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Guns 'n' Roses has real competition - 91%

JVK, June 17th, 2003

Like so many other bands including Laaz Rockit, Chimaira, and Pantera, Skid Row started off playing pop metal before growing some balls and doing their own thing. The same band that subjected the world to “I Remember You” would later release an ass-kicking set of aggressive and entertaining Guns ‘n’ Roses-styled hard rock songs. In fairness to Skid Row though, they always had an edge over the other hair bands, with superior levels of aggression and the walking attitude, Sebastian Bach, whose ballsy screams are among the best in metal.

With Slave to the Grind, the band has carved out a bleeding gash of a niche in their field. While ostensibly not really metal, the high-octane pace and guttural guitar sound assaults the listener’s ears in the same way. Unlike metal though, the songs are all party-worthy, on levels on par with Andrew W.K. except that they actually took talent to write. This is one of the heaviest albums that you could get hot girls to shake their asses to.

One pleasing thing about the album is the varied songwriting. The faster songs such as “Slave to the Grind”, “Get the Fuck Out”, and “Riot Act” are well suited to driving at ridiculously high speeds while the thickly grooved slower numbers including “Psycho Love”, “The Thread”, and “Mudkicker” are terrific material for blasting while cruising. They even sound contemporary enough today that one need not feel like they should be driving a rusted Camaro while playing them!

Besides the crushing guitars, the album is given its extra dose of heaviness by Bach. He manages to cram more attitude into each note he sings than thought humanly possible, and his range is phenomenal. He can go from a pissed-off growl to his signature howl with ease. His stylistic range keeps the music interesting the whole time.

The one thing taking away from the heaviness of the album, though, is the fact that they put not one, not two, not four, but three ballads on here. Three! That’s three too many, actually. None of the ballads are that great. “In a Darkened Room” is the most listenable, while “Wasted Time” makes an attempt at being progressive and doesn’t quite succeed. “Quicksand Jesus”, however is utter ape jizz. Songs like these pepper the album at strategic intervals, likely to make sure right as you’re getting into the music, the fun is broken by these silly and trite elegies.

Ballads notwithstanding, Slave to the Grind is one of the best sleaze-rock records you could ever hope to find, rivalling Appetite for Destruction. It finds the best possible mix of accessibility and metallic power and delivers it to you with crystal clear sound quality. Unless you’re some diehard metal fan who won’t listen to a band if their music isn’t at least 80% blastbeats and cookie monster vocals, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be in your collection. That’s all that I have to say about that.