History has been neither kind nor fair to Skid Row. Written off as hair metal refugees, their acrimonious 1996 split with vocalist Sebastian Bach, for many, spelled the end of the band’s relevance.
In fact, Skid Row are metal’s great unsung heroes. They became the first metal band in history to debut at No.1 on the Billboard chart with 1991’s Slave To The Grind, and they’ve since left all of their hair metal contemporaries in the dust with something heavier and intrinsically darker. After decades of tinkering with that formula, they have, at long last, found their way home.
Skid Row’s latest effort marks a triumphant return to form, a thundering klaxon ringing out mightily on opener Hell Or High Water and Not Dead Yet. From stem to stern, it’s a steady battering of revved-up tempos, sleazy riffs and endless fist-in-the-air, ‘Fuck yeah!’ vibes. Guitarists Dave ‘The Snake’ Sabo and Scotti Hill tap back into their nasty, dual-fretted grooving on Resurrected and When The Lights Come On, and new vocalist Erik Grönwall – a fiery young Swede, formerly of H.E.A.T and with cavernous pipes – proves an inspired addition. Sounding very much like a certain flaxen-haired ex-vocalist, his glass-breaking roar on the title track extinguishes any doubts as to his bona fides.
Time Bomb and Tear It Down showcase Skid Row’s elite rhythm section – the greasy basslines of Rachel Bolan locked into the percussive squall of drummer Rob Hammersmith. At times, as on middling power ballad October’s Song, the material borders on trite, and tracks like World On Fire get a little heavy-handed with overweening handwringing over the perilous state of the world, but you’re not looking for the meaning of life in a Skid Row song – you’re looking for some high-octane heavy metal escapism, blasted at maximum volume. With The Gang’s All Here, they don’t quite reach Slave… levels of mastery, but they come pretty damned close.