Review Summary: Substandard?
Skid Row is an American rock band which received critical and commercial success during the late 80s and early 90s. Slave to the Grind, the band second release, is considered their best release and it’s generally considered one of the best metal albums of the early 90s. This album is a departure from their pop rock debut, focusing on a heavier metal sound, at times even bordering on speed metal. Skid Row followed it up with Subhuman Race in 1995.
Despite the success of their previous album, the band waited four years to record and release its follow up, and the musical scene by then had changed. The hair metal movement was death and buried by then, and the days of heavy metal ruling the airways had passed. Skid Row changed with the times and Subhuman Race had a more alternative metal style. This album is also the last to feature singer Sebastian Bach and drummer Rob Affuso.
The album charted at number 35 on the billboard 200, a large decline from its predecessor which debuted at number 1. Despite that, the album received generally positive reviews and eventually got certified gold.
The album is inconsistent and at times comes off as a bit of a mess. This actually represents the band at the time, as they had already fallen apart before the release but were forced to come in and records the new album. The album also featured Bob Rock as producer for the first time.
‘My Enemy’ is a brilliant opener, featuring a deeper and darker vocal performance from Bach, and a good memorable chorus. The song is heavy and is the closest to the mood of the previous album. The midtempo grunge rocker, ‘Firesign’, follows the opener well with a good chorus and solo, even though it’s not as memorable as the first song.
One of the main problems with the album is that lyrically it’s not as good as their previous albums. Slave to the Grind had consistency in its subject matter, focusing on authority and outcasts. Their debut album was a typical hair metal album, but the songs have those cheesy and juvenile lyrics that fit the music. Subhuman Race has average lyrics and most times Bach seems to be just spitting out random lines and words that just happen to rhyme. ‘Eileen’ is one of the exceptions to this. It follows the story of a mystic, and is one of the most eerie and atmospheric songs the band has recorded.
‘Frozen’, ‘Beat Yourself Blind’ and ‘Bonehead’ are aggressive alternate hard rock songs. Bach gives a great performance especially on the first two songs. ‘Frozen’ is the best song on the album, with a heavy Alice in Chains influence. The chorus is memorable, and it has some of the best lyrics on the album, even though they don’t always make sense.
‘Remains to be seen’ has great guitar work, but lyrically it’s very weak. The title track is a short alternative metal song, with a brilliant screeching guitar solo. The chorus is not really catchy but still good.
‘Into Another’ and ‘Breakin’ Down’ are the ballads of the albums. The former is one of the best songs on the album, the solo is again memorable and the opening riff is also very good. The lyrics are better than most of the album. The latter falls flat though, the song structure is a copy of most ballads of the time and it just doesn’t deliver much of an impact on the listener. Bach gives a good performance on it though.
Skid Row teamed with Johnny Slinger and continued releasing albums, but the band has never been able to break back into the mainstream music scene. They have practically became a bar band. Bach released a couple of albums similar to the Slave to the Grind album in style, but weaker overall. He tours frequently with ‘new’ Guns N’ Roses these days.