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Originally published at http://suite101.com
It’s been about four years since Sebastian Bach released Angel Down, but the former Skid Row singer has still been working at a faster momentum over the last five years than he did in the ten before. His television appearances and theater stints have been a little more sporadic lately, perhaps suggesting that he’s ready for the hard rock and metal worlds to take him a bit more seriously. Kicking And Screaming is his second album of all original material and features a few notable lineup switches. While Halford/Riot drummer Bobby Jarzombek has stuck around for these sessions, this is the first album to feature Tony Iommi/Anvil producer Bob Marlette on board as well as 21-year-old guitar prodigy Nick Sterling.
While Bach will always be associated with the late 80’s hair metal movement, the reality is that he hasn’t had anything to do with that scene for decades. Skid Row always danced on the line between glam and traditional metal to begin with and Bach himself has jumped between hard rock, groove metal, prog during his short-lived stint in Frameshift, and even a bit of power metal on Angel Down thanks to the contributions made by a good portion of Rob Halford’s solo band. This album is certainly no exception as it has a modern feel similar to that of Angel Down. However, this album manages to stand out due to a rather melodic feel and is more hard rock influenced in comparison to the previous album’s more overtly metal feel. Fortunately it is a smooth transition and there is plenty of metal left to go around.
And while he may never let out a scream like the one on “Slave To The Grind” ever again, Bach puts on a good performance with his wide range and “Vince Neil-with-balls” tone. He seems to go through three different “characters” in his performance that include a melodic croon used on the ballads and traditional numbers, a falsetto used for complementary effect on tracks such as “My Own Worst Enemy,” and a gritty snarl used the most sparingly on the choruses of “Dance On Your Grave” and the title track.
But while this may be Sebastian Bach’s album, the man himself would probably the first to tell you that Nick Sterling is the true star of this show. Already an established artist on his terms, Sterling plays with the tone and sophistication of a musician twice his age and never seems to fall into the overly technical trap that befalls most other prodigies. Sterling also proves to be a pretty decent songwriter for his age as four songs on here were written entirely on his own and a few others were written without Bach’s help, leading one to wonder if this is really a Sebastian Bach solo album or if the singer is just along for the ride…
And with there being thirteen songs on this effort, it is safe to say that the songwriting does manage to cover a good amount of ground. Of course, a good bulk of the album predictably consists of heavy mid-tempo anthems and power ballads in standard Bach fare. “Kicking And Screaming” starts the album off on a solid note with a guitar tone that vaguely reminds one of John Petrucci while “One Good Reason” and “Dirty Power” feature appropriately sleazy riffs with the latter sounding a bit like “Our Love Is A Lie” with a darker feel.
Also worth noting is “Caught In A Dream,” a track that comes off as feeling like a structural rewrite of “The Threat.” While one could point the finger at Bach for this move, the irony is that he didn’t have any part in writing it. At this point, one can only wonder if anyone has had the heart to break him the news yet…
And with there being about five ballads on here, none of them are excessively sappy and it is good to see some variety between them. While “I’m Alive” (I know this is an overused title as is, but did any of them hear about the new Anthrax?) is a mournful lighter-holder in the vein of “I Remember You,” “As Long As I’ve Got the Music” and “Dream Forever” stand out for their more uplifting nature. Of course, they could’ve afforded to take off a ballad or two as “Wishin’” in particular does feel a little tacked on…
In addition, there are a few outliers among the slightly more typical fare. “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Dance On Your Grave” both have a rather punk feel as the former goes in a borderline poppy direction while the latter brings in some dirty bass lines. In contrast, “Lost In The Light” is the heaviest song on here and has an almost doom feel in its slow, crunchy riffs.
While my heavier side has something of a soft spot for Angel Down, this album is a bit more consistent overall. It may not be on the same level as his releases with Skid Row and doesn’t exactly have an “American Metalhead” or a “(Love Is) A Bitchslap,” but the songs on here do manage to work pretty well with one another. But if anything, this album does show that there is a lot of potential in Bach and Sterling’s working relationship and leads one to wonder what could come from the pairing with more experience. It does make me wonder if the latter’s solo work is any good though I imagine it doesn’t sound exactly like this…
“Kicking & Screaming”
“Caught In A Dream”
“As Long As I’ve Got the Music”
“Lost In The Light”