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I tipped my hat at Bat Out of Hell III being the years best release, and I wasn't far wrong because the scale and quality of 'The Monster Is Loose' makes it a worthy third part to the legacy of the 'Bat Out of Hell' franchise, and in true Bat style the album kicks off with a tremendous bang.
Firstly, the epic and powerful title track The Monster Is Loose, which is sung with such passion and gusto; it was one of the best live tracks within Meat Loaf's set at the recent gig at the Royal Albert Hall. The tracked was partly penned by legendary heavy metal god Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue and everything from the cutting edge production to powerful playing make this a classic.
Following closely behind is the melodic and aptly titled Blind As a Bat which is has such a powerful yet melodic feel to it, and acts as an excellent lead in to the first single, It's All Coming Back To Me Now. The latter is done as a duet with Marion Raven, and was written by Jim Steinman before being overlooked for Bat II (and subsequently covered by Celine Dion).
These three are by far the best Bat III has to offer, but the album has another 11 tracks of quality to add to these three, and the whole scale and grandeur of the essential rock opera flows throughout the album. More powerful rocks and delicate ballads ensure, and the Limited Edition version even has a bonus DVD with a making of video and some other tid bits. So now The Monster Is Loose - embrace it!
This album is an epic and I must say it will be unfortunate to compare it to Bat Out Of Hell because they are very different albums. However, in 30 years time I feel I will still be listening to both of them with the same enthusiasm as I am now.
Unlike BOOH, The Monster Is Loose was not a jaw dropping, awe inspiring first listen perhaps because the original was so unique although this is an album that gets better the more you listen. Each time you listen a little bit grabs hold of you until before you realise it, it has grabbed you completely.
Whilst Jim Steinman has had nothing to do with the production of this album, he exerts a major shadow over it given 7 of the 14 songs are written by him. The remaining seven have given justice to inclusion on this album and fit in perfectly with the Meat Loaf/Bat Out Of Hell story.
If you want to be highly critical (I dont) then it could be argued this is a mish mash of cover versions and Jim Steinman cast offs with a dis-jointed feel but who cares because it still works.
Here's my take on the songs:
Track 1 - The Monster Is Loose
A great opener written by Desmond Childs, Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) and John 5 (ex Marilyn Manson amongst others) and it is probably the heaviest song on the album with brash guitars and great vocals. Nu Metal genre with a grungy feel. The lyrics are a challenge laid down to the listener, fans & critics alike The monster is loose and now you have to chose. Its as though BOOH 3 is the Monster and the listener is challenged to chose if it is worthy and in my view it is.
Track 2 Blind As A Bat
Slow build up that explodes into a great chorus. Six minutes long. Shouts defiance. A great Meat Loaf song and vocals.
Track 3 Its All Coming Back for Me
Another Steinman classic which first appeared on Pandoras Box album, Original Sin released in 1989. Was also a world wide hit for Celine Dion in 1996.
The first duet on the album with Marion Raven. Superb lyrics and brilliant chorus. The singing from both artists is very pure and it was constant listening of this song which really switched me on to this album and therefore enabled me to enjoy the whole of the album. This would make a great live song.
Track 4 Bad For Good
First appeared on Steinmans 1981 album, Bad for Good. This is a great song and outstanding performance and the fact it is a cover version does not detract from its greatness. This is a classic Steinman/Meat Loaf song that would grace any Bat out of Hell album. Brian May stars on this album and his unmistakable guitar sound kicks in immediately and is there throughout the song and I feel this certainly added to it. I thought it would be difficult to better Steinmans
Track 5 Cry Over Me
A tear jerking, power ballad written by Dianne Warren that builds to a crescendo. Meats vocals are very strong in this song and he delivers a superb, passionate performance.
Track 6 - In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King
Another Steinman classic originally written for the Batman musical. Very dark title with a gothic feel to the music. Big orchestral event. Meats singing is very aggressive in this song.
Track 7 Monstro
A 98 second piece that you could be forgiven for thinking was classic Steinman. The music sounds like something written for The Omen with a gentle opening then huge build up before it suddenly stops when you are hoping it would go on for 12 minutes. Haunting. Still a great addition to the album even if it doesnt conform to the usual 7 minute plus epic.
Track 8 Alive
All about defiance and yet another track with great lyrics. Could be a song about Meat Loafs life and another song with a great chorus. Superb
Track 9 If God Could Talk
Another ballad. Meat Loaf singing passionately about the angst of a break up with, yet again, great lyrics.
