Slave to the Grind

VHS Archives #16: Sebastian Bach talks to the Power 30 (1992)

Power 30 host Teresa Roncon doesn’t let Baz off easy here. Yes she does bring up the “AIDS Kills Fags Dead” shirt, and Sebastian answers. It’s a fascinating interview from a different time, only a few years after “One In a Million” by Guns N’ Roses.

What do you think of Sebastian’s response on this?

And just in case you wanted to hear Sebastian’s laugh on loop again, here ya go!

REVIEW: Skid Row – Slave to the Grind (both versions)

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SKID ROW – Slave to the Grind (1991 Atlantic “clean” and “dirty” versions)

The Skids knew the second album had to kill. The band, always heavier live than the first album implied, also knew the second album had to sound more like they did in concert. And following up a huge hit debut, they also demanded the album be all killer, no filler. Raising the bar and ignoring the record company, the band re-convened and kicked every ass in the room. The result is Slave to the Grind, one of the best hard rock albums of ’91 period.

The first single “Monkey Business”, which is essentially just dirty grooves n’ screams, was about as commercial as the album got.   With this as first single, it was clear that Skid Row didn’t care whether they got played on MTV or not.  There was nothing glossy or slick about it.  It’s still obvious that there’s something special here, and I credit that to two factors:  the songwriting talents of Snake Sabo & Rachel Bolan, and the frontman chops of Sebastian Bach.  Bach commands this song.   It’s not just his vocals.  It’s his confidence, his swagger, and his ego shining through.

If “Monkey Business” didn’t scare your little sister, then the second single “Slave to the Grind” definitely did.  For the first time, Skid Row jumped straight into the thrash metal deep end.  Drummer Rob Affuso had the chops to do it, and it really was a natural step to take.  Other bands were getting heavier in 1991 too, but none of them took a turn like this.  Skid Row raised the bar for everyone in their field in ’91.

The other singles from the album were technically “ballads”, although the band were eager to point out that none of them were anything like “I Remember You”.  They were dark and edgy.  The record company execs no doubt shit their pants when they heard the magnificent “Wasted Time”, which I can only describe as epic.   It’s an incredible song, and it’s one of the few that Bach had a hand in writing.  Baz wrenches all the emotions from his soul and that’s what I hear coming from the speakers.   “Quicksand Jesus” and “In A Darkened Room” are only a little less impressive.  They share the same kind of mood and sonic landscape.  There is really nothing commercial about any of them.  They all have headbanging moments and integrity.

Rounding out the album were several very strong deep cuts.  “The Threat”, track 3 on the disc, easily could have been a single.  In fact Terry David Mulligan of MuchMusic asked Sebastian if it was going to be selected as a future video, so I’m not alone in thinking that.  “Psycho Love” is a bangin’ bass groove, laid to waste by Bach’s scorching vocal.  “Livin’ on a Chain Gang” is another standout, an angry one about injustice.  Then you have slow, landmine-infested blasters like “Mudkicker”, and fast smokers like “Riot Act”.  All strong songs.  The only one I’m not keen on is “Creepshow”, a jokey tune about the kind of people you’d see on daytime talk shows.

SLAVE TO THE GRIND_0003Skid Row knew well ahead of time that some markets would not release an album with a song called “Get the Fuck Out” on it.  This fun punk rocker sounds like a Rachel song, but Bach’s attitude nails it.  It’s probably a bit of a novelty, but it’s fun.  “Fuck you if you can’t take a joke!” says Bach in one line.  But it’s OK: if you can’t take the joke, you can buy the version of the album without “Get the Fuck Out”.  Earlier pioneers in the clean/dirty dual releases, Skid Row saved the song “Beggars Day” for the Walmart version of the album.  (Also sold by Columbia House in Canada.)  I think it’s cool that they gave both markets added value with exclusive songs.  This song is more traditional metal (perhaps Priest-like) than the rest of the record, but it’s equally strong.

