Label: Atomic Fire Records
Genre: Heavy Metal
Release Date EU: May 29th, 2022
Michael Schenker – lead guitar
Ronnie Romero – vocals
Bodo Schopf – drums
Steve Mann – keyboards, guitars
Barend Courbois – bass
A King Has Gone
Long Long Road
Yesterday Is Dead
Sad Is The Song
Turn Off The World (Bonus track)
Fighter (Bonus track)
Michael Schenker and his Flying V don’t need any introduction. The German guitarist is a renowned name in the history of rock and metal. The axe-wizard was part of several bands and projects, starting with the German metal flagship Scorpions.
The main part of Schenker’s list of releases is filled with solo albums and related bands like MSG (Michael Schenker Group). As MSG, Schenker has a new record in the starting blocks and begins to explore the outer space; at least musically with the record carrying the title ‘Universal’.
As with many earlier releases, the guitarist understood the importance of a good singer and also this time Schenker invited a few great voices for the album. Ronnie Romero is mainly responsible for the vocals on ‘Universal’ and as not expected different, the frontman does an excellent job. He enriches tunes like the slower and darker ’Sad is the Song’. Timbre and intonation are great, both intensifying this great rock song.
Next to Romero, there are some other great singers that added to this great longplayer. ‘Calling Baal’ is an intro to ‘A King Has Gone’ and the moment the singer joins it is apparent who’s behind the mic. No less than Michael Kiske delivers a great performance. His voice is so unique that it can be identified immediately, and, in this context, he makes a good song, which reminds of Rainbow, great. To make the homage to Rainbow even sharper, Schenker invited the original Rainbow rhythm section, featuring Bobby Rondinelli and Bob Daisley. Not to forget keyboarder Tony Carey whose magic keyboard is the driving force of ‘Calling Baal’.
Gary Barden is also a guest on an album that is rich of highlight. He shares vocal responsibilities with Romero on ‘The Universe’, a duet that interacts in perfect harmony. And one more singer needs to be mentioned. The German metal siren Ralf Scheepers is part of ‘Universal’ too and which song would fit better to his metal voice than the powering ‘Wrecking Ball’.
The upbeat opener ‘Emergency’ should be mentioned in this context. The track is a great start into the album with a killer riff and an excellent solo part. Furthermore, melodies and hooks never fall short on an MSG album and the first track underlines that ‘Universal’ doesn’t change the success formula.
The speedtrain-like ‘Au Revoir’ ends an album that comes with a lot of winners. It is smart move from Schenker to work with various singers. This allows the guitarist to the necessary extra to his great songs. It also secures a good flow of the album with a lot of variation and Schenker’s guitar being the glue that keeps things together. ‘Universal’ is a rock/metal highlight in 2022. Very much recommended.
Written by: Markus Wiedenmann