Track 10 If It Aint Broke, Break It
My least favourite track and it appears a little out of place (although probably because the rest is so good). Surprisingly written by Steinman but doesnt come across like Steniman/Meat Loaf songs usually do. A bit samey all the way through with repeats of the chorus everywhere.
Track 11 What About Love?
Duet with Patti Russo (who toured with Meat Loaf 1993-2005) and you could be mistaken for thinking this is a Steinman song but it isnt. Great lyrics and once again, fantastic vocals. A real power ballad that builds up to a crescendo. Always reminds me of Paradise By The Dashboard Light.
Track 12 Seize The Night
Another Steinman epic of ten minutes duration and the type of song that demands inclusion and defines a Meat Loaf album. Orchestral start with good build up then explodes into the chorus and beyond. Great song.
Track 13 The Future Aint What It Used To Be
Another Steinman track from the Pandoras Box album, Original Sin. The third duet on the album with Jennifer Hudson (of American Idol fame) and an eight minute epic. Starts slowly and builds up. The vocals are very strong and Jennifer Hudson out Meat Loafs Meat Loaf!! She puts in a very strong performance as does Meat. Another song whose lyrics are very apt and could have been written about Meat Loaf and his troubles over the years.
Track 14 Cry to Heaven
The 7th Steinman song on the album but not the strongest although I feel it would have been better suited to being in the middle of the album. Another epic ballad.
The record breaking enigma has returned to enlighten us with the next exciting instalment in the adventure entitled, Bat Out Of Hell. Delightfully naming this episode, The Monster Is Loose, the Loaf allows us to drum up the right kind of Meat mood before entering the vault of ear drum bleeding, nightmare enticing and bone shuddering rock.
Since shedding his signature long hair and frilly shirt, the chubby man of rock and roll has entered a period in his life where he now resembles a South Western train driver rather than a God like legend in music. It is in no doubt at all that this being approaching his sixtieth birthday can still cut the vinyl, yet the entertainment value since the first in the trilogy nearly 30 years ago has all but faded away. If what you would like to expect is Meat in the days of sweaty duets with Cher and a clean lacy hankie tucked around his little finger, Im afraid you will be gravely disappointed. He has aged, or at least, lets say, matured to the point beyond recognition. His music, dare I say, is still very much in the time of the first BOOH, but there seems to be something missing, to us somethings who remember the first incredible album way back in 1977.
Perhaps it is being declared bankrupt once too many times that his smoothed away his edge almost as if he has been involved in a terrible accident circular saw. Then again, we should admire any great rock artist with mounds of credibility to successfully pull off a dire Celine Dion track, Its All Coming Back To Me Now, and make it his own. This mediocre love song of epic proportions should have been recorded by Meatie first. Given the soft rock kiss of life, he has turned it into a masterful piece of sickly rock mush that can only be allowed if your name starts with Meat and ends in Loaf. I do, however, wonder about the choice of female content. I applaud Miss Raven for her ability not to be upstaged by the only man who could ever out shout Cher, but her approach on this track is more the whimsical attributes of that girl from Deacon Blue than a woman with Bonnie Tyler vocals.
We know, from previous experience that Mr Loaf is the master of track titles. It is the greatest gift any artist can have. Despite the tracks all written by old Velcro-ed veteran Jim Steinman as well as a whole host of who the hell are theys? These titles would have been wasted on anyone else. We can forgive them for presenting us with such ditties as In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King, and The Future Aint What It Used To Be, but if it werent for these amusing titles, we would never been able to experience the sounds and smells of an over weight, desperate, heart attack inducing rock love machine who seemed to attract the most beautiful women in the world for no apparent reason.
The sheer angst of Cry Over Me, is almost too much to bear and I start to wonder what sort of audience who Meat Loaf is trying to appeal to nowadays. I guess the first niche who springs to mind is us thirty/forty somethings who adored (and were young enough to) the first 77 hit, but I wonder who else. For the want of making better sense, he is now too much rock for even metal fans to enjoy. We dont want to hear him still in pain from a broken heart thirty years after the first. What we probably want to do is actually dig out the first anthem and listen to that instead.
