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For this review, I’ll transport you back to 1991 for a little historical perspective on Skid Row’s “Slave to the Grind”.
To say that the release of Skid Row’s second album “Slave to the Grind” was eagerly awaited is an understatement. Two years prior, they were the young guns of hair metal, taken under the wing of Bon Jovi and even won for themselves several mainstream music industry awards in the process. By 1991, they were poised to take over the whole hair metal scene. Or so we thought. In the scant two years since their self-titled debut, Skid Row underwent a maturation process which transformed them from glam heartthrobs to serious hard rock/heavy metal musicians.
Album opener “Monkey Business” opens with a bluesy guitar lick which soon transforms into a wicked riff that thumps and leaves the listener no option but to thrust their heads back and forth in unison. The title track is the biggest surprise on the album as it rips out of the speakers with ‘thrash’-like heaviness. Is this a Skid Row record that I’m holding? Yes it is, an older, meaner Skid Row for that matter. Track three, “The Threat”, continues with the heavy theme as it grooves in a pissed-off mid-tempo stomp. The guitar duo of Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill and the rhythm section of bassist Rachel Bolan and drummer Rob Affuso seemed to have a consciously heavy mindset on this one as their playing is harder and heavier than anything they’ve done before. One thing that’s constant though is the sublime vocal performance of Sebastian Bach. It seems the heavier music that he’s laid his vocal tracks over has made him a stronger and more credible performer. The first quartet of songs is closed out by a ballad, “Quicksand Jesus”, which again spotlights the outstanding vocals of Bach.
The next four tracks “Psycho Love”, “Get the Fuck Out”, “Living On A Chain Gang” and “Creepshow” are hard and heavy rockers that show how far Skid Row has distanced itself from its earlier inception that wrote such glam themed anthems like “Can’t Stand the Heartache”. The ballad “In A Darkened Room” shifts the tempo to a slower pace and this is one of the better ballads Skid Row has written in its career. “Riot Act” kicks up the intensity up a notch with its punk-ish vibe. The album’s lone low point, “Mudkicker” comes next and there’s no point in expounding. The album comes to close with yet another ballad, “Wasted Time” and I agree with whoever says that three ballads in an album is way too much. But then again, if the ballads were all this good then I don’t have any problem with that. “Wasted Time” is the best among the three on this album and can probably rival “I Remember You” as Skid Row’s best.
Overall, “Slave to the Grind” is a harder and heavier album than anyone expected. Rather than follow in the footsteps of their mentors and become Bon Jovi Junior, Skid Row chose to blaze its own path with their own sound. And they turned out to be a better band because of it.