Sebastian Bach is a fairly unpredictable guy. You never know when he’ll be in the media stirring up controversy, you never know what topic it is he may be stirring up, and you never know if his next album will be as good as the last one. But there is one undeniable fact; he has quite the set of pipes.
Who can forget the first time they heard Skid Row, unarguably the heaviest band to be coined “hair metal,” mostly because of Sebastian’s image as a long blond haired pretty boy with a high singing voice. No one really paid attention to the fact that the musicians behind him, including Scotti Hill, Rachel Bolan, Dave “The Snake” Sabo and Rob Affuso were some of the heaviest sounding musicians going in the late 80’s, but it was Sebastian’s shriek, then in its prime, that gained them notoriety.
Since being fired from Skid Row, Sebastian has been quite active, specifically in the past ten or so years since his 2007 album Angel Down (his first solo album of all new and original material save for one Aerosmith cover.) The album was heavier than I think anyone would have expected and featured “Metal” Mike Chlasciak on guitar, famous for his work with Rob Halford’s solo stuff. While I enjoyed the album, it wasn’t anything spectacular, which is why when he released Kicking & Screaming in 2011, I was a tad reluctant, but still curious enough to get the album, and I’m glad I did. The super distorted guitar sounds were replaced by a more standard hard rock sound, now featuring Nick Stirling on guitar. The guy is the same age as I am yet has accomplished so much more than I ever could, which just astounds me. Anyway, the album was an improvement, definitely much better than I expected, but due to unfortunate circumstances Nick had to be fired from the band.
Due to Nick’s termination, I was once again reluctant to be excited for Sebastian’s next album, the recently released Give ‘Em Hell, but of course once again I did get it, and once again I’m pleased to say I don’t regret it. Now featuring former Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagen playing bass and guitar on most songs, Sebastian seems to sound more at home than ever. Opening track Hell Inside My Head is a good indication, sounding somewhere between his two previous albums; heavier than Kicking & Screaming but not quite the speaker blowing distortion of Angel Down.
Harmony and All My Friends Are Dead continue the heavy ballsy riffs and verses with melodic choruses, similar to the average structure of a Sebastian Bach song. It’s the fourth track Temptation where the album starts to stand out more. Temptation specifically features John 5 making a guest appearance for the second time on a Sebastian Bach album. Bily Idol guitarist Steve Stevens also appears on three tracks; Push Away, Had Enough and Gun to a Knife Fight.
Had Enough stands out as the albums power ballad, something Sebastian has always been exceptional at, and this track continues that trend. Most musicians from the 80’s (late 80’s, whatever) who still make music always seem to struggle with their ballads, writing them because they feel they have to fill a quota, or so it sounds when listening to them, but I don’t hear that when I listen to Had Enough.
One song on the album I was anxious to hear was Rock n Roll is a Vicious Game, which is a cover of a song by my favourite Canadian band April Wine. I’m not sure how many people remember this, but Sebastian is Canadian, something he was sure to remind the crowd of many times when I saw him open for Guns N’ Roses in early 2010, so it’s no surprise he covered an April Wine song, a band that was rather big in Canada, but rather small anywhere else. I am, however, disappointed with this cover. April Wine made a career of writing songs with different styles; hard rock, soft rock, even pop rock (unfortunately) and anything in between. The original version of Rock n Roll is a Vicious Game has a strong country influence in it, and lead singer Myles Goodwyn was able to put a bit of a twang in his voice to add to that effect that Sebastian just isn’t capable of. The emotion is there for Sebastian, but that isn’t enough to make this song anywhere comparable to the original. It’s just not in his voice.
The album does continue to rock our ear drums with songs like Dominator and Disengaged, which are some very strong moments for the album. This can’t be said for Taking Back Tomorrow which is the albums biggest dud. Any song that references Amanda Bynes while trying to sound serious is bound to fail. It just couldn’t regain itself to be a credible moment on the album and the album could have seriously done without it.
I find Sebastian albums always end quite well, typically the end on a more melodic and slower track that borders on being a ballad. Actually Kicking & Screaming DID end with a ballad when you don’t include the bonus track(s). This time around Give ‘Em Hell ends with Forget You; not a ballad, not even really a soft song, but an emotional output nonetheless filled with a lot of passionate sounding vocals and strong (but somewhat cliché) lyrics making for one heck of an album closer.
What Give ‘Em Hell lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Some of the songs on the album such as Harmony, Dominator and Push Away stand out more than a lot of Sebastian’s previous songs. Most importantly, he stills has his voice, though he’s lost a bit of it with age, Sebastian Bach can still belt out shrieks comparable to that of what he could do when he was in his 20s. While I’m surprised to admit it, Give ‘Em Hell is one hell of an album.
“Push Away” – It may not be your typical Sebastian Bach solo song; it’s not fast and heavy with spurts of melodic genius. Rather the song is slow and powerful with some of the best vocals on the album and the best sounding music written and recorded on the album. It best shows that Sebastian is still serious about writing music and isn’t only doing this as a means to make more money.
8 (Out of 10)
|“Hell Inside My Head”||3:57|
|“All My Friends Are Dead”||4:38|
|“Gun To A Knife Fight”||4:04|
|“Rock N Roll Is A Vicious Game (April Wine cover)”||4:01|
|“Taking Back Tomorrow”||4:01|