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Under a Dark Sky

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Album Review

Hard rock, heavy metal, and pop-metal fans still associate the name Uli Jon Roth with the Scorpions, which is certainly understandable when you consider how popular they were in the 1970s and '80s. Back in rock's pre-Nevermind era, the German band reigned supreme as one of Europe's top headbanger attractions, and even though Roth actually left the Scorpions before 1980s smashes such as "No One Like You" and "Rock You Like a Hurricane," his name continues to be preceded by the phrase "former Scorpions guitarist." But Roth's solo output has by no means been an exact replica of his work with the Scorpions; Under a Dark Sky, in fact, has very little in common with Roth's former band stylistically. This 2008 release clearly falls into the progressive rock category — not hard rock, not heavy metal, not pop-metal or even progressive metal, but progressive rock. Roth (who is heard on guitar, keyboards, bass, and some of the lead vocals) draws on influences like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Asia, and Kansas, and elements of European classical music and European church music are used prominently. Under a Dark Sky is as grandiose and self-indulgent musically as it is lyrically; instead of downplaying prog rock's excesses, Roth celebrates them. And that is a big part of the album's charm. Someone who has a casual interest in prog rock but is critical of its excesses — for example, someone who likes a certain amount of Pink Floyd and Yes but cites ELP's excesses as a perfect example of why the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Ramones were absolutely necessary — might find Under a Dark Sky to be pretentious and dated. But for the die-hard prog rock enthusiast who finds those excesses endearing, this album definitely has its charms. Excesses and all, Under a Dark Sky is an enjoyable listen.


Born: 1954 in Dusseldorf, Germany

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Though he doesn't get nearly as much credit as Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth helped lay the groundwork for neo-classical metal with his lead guitar work for German hard rock icons the Scorpions during the '70s. Roth's playing owed an obvious debt to Jimi Hendrix, but the elegance of his lead lines, the fluidity of his phrasing, and his use of alternate scales learned from classical training all helped push his oeuvre into another realm entirely. Upon leaving the Scorpions in 1978,...
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Under a Dark Sky, Uli Jon Roth
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