A longtime favorite of guitar junkies worldwide, Michael Schenker just might be reliving his glory days with TEMPLE OF ROCK. Rolling with his one-time SCORPIONS mates Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz has not only brought back the mojo, it's given Schenker — and TEMPLE OF ROCK by attrition — a new lease on life. With longtime MSG shotgun rider Wayne Findlay (playing seven string guitar this time) and the indefatigable vocal dynamo Doogie White, TEMPLE OF ROCK is back in business following 2013's well-received "Bridge the Gap". If you dug that one, then the new album "Spirit on a Mission" is a gimme sell, since it's fundamentally similar, only with a tougher kick and a bigger focus on hard rock versus the power metal modes that cropped at times on the former.
Having suffered the loss of stolen guitars and the original tapes for "Spirit on a Mission", Schenker and TEMPLE OF ROCK didn't merely step back and punt. The theft gave the band a stiffer resolve during "Spirit on a Mission"'s re-recording which gives it a frequently hard swagger.
"Vigilante Man" sounds inherently pissed off from its jagged riffs and pummeling tempo. Thoughts of vengeance may or may not have been rolling around the minds of Schenker and company after being plundered. Yet the indirect effect spells a mean but infectious drive on this cut and many others on the album, including "Saviour Machine", "Communion", "Bulletproof", "Wicked" and "Let the Devil Scream".
As with "Bridge the Gap", "Spirit on a Mission" is divvied between mid-tempo shakers and brisk, double-timed groovers. On both albums, Herman Rarebell lays some of the smoothest double kicks in the business and listeners' knees will no doubt be jostling in time to "Live and Let Live", "Rock City", "Something of the Night" and "Restless Heart". Not that it's a detriment, since the full-on energy of these fast numbers keeps the heart of "Spirit on a Mission" pumping enthusiastically, but the riff structures become repetitive in accordance to the replicated double hammer on these tracks. Nonetheless, their seamless execution and vigor do credit to "Spirit on a Mission"'s" tenacity.
While "Bridge the Gap" noodled at times with DIO and Eighties power metal modes, next to none of that appears here. TEMPLE OF ROCK's methodology for "Spirit on a Mission" is to deliver the cuts tight and often fast with heaps of riff-hungry attitude and dialed-down guitar theatrics. Yes, Michael Schenker rakes his frets as intros on a handful of songs and he happily dances scales all over "Something of the Night", yet like the previous album, he punches his decorative solos out, then gets back into the meat of each track on here. It's the soul of the songs which compels both Schenker and Findlay's guitars and the latter's keys, in turn cajoling Doogie White's charismatic pipes to perfection.
The tireless White, who might soon need a teleprompter onstage considering all of his simultaneous gigs, is pure electric on this album. It's been a treat watching this in-demand cat worm his way through heritage acts and collaborative projects over the years (his name's damned near everywhere), but if Doogie's to call one of these stations a permanent home, TEMPLE OF ROCK seems the most fitting.
There's only one quantifiable softie to be found on "Spirit on a Mission", which is the nostalgia ride of "Good Times". Even that flows with admirable staunch and the up-and-down chords working toward the song's peppy choruses. Otherwise, "Spirit on a Mission" is all-systems-go with minimum flash and maximum drive, a glowing testament to a legendary SCORPIONS buttress who are no doubt enjoying one of hell of a reunion.