The disorganised collection of wailing guitars featured in In The Land Of The Pig somehow needs to be categorised but I dont know where. Its evil, thunderous and shows Mr Loaf in a truly bad mood. Who ever cut him up at the lights on the way to the studio that day surely gets to feel the wrath of Meatie throughout this track. If this song isnt the one that brings on an angina attack on stage then I dont know what will. What I did feel was a come back to the good old days of Modern Girl, was the middle of the album track Alive. (It would seem that on every album, the middle track is always the best, no matter what artist of what genre, try it out) In this track, we feel the same climbing a mountain severity but in Loaf style. It is complete with ELO sounding backing vocals and crescendos of cymbals and drums. Enter Cher, its your moment girl. If we close our eyes for a brief moment, we can see him, hair over face and in need of an ambulance. In Alive, he proves to us with out a doubt that that Meat Loaf we loved then, it still, very much alive.
It is not long before we are plunged back into suicidal mode in If God Could Talk, (which Im sure given half the chance, he would, but he seems to be constantly gagged these days.) In this simple, leg waving rock ballad, he gives us such soul destroying lines as dont look back at all the memories, the best of times, the mess you made of me (it brings back a whole string of ex boyfriends to me) so dont be surprised if you find your mind wondering back to all the hearts you broke in your youth. Its best to have a Girls Aloud album on standby just in case
In the best Meat Loaf tradition, there is nothing here that will remind you of anyone else on a musical scale. Creating a genre all of his own thirty years ago, we still cant pigeon hole him in anywhere. In If It Aint Broke, Break It, he appears to be throwing together a whole host of trumpets, funky beats and distorted vocals (taking a leaf out of Chers book here) but there is one thing I would like to mention here My Loaf, only Billy Idol could get away with Cyberpunk. Its best to leave genres where you left them, let alone chuck a dozen of them up in the air and see where they land. Theres a great danger here of Meat Loaf sounding more like a desperate Tom Jones trying to keep up with a generation young enough to be his grandchildren.
The fair Patti Russo makes a welcoming appearance in What About Love, which is a quick return to sweats ville again, which is warmly groped. Its pretty and tuneful and even features tinkling bells and notes on a piano that weve heard of. A magical piece that takes us straight back to the days of Meat Loaf resembling Jack Blacks twin brother (if he had one)
What is unmistakeable about this album is its epic scale. Its grander than the Dorchester Hotel and more significant than Prince William's passing out parade, feel the tingles run up and down your arm hairs and feel glad to have ears. Even though there are some tracks that let not just Meat Loaf down but the entire human race, there will be some hidden surprises to look forward to. It is these little pieces of strange quality that will allow you to breath a sigh of relief. Mr Loaf is all right, he is just having a bad shirt day
There isnt anything, however, that gives out the turn it up, factor even though those words are seen on the last page of the inner sleeve before the credits (..Id like to thank my Goldfish ) There will be moments when the skip button will be pushed. I wonder if Meat Loaf has come to the end of this mammoth sized adventure. I hope, for his sake, he doesnt do anything more here and moves onto something else. When you look back at some of the great records he has produced over the years, it isnt hard to see that he has probably had his day. This whole feature length saga of the heart and soul of Mr Loaf that has been presented to us as Bat Out Of Hell, has been a joy and a pain. We have danced, laughed and cried more times than we care to remember at each passing track like a scene in a beloved movie, after all, there isnt many records that come complete with its own epilogue.
Which brings me round in full circle, and its this minor track Cry To Heaven, that we witness perhaps the very final closing moments of this thirty year long story. Its Celtic manner is calming and serene. Angelic voices sing softly, lulling the listener to sleep. Perhaps the very point of this track is its title. No more Hell for the Loaf, hes on his way to the white and pink fluffy clouds at long last (in the story that is, not in real life!)
Here we end the brain draining, Earth shattering journey in which we havent got a clue how it started off in the first place, yet it doesnt matter. Mr Loaf is okay now .
He appears in Tenacious D as Jack Black's dad.
The Monster Is Loose
Blind As A Bat
Its Al Coming Back To Me Now
Bad For Good
Cry Over Me
In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King
If God Could Talk
If It Aint Broke Break It
What About Love
Seize The Night
The Future Aint What It Used To Be
Cry To Heaven
Mercury records Ltd
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1977 saw the start of possibly the most grandiose rock trilogy in the history of music, the Bat Out Of Hell series. Almost 30 years later and Marvin Lee Aday - better known to most as Meat Loaf - is back with the third and final instalment in the trilogy, Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose. Having split with former producer/writer Jim Steinman - the man lorded by many as the key to the series previous success - after a lengthy court battle over the rights to the series naming rights, Meat Loaf has dragged aboard Desmon Child as replacement on production duties; but one thing remains evident throughout - the shadow of Steinman looms large over BOOHIIIs 14 tracks, serving notice as to just how big a part he played in the staggering successes of parts 1 and 2.
