tone and of course Klaus Meine’s intense and characteristic vocal delivery. “Backstage Queen” is also an iconic track due to the aforementioned reasons and its unbeatable groove. In addition, one can find some of the final touches of psychedelia in Scorpions’ discography, namely in the form of “In Your Park” and “Yellow Raven”. The former, is a power ballad with a very convincing atmosphere which includes a fitting guitar solo. The latter, is one of the Germans’ most underrated compositions due to Roth’s performance and one of the few tracks where Lenners’ drumming towards the end is quite noticeable. However, both tracks and especially “In Your Park” could have easily been longer.
“Crying Days” is also an interesting case of a song as it reveals once more the band’s krautrock tendencies combined with a few typical metal guitar parts. One difference between Virgin Killer
and In Trance
is that the two songs that are performed by Uli Jon Roth on vocals are not deal-breakers. Each has its merits on here with “Hell Cat” being the weaker of two while “Polar Nights” is more guitar-driven and more interesting instrumentally. Finally, “Virgin Killer” is the heaviest track of the LP and features some aggressive singing by Meine even though it might be considered a bit sloppy at parts.
Overall, Virgin Killer
was considered a breakthrough at the time as it helped the Scorpions enter the charts in Japan, a country that always appreciated guitar heroes. The controversial and immature cover might have played a role in garnering some extra publicity but what we are offered here is one of the greatest hard rock acts with one of the most iconic axemen at the peak of their powers.