Review: Skid Row – The Gang’s All Here
earMUSIC (October 14th, 2022)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
The long-awaited release from Skid Row is finally upon us. One of the premier late 80s bands with arguably the last great frontman from the scene, Skid Row were flying high after two top notch releases and, frankly, they’ve been living off that glory ever since. Nothing they’ve released since 1991’s ‘Slave To The Grind’ has even come close. I know that ‘Subhuman Race’ has its fans and I personally dig nearly half the songs off their 2003 release ‘Thickskin’, but most would state that the band is past their prime, incapable of constructing material that captures the feel of the band all those years ago. Well wait until all detractors get a listen of this new material. With full confidence I can attest that the Skid Row you remember is back!
Let’s get this out of the way here. If you are wondering if this album is better than their first two albums, the quick answer is no. Don’t take that to mean that it’s bad. Those two albums would be damn near impossible to top. It was the perfect albums for their time and memories associated with those albums will not be topped.
With that said, everyone would agree the differences between those two albums is stark. The debut leans more melodic hard rock and the follow-up goes straight for the throat in terms of heaviness. This album sounds like the go-between that never was, leaning more towards the debut but retaining some of the heaviness to the follow-up. There’s even a sprinkling of ‘Subhuman Race’ just to keep things interesting.
There are always going to be complainers and people who will accept no one else but Sebastian Bach, but there is no better singer to front the band now than the amazing Erik Grönwall. Formerly of the band H.E.A.T, Erik cites Sebastian as one of his biggest influences and his vocal delivery was always similar as a result. He is able to give their back catalog the respect it deserves and breathes new life into the new material.
The album kicks off with a relentless triple punch. ‘Hell or High Water’ will immediately grab your attention with its heavy no-nonsense groove. I love the word interplay in the chorus, not feeling the need to state the full title the second time around, going for a more crowd-pleasing vocable sing along. With the title track, what I noticed immediately is the guitar tone, which is very reminiscent of their old sound. With the tone and Erik’s vocals, there’s no way a fan of the band would be able to mistake this band for anyone else. Some may even declare that they didn’t realize Sebastian was back in the band. I can’t see any old school fan disliking this track. It exemplifies everything that makes Skid Row what it is. The band speeds things up a bit with a touch of punk for ‘Not Dead Yet’. Not the sloppy chord progressing type punk, but speed, melody, and power reminiscent of tracks like ‘Riot Act’ and ‘Piece of Me’. The most fun lyrics on the album are found here and the band sounds like they are having a blast.
Speaking of ‘Piece of Me’, bassist Rachel Bolon wrote a sequel when he constructed ‘The Lights Come On’. There’s more flair to his playing here, with the band giving the same energy to this track that they gave over thirty years ago on their debut. One of my favorite tracks on the album.
What is sure to be the most divisive song is ‘Time Bomb’, the one track that reminds me of their ‘Subhuman Race‘ album. The issue won’t be the rhythm, melody, or vocal delivery. The issue is the chorus. It admittedly grew on me, but I was originally not thrilled with it. The lyrics leave a little to be desired. The repetition of the words “Tick..tick,,tick” seven times, followed by “Boom!” sounds as corny as it does reading it. Repeating it in an abbreviated version doesn’t help either. The only reason it worked for me after several listens was Erik’s dedication and vocal conviction to making it work. It certainly will be some people’s least favorite track, but not mine.
Regarding less admired tracks, there was only one song I will not be returning to on a regular basis. This will not be a popular opinion, but I never really cared for the ballads from ‘Slave To The Grind’. ‘In a Darkened Room’ and ‘Wasted Time’ are always skipped over whenever I replay the album. There is only one ballad on the new album, and it is modeled after these older ballads. I will state that ‘October’s Sky’ is better than both of those older songs, but I like the ballads from the debut much more than the ones from the follow-up and I was hoping for something along those lines.
There are four more tracks I could talk about here but this review has gone on long enough. Those other tracks, one of which has already been released as a single, are just as good as the best tracks this album has to offer. There is no debating this. This is the strongest release from Skid Row in 30 years. A welcome return to form from a band that seemed to stray too far from what they’re good at, aggressive hooks and catchy melodies. All experimentations have been pushed aside to give the fans what they have been looking for all along. If you were ever a fan of this band, I implore you to purchase this album and support this incredible release.
Welcome back gentlemen, we missed you!