Michael Wagener produced this album with a raw, unpolished finish.  But there are backing vocals where you need ’em, and the instruments are clear and in your face.  It still sounds heavy today, unlike a lot of other music from the same year.  It just seems like everything clicked, and all the factors were in place.  Slave to the Grind kicks ass with the best of them.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Skid Row – “Wasted Time” (1991 7″ single)

SKID ROW – “Wasted Time” (1991 7″ single)

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb if I call this the best song on Slave to the Grind.  The closing song on a damn fine metal album, “Wasted Time” is awesome.  It’s in “power ballad” territory, but it’s much darker than Skid Row’s prior hit ballad, “I Remember You”.  Sebastian Bach turns in the best vocal performance of his life on this one.  Sebastian co-wrote the song, about the damages of addiction.

Both the 7″ and the 12″ singles come with the previously unreleased live bonus track, “Get the Fuck Out”.  (The other bonus tracks on the 12″ are “Holidays in the Sun” and “Psycho Love” which are both available elsewhere.)  “Get the Fuck Out”, recorded at fuckin’ Wembley fer Christ’s sakes, features a long Sebastian intro that is probably more interesting than the song itself!  Apparently, Skid Row were given a letter that stated specifically that Skid Row were not to play “Get the Fuck Out”.  So what do they do?

Sebastian:  “It says here, they’re gonna stop the show, because they don’t like the word ‘fuck’!  And you’re not allowed to hear it!”  Baz then leads the crowd in a chant of “get the fuck out!” before Skid Row drive into the song.  As fans know, it’s a short firecracker punk rock song, and Baz is in top voice.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Skid Row – United World Rebellion Chapter One (2013)

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SKID FRONT

SKID ROW – United World Rebellion Chapter One (2013)

I know Johnny Solinger’s been in the band longer than Sebastian was. I know the band probably hate Sebastian’s name even being brought up in a review such as this. I’ve been standing by the band through their last two albums (2003’s Thickskin and 2006’s Revolutions Per Minute).  My interest waned quite a bit, on the long wait between releases by the band.  This new EP (5 new songs) is failing to rouse me from my ambivalence.  So I’ll just come out and say it:  Guys, get Sebastian back. It’s time.  If Eddie Van Halen can get up on stage again with David Lee Roth and grin that grin of his, then Rachel Bolan can get over Sebastian Bach.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with United World Rebellion.  (Last album was a “revolution”, now they’re having a “rebellion”.  What will the next album be?  Defiance, disobedience, dissension, heresy, insubordination, insurgency?)  It’s heavy like old Skid Row.  It has squealing, howling solos like old Skid Row and riffs reminiscent of the classic stuff.  Johnny’s throwing everything he’s got into his performance.   It’s just…not memorable.

The most striking song is the first one, “Kings of Demolition”, which is really good.  Only problem:  It’s more than just a little similar to “Monkey Business” from Slave.  “Monkey Business” is a great heavy song, but you’re not going to top it by re-writing it.  It’s downhill from there.  I must have played this EP eight or nine times now, and I still can’t remember how “Let’s Go”, “Get Up”, and “Stitches” go.  They are all heavy, riffy…and non-descript.  The only song that stands out is “This is Killing Me”, the token ballad (right smack in the middle of the EP), and it stands out only because it’s a ballad.  You can hear the (intended?) similarity to a certain hit ballad by the Sebastian version of Skid Row…but without his soaring vocals.  Once again, you can’t create a new memorable song if you’re repeating an old one.

Sorry guys.  I’m usually in favour of bands carrying on with new members, because I’d rather have that than no band at all.  Unfortunately, Skid Row needs Sebastian Bach as much as Sebastian Bach wants to be in Skid Row.  Johnny can take a proud bow, because he’s no slouch and he did the best job possible.  I wanna see it happen.

2/5 stars

EDIT: May 15 2013 – There is a European version coming with two bonus tracks, both covers.  Bastards.