Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Skid Row: Subhuman Race

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Subhuman Race
By: Skid Row
Year: 1995

The late 80's saw a flourishing of glam and hair metal. For better or worse, a number of sissy acts who pretended to use electric guitars came into prominence and forever dirtied the world of metal. Acts like Poison, Motley Crue, and Slaughter capitalized on songs of hedonism and lasciviousness. And they did it all with pretty boy hair, and sometimes even pretty girl makeup. But while glam or hair metal was certainly very popular in its time (before grunge really took over), too often bands were mistakenly dumped in the glam metal category. Skid Row was one such band.

Sure, their first release had some sappy metal ballads, and the lead singer had a flowing blonde locks and almost feminine good looks. But looking past the surface, one can see that Skid Row was much more metal and very little glam. Their final release with Sebastian Bach as front man, "Subhuman Race" epitomizes this. A gritty, gutsy album from the very beginning, this is metal. No glam allowed.

This is the kind of album that we needed in the mid 90's. Sadly, too many overlooked it, still thinking of them as a hair band. Thick, heavy guitars fill the album. Even the ballads are dark and brooding. Borrowing the best aspects of grunge, and melding them with great guitar solos, some thrash aspects, and good, old fashioned American metal, Skid Row created one of the best heavy metal albums of the past decade. No pretenses, no posturing. Sebastian has never sounded better. Growling when he needs to, wailing at the right times, and holding notes like few other metal vocalists ever could, he just does a great job on this album. The rest of the band pulls through as well. The rhythm section backs up the meaty guitars, providing a thick, chugging backdrop to the songs.

Tracks to catch:"Eileen" is a great ballad that ends with a nut-busting twist. Not your mom's ballad. "Beat Yourself Blind" is full of guttural growls and a grooving guitar line. "Bonehead" and "Subhuman Race" both crank things up a notch, borrowing from the speed and aggression of good old thrash metal. "Iron Will" wraps the album up kicking and screaming, not content to end quietly. But the truth is, there isn't a single bad track on this sucker.

Objective Rating: 9 out of 10
Honestly, I have never really been a Skid Row fan. I didn't care for their first album. "Slave to the Grind" had a song or two I remember from it. But this album just blew me away. It is fantastic. Lyrically, the songs are actually pretty great, much better than your standard metal fare. And the music is superb. Heavy, brooding, and full of piss and vinegar. This is great metal.

Biased Rating: 10 out of 10
Even though I wasn't a Skid Row fan, I always like Sebastian Bach's voice, and this album reminded me just what a great vocalist he is. While I agree that grunge had its highlights, there was a lot of it that was crap. Sadly, that crap buried some excellent heavy metal in its deluge of D tuned power chords. "Subhuman Race" stands tall as a true metal album that refused to give in to grunge. I have tried to think of other ways to put this, but I can't: "Subhuman Race" kicks ass. Period.

1 comment:

  1. "Subhuman Race kicks ass. Period." I'll have to give this album a listen. I will be honest, I can't name a single song that Skid Row ever wrote; it's completely lost on me. It's a name that makes me envision butt rockers, but I'll defiinitely have to check this one out.