What made the first two Bat albums such staggering successes was the fact that they were such sporadically ridiculous packages, moulding together tracks many others wouldnt dare to do, intentionally poking fun at the ungodly bombastic nature of it all. The likes of I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Wont Do That) defined who Meat Loaf was, a man for whom the word boundaries didnt exist; for his music - in particular the two Bat outings - transcended any such borders, mixing the ridiculous with the magical to make for two of the finest rock albums ever made. In fact, a line from Seize The Night best remarks as regards the discs intentions let your visions be outrageous, for that was how it was, anything that could be done was done.
Bat Out Of Hell III is a patchwork collection of old Steinman moments, intended Batman musical songs, and other assorted Loaf ditties. Lacking the cohesiveness of the first two Bat outings, the songs on III stand up as their own, with the likes of Bad For Good and Cry Over Me portraying the overtly-theatrical sound weve come to expand from Mr Aday. Its the kind of bombastic outing you can imagine playing out in a dark abandoned mansion, such is the grandeur behind the songs, and whilst Steinman may be long gone, Meats calling up of the likes of Brian May and Steve Vie give a more rounded off-the-wall feel to the musical aspects of the disc, allowing it to forgoe the boundaries of modern rock and play out as a made-for-opera musical.
Power ballads are plentiful; Cry Over Me and Its All Coming Back To Me Now - previously a hit for Canadian squealer Celine Dion - hark back to rocks grand heyday, and vocally portray a man on top form, eradicating any lingering memories of his 2003 dud Couldnt Have Said It Better album. Its often said that Meat Loafs success has been sparse aside from the Bat trilogy - and its a fair point, as these sound fuller, grander, and substantially more excessive in virtually all respects. Alive is a drive-by classic in waiting, a breezy ode to old Loaf, it sees the big man pump out lines like Im still alive with the conviction of old. Seize The Night and Cry To Heaven provide a couple of old Steinman moments, and whilst many will ask as to why such tracks are being regurgitated to this day, the bombastic pomp that sees them stand out should cover any such questions.
The rockers also rock far harder than before, with title track The Monsters Loose kicking like something out of the early 00s nu-metal fad; and whilst they seem slightly out of place amongst a selection of such fine operatic stadium moments, they portray the ol adage of a dog with plenty of fight left in him. If God Could Talk is another slow builder, gently coupling piano with Mr Loafs trademark pipes for a track that builds and builds to a typically Meat chorus as he cries to us to run away, and find another life. What About Love is the crooning moment, another destined for a future driving classics CD, it sees Meat duet with Patti Russo (who also gives vocals elsewhere on the album), whilst The Future Aint What It Used To Be is a slightly rockier coupling with former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson,
The musical-esque bombast makes itself most evident on Seize The Night; a nine-minute long Steinman number, its opening is reminiscent of something youd hear on The Phantom Of The Opera, such is its dramatic overbearing feel. In fact, the prominence of piano in nearly all of the discs 14 tracks gives much to the grandly elaborate feel, as the tracks build from delicate intros to soaring chorus and in some instances, particularly interesting bridges - courtesy of May, Vai et al. The aforementioned Jennifer Hudson and Patti Russo add a much needed twist to their respective moments, continuing the big mans tradition of male/female duets on his most popular moments - and in both cases, it works particularly well.
Its testament to Marvin Lee Aday that nearly 30 years on from the original Bat Out Of Hell album, he can still muster the strength to forgoe the lack of Steinman influence and produce an album that stands head and shoulders above anything else released this year. Vocally its big, musically its ridiculously vast, and as an overall package its possibly his finest outing in 13 years. Kudos big man.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Monster Is Loose
2 Blind As A Bat
3 It's All Coming Back To Me Now - Meat Loaf, Marion Raven
4 Bad For Good
5 Cry Over Me
6 In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher is King
9 If God Could Talk
10 If It Aint Broke Break It
11 What About Love - Meat Loaf, Patti Russo
12 Seize The Night
13 The Future Ain't What It Used To Be - Meat Loaf, Jennifer Hudson
14 Cry To Heaven