Bach, Sebastian - Angel down 3.5/5

Reviewed: 1-11-08


1. Angel down
2. You don't understand
3. Back in the saddle
4. (Love is) A bitchslap
5. Stuck inside
6. American metalhead
7. Negative light
8. Live and die
9. By your side
10. Our love is a lie
11. Take you down with me
12. Stabbin' daggers
13. You bring me down
14. Falling into you

Like many metalheads, I had long since given up on Sebastian Bach. While I appreciated the man's work in Skid Row (don't laugh, they were perhaps the best hair metal band ever), whatever credibility he once had has been systematically dismantled by a series of career moves that range from questionable to desperate to downright embarrassing. In recent years, Bach has gone from exalted rock star to failed VH-1 veejay, reality television show personality, 'Gilmore Girls' guest star, and celebrity rap contestant. To add insult to injury, he has assumed the role of unofficial mouthpiece for the decidedly wacko Axl Rose, and has used every opportunity to parlay his friendship with Axl into career advancement for himself. The cherry on the ice cream sundae is that Bach's voice appears shot, judging from his hopelessly off-key performance I witnessed at the 2005 installment of the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany. Without question, I had written off the Baz once and for all.

But then I heard that the legendary Roy Z had signed on to produce Bach's new solo CD as his latest reclamation project. A master at bringing washed-up singers (e.g., Dickinson, Halford, Rock) back from the dead to both artistic and commercial viability, Roy Z instantly raised the legitimacy quotient of this project tenfold. Also, Bach has prudently surrounded himself with a constellation of crazy-talented musicians, including Bobby Jarzombek on drums, Steve DiGiorgio on bass, and Mike Chlasciak on guitars. On a whim, and more out of morbid curiosity than anything else, I decided to give 'Angel down' a shot. Much to my surprise, this CD is a rock-solid affair that reaffirms Roy Z's creative genius and will go a long way towards restoring Bach's credibility in the metal world.

The best single-word description for this CD is versatility. 'Angel down' transitions seamlessly from aggro groovy bruisers (the title track, "Negative light") to sleazy hard rock numbers ("Love is a bitchslap") to Sabbath worship ("You bring me down") to poignant balladry ("By your side", "Falling into you") to semi European power metal ("You don't understand"). The diversity, which is likely attributable to the multiplicity of songwriters involved, may cause the CD to seem incohesive. Nonetheless, the mixing and matching of styles works effectively because Bach, Roy Z & Co. execute each of them so well. Not only is each writer sticking to his core competency, but Bach's voice (perhaps with the aid of studio trickery) adapts perfectly to fit each style, from harsh screams to soothing crooning to a powerful clean mid-range. Highlights are many. The Roy Z-penned "You don't understand" is a legitimate song-of-the-year candidate, sounding like something from 'Accident of birth' crossed with prime Skid Row at their hookiest and bounciest. "American metalhead" (recycled from Chlasciak's dire Painmuseum project) cleverly reworks the "Balls to the wall" riff and sports a killer vocal. "Our love is a lie" sounds like a long-lost track from the 'Slave to the grind' sessions. And go ahead and issue me my Poseurs of America membership card now, but both ballads are outstanding. Of the 14 cuts on display, only the title track (which opens the record) fails to impress, with its boring Biohazard groove and Bach's tuneless caterwauling. I also could have lived without the pointless vocal contributions of perennially untalented Axl on 3 tracks, whose inclusion appears motivated solely to squeeze out a few more CD sales from Guns 'n' Roses fans who still salivate for the release of the mythical 'Chinese democracy'.

Ultimately, the average power metal listener may not find much of interest here. However, 'Angel down' is highly recommended to fans of vintage Skid Row or Roy Z productions and to all who appreciate quality songwriting covering a broad range of the heavy metal and 80s hard rock spectrum.




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