Look – a new Skid Row album. Jeeeeiiiii!!!! Now, I don’t wanna come off as obnoxious, but it’s not like Skid Row has released anything that would make anyone happy lately. Their two first albums, their self titled debut (1989) and the fantastic Slave To The Grind (1991) were two magnificent parades in melodic metal, wrongly merged with all the other bands that were big back then. Skid Row were a heavy metal band and had more in common with Judas Priest than with Aerosmith. By 1995, when they released Subhuman Race, grunge had taken over and the only band that were anything metal still selling records was Pantera. Of course, that album was way more brutal and dark and of course, Skid Row’s popularity had sunk, like all the other hard rock bands that had their heyday in the late 80’s / early 90’s. I still believe it was a good album, though. After that, inner turbulence had taken its toll on the band and their charismatic singer / frontman Sebastian Bach left / was outed, depends on who you ask – and the band fell apart for a while. Sebastian started the band The Last Hard Men, a project that died before it had begun (although their album was released in 2001) and the same fate happened to the other Skid Row members who started the ill-fated project Ozone Monday. 1999 was the year when both Sebastian Bach started his solo career and Skid Row reunited – with a new singer and a new drummer. Johnny Solinger used to front his band Solinger before he joined Skid Row and drummer Phil Varone was in Saigon Kick. It took them four years before they could release this new line up’s debut, the very uneven Thickskin. That didn’t exactly break the band and it was even worse with its follow up, the horrible Revolutions Per Minute (2006). Musically those albums are so different from the Skid Row sound we used to know and love that it feels wrong to even call the band Skid Row. And let’s not get started on their punky violation on “I Remember You” on that album. With that album, I thought that Skid Row was over and out.
Fast forward seven years and all of a sudden we have a new Skid Row album out. Well, it’s not really an album, but an E.P. with 5 tracks (seven, two covers extra, if you live in the U.K.). To say that I didn’t have any expectations on this give is the understatement of the decade. The guys’ smooth words about they’re taking things back to their roots felt more like the usual crap bands says when they know that they have fucked up completely. But on the other hand, the bands’ main song writers Rachel Bolan (bass) and Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo (lead guitar) are still in the band and they used to be such brilliant song writers so I guess it would be stupid not lend this E.P. an ear. And the opening track “Kings Of Demolition” really knocked me on all four. Wow! – The song is awesome and it really has this classic Skid Row sound. Johnny Solinger has always been a good singer and replacing some one like Bach takes guts and a big self-confidence. But where he failed to sound right on their earlier albums, he really nails it here. He’s not a Sebastian Bach clone at all, but he sings with the same intensity and power and this sounds exactly like a Skid Row song should. “Let’s Go” has this rough, punky and aggressive Slave To The Grind – ish sound, “This Is Killing Me” is a brilliant ballad that would easily had given them a big hit back in the day, “Get Up” is a classic Skid Row metal track and “Stitches” is aggressive in a very Skid Row way.
To put it mildly, this record is one hell of a surprise and frankly, I didn’t think the guys had it in them to write a record like this anymore. The old Skid Row sound is back, but the album doesn’t sound old, Johnny Solinger makes his best vocal performance here, which makes Bach not as missed like he was on the previous albums – that not said that he isn’t missed at all, because he is. And this is a dilemma for the band. Poor Solinger certainly don’t do anything wrong here, but still, no matter how good this sounds, everybody knows that it doesn’t sound RIGHT without Bach on the mike. It feels really mean to write this, but it’s just not Skid Row without him and it doesn’t matter that Solinger now has spent 14 years with the band. So, here’s the deal, without Bach they might have a career as a small band playing clubs, decent spots at different festivals and maybe sell some records to the die hards. WITH Bach they’d be playing bigger places, headlining festivals and sell a hell of a lot more records. This is the fact, because Sebastian Bach solo draws more people and sells more records than this version of Skid Row. And I’m not sure about this E.P. format thing either. The Chapter One in the title reveals that there will most likely be a Chapter Two, but I want a whole record, not just five tracks – especially when we get something as good as this. Anyway, if we hold our breath waiting for a reunion with Bach, we would probably suffocate and this is a great album, so hurry up with chapter two, will ya.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
01. Kings Of Demolition
02. Let’s Go
03. This Is Killing Me
04. Get Up