Review Summary: Complete harmony in the abandon of 'hair rocking'3 of 3 thought this review was well written
The 90’s weren’t kind on any metal band. When grunge was ushered in at the turn of the century, all of a sudden the decision to wear a Van Halen t-shirt and have poodle hair wasn’t cool (it’s alarming that at some point though, this was considered ‘cool’), making pretty much all bands to come out of the 80’s look redundant. Some made it through- Bon Jovi ditched any slightest attempt at being ‘metal’ and made pop and adult contemporary music to remain afloat, and bands in the ilk of Guns N Roses and Metallica maintained a fairly substantial fan base that crossed over into ‘grunge’ territory. And then there was Skid Row, a band who rocketed to fame in the 80’s with big ballads and stupid hair and then out of nowhere slammed through the doors with an album that connected with metal and alternative fans in Slave to the Grind. While they waited out for a few years to release another album, it seemed these audiences then moved to ‘post-grunge’, decidedly a dishonest and unoriginal fad, and Subhuman Race came out, a whopping big black sheep on the musical market filled with heavy grooves and angered lyricism.
What made Subhuman Race into what it was were the years of infighting and dealing with the inflated ego that was Sebastian Bach. While Slave to the Grind saw unequitable fame and fortune for the band, Bach’s own ambitions grew ever higher and stronger while his band mates tried to maintain their cred as a genuine metal band. To them, anger was as natural as breathing, reflected through the groovy metallic music. My Enemy opens the album on a punchy, driving riff that can burn faces and makes sure to take no prisoners- if you like your music loud and fast, this is exactly for you. Bonehead blisters along in similar style, drenched in a hardcore punk sandpaper skin, making you forget that this is the same band that wrote Wasted Time or I Remember You. The anger continually pumps through their veins and doesn’t waste time trying to pull along casual fans- earlier touring with Pantera and Alice In Chains may have also proved an influence, with the speed and aggression being dialled up to 11 on pretty much all tracks.
That being said though, when the album resorts to filler to stuff its guts, it really lies back on it. Firesign is a soft piece of nonsense that goes nowhere despite a tactile and in your face opening. Beat Yourself Blind sounds like it could have easily been copied off of an earlier track with some new lyrics improvised over the top. Even the title track proves to be one of the least memorable, although its self-stylised aggression and kick is one of the best examples on the album. Simply put, even though Skid Row’s writing benefits from a little in-fighting, it also causes the music to suffer greatly- for every great Frozen, Eileen and Iron Will on the album that blast it out of the stratosphere, it is weighed down by the amount of faceless groove metal clones that sit around waiting to go next, like grots at a doctors office. As if that wasn’t enough either, when Bach decides to move away from the barrelling yell he utilizes throughout the album to his usual ear-piercing scream, it doesn’t seem to match the backing track- just listen to something like My Enemy to hear his falsetto ruin a fairly amazing chorus. It’s a small complaint, but small complaints are what ultimately fail this album.
It’s overlong, it’s wrought with inconsistency and it sounds like a bunch of Alice In Chains and Pantera covers, but what it does have is balls- huge ones at that. When it succeeds, it succeeds in a blaze of glory, and when it doesn’t, it proves highly disappointing and unjust. Yet for everything that is wrong on this album (which trust me, is loads), there’s an endearing attitude to the sneering and aggressive attitude employed throughout. It’s not going to turn up on any best of lists in the near future, but if you want proof positive that Skid Row were more than just faceless hair jokie’s, than Subhuman Race is the album to go to.