Bat Out Of Hell III:
The Monster Is Loose
Meat Loaf’s original Bat Out Of Hell album marked a
seminal moment in my teenage years. Not only was it an album I loved (and still
love), but seeing Mr. Loaf and company was the first ever rock concert I attended.
Some 15 years later, Meat Loaf and Bat songwriter Jim Steinman
reconvened in what was a sign of hell freezing over (the Eagles had nothing
on this reunion) for Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, and
we were all treated once again to the bombast and passion (not to mention the
single, “I Would Do Anything For Love”) that was (and is) this duo’s
music. Now here we all are, some 13 years later, and Bat Out Of Hell
III: The Monster Is Loose is released, and this new Bat is
as wholly different from its predecessors as it could be.
Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf have grown through a tumultuous partnership over
the years. In fact, just recently these guys settled a lawsuit over the Bat
Out Of Hell moniker. Not surprisingly this latest and final Bat features
only seven Steinman songs out of 14 and a new producer. I knew this disc would
be different, but I like to judge a thing for what it is, not for what it could,
should, or might have been. Or at least I try to.
The opening title track, a seven minute-plus exercise penned by Nikki Sixx
(Motley Crew), John 5 (Marilyn Manson), and Desmond Child starts out pretty
good, but peters out someplace in the middle (unlike the first Bat record, which
opens with a kick-ass title song, and Bat II with “I Would Do Anything
For Love.” There I go comparing!). There’s the Steinman oldie “It’s
All Coming Back To Me,” being touted as the single (and video). You might
recall this one being a hit for the water-logged, Vegas icon Celine Dion (Which
makes me wonder if Steinman has contributed only seven songs, why is this insipid
retread included on this record?). There’s an interesting instrumental
by Desmond Child (un-credited), the obligatory Diane Warren track, and a few
middle-of-the-album numbers, also written by Child and other songwriters, which
show-off Meat’s vocals and Child’s overblown production.
For me, the non-Steinman standouts (I’ll get them in a bit) are “Bad
For Good” (written by James Michael and Child) and “What About Love”.
With its changing time signature and featured vocals by Patti Russo, this Desmond
Child ditty is about as good as this CD gets. As for the rest of the Steinman
songs (ok, I’ll admit I was looking out for these more then any others).
“Bad For Good” has some great guitar work from Brian May (yes, that
Brian May!), but lyrically the song lacks Steinman’s humorous wordplay.
“In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King” with Steve Vai and
Kenny Aronoff is kinda fun (at least the title is), but for me the last two
songs, “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be” and “Cry
to Heaven,” are the best from Steinman here. In fact, the simple “Cry”
is very good, harkening back to songs like “Heaven Can Wait” from
the primal Bat Out Of Hell.
While Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose is a decent
CD, I feel it’s not a Bat album. There are those three
or four tunes in the middle of the CD that simply do not work, and way too much
strings substituting for drama in the overall production…is this the usual
Desmond Child ‘touch’? When Child leaves the production alone, as
he does thankfully on the last two songs (maybe Steinman locked Child in a closet
when they recorded them) and on “Bad for Good” then the majesty
and yes, the pomposity that is Meat Loaf truly comes through. Taken as a trilogy
with the other two Bat albums (which we must do when one titles
an album Bat Out Of Hell!), Bat Out Of Hell III: The
Monster Is Loose is truly the weakest of the trio. Without the direction
of Steinman’s songs, this bat’s wing span has been clipped. It can’t
fly as high or see as well at night. Pick the metaphor that works best for you,
but just don’t listen to Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose
in the same sitting as Bat Out Of Hell or Bat Out Of
Hell II: Back Into Hell. You’ll be surely disappointed.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.