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Its hard to think of any straight up metal album that can match up to Skid Row's sophomore classic Slave to the Grind. Armored Saint's Symbol of Salvation and Def Leppard's High N' Dry perhaps, maybe some Love/Hate, but in general there really is no better record in the genre to blast in your car on your way to work, or the bar, or a killer party. This album is the aural equivalent of an old school club, the lights dim so you can't see the grime on the walls, the folks liquored up and ready to rock, and what seems to your foggy senses to be the best fucking rock band in the world kicking up a ruckus on the stage.
Following their happy-go-ghetto first album, with its pathos-laden morality plays side by side with so-hair-it-hurts anthems like "Can't Stand the Heartache", Skid Row decided to hit the figurative gym and pump a little metaphorical iron and man does it show. This album sounds muscular, the pristine production avoiding the glitter of the Spencer Proffer/Mutt Lange school of sound but making sure all of the monster riffs and meaty grooves got their place in the mix. There are influences all over this thing, GNR's ugly anti-glam hair metal, rough and tumble punk ("Riot Act"), and some touches of Aerosmith and Killing Machine-era Priest but no matter what sound hat the band try on their own unique style still shines through. The Skids retain their eye for hooks, but here they're usually chained to the record's low-slung rhythmic assault and darkened up considerably. This is 'hair' that one should feel no shame rocking to; there's a grinning skull with evil intentions underneath those perfect coifs.
Its also here that the mercurial Sebastian Bach steps up to the plate as one of metal's foremost talents, one of those rare singers who can do absolutely anything. Make no bones about it, the guy has enough aggression in his voice to capably front a tough-as-nails thrash unit, and the range to wipe the slate clean of namby-pamby German power metal singers. His ragged screams can only be described as freakin' nuts, and his phrasing has elements of Mustaine's bent sense of melody and Hetfield's twang. It is an absolute pleasure hearing a singer with this much confidence singing songs this strong, from the hellish swagger of "Livin' on a Chain Gang" to the raucous singalong "Creep Show" to the ballad-par-excellence "Wasted Time".
The guitar tandem of Bolan and Sabo rock too, surely one of the most underrated duos out there. The boys roll out riff after awesome riff and lead after molten lead. Highlights include the pendulum-like swing riffage of "Monkey Business" (Aerosmith on 'roids), speed metal maelstrom "Slave to the Grind", and the totally sweet techy breakdown/solo (2:30-2:50) tucked into the otherwise pedestrian "Psycho Love". This band is tight tight tight, locking in with a precision sound that belies their sloppy image, slicing solos and brilliant harmonies soaring o'er top the unstoppable chug of the unstoppable rhythm section.
No song on here is completely worthless, with the possible exception of the aenimic "Get the Fuck Out", but a few fillers like "Psycho Love" and "Mudkicker" do slip through. Also, three ballads is probably overdoing it; although all of them are good, only "Wasted Time" matches up to their previous efforts and the fact that they account for a fourth of the album sorta breaks the momentum up a bit. Interestingly however, the ballads almost act like chapter breaks, "Quicksand Jesus" closing up the opening barrage of "Monkey Business", the title track, and "The Threat", the other two similarly bookending the heavy material.
Frankly though, I'm not sure how much good this longish review will do ya. This isn't an album you contemplate, its an album that you feel from your banging head to your stomping feet. This is a great gift for your favourite biker looking to mix up his collection of AC/DC, ZZ Top, and Nazareth scorchers, the perfect pal for long car rides, a great soundtrack to a boozy party... really, the thing is an indispensable spin for anybody who loves music that just flat-out rocks. Go get it!
Standout Tracks: "Monkey Business", "Livin' on a Chain Gang", "Slave to the Grind"