If metal is dead, someone forgot to tell Sebastian Bach. Although the title of his latest disc may be Angel Down, one song sums up the true essence of the former Skid Row screamer: "American Metalhead." Fans of true old-school metal (i.e., Judas Priest, Iron Maiden) as well as those who see no irony in the documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot will find much to recommend Angel Down, Bach's first solo record in eight years. For Skid Row devotees, Angel Down is closer to the dark edge of Slave to the Grind than Skid Row's more pop-metal self-titled debut. Notable, especially on the title track, is producer Roy Z's touch, creating the same crisp, ultra-musical and modern NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) style characterizing albums by Rob Halford, clearly one of Bach's idols. In fact, Z — along with Bach guitarist "Metal" Mike Chlasciak and drummer Bobby Jarzombek — were members of Halford's band, so the vibe is no coincidence.
The album's strongest tracks include the power-metal onslaught of "Negative Light," the creative "Stabbing Daggers" and the dual lead guitars and melodic choruses of 'You Don't Understand." While much hoopla has been made over Axl Rose's guest vocals on three songs, Bach doesn't need to ride on his friend's coattails for attention. And if Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle' is a trite cover choice, Axl's iconic love-'em-or-hate-'em vocals still manage to shine on the song.
Bach, whose multi-hyphenate career also includes the stage and small screen, is an irrepressible force, an excellent quality in a frontman. Angel Down certainly contains its share of average songwriting. And with 14 songs that close in on an hour, it may be too long for ADD metalheads. But Bach's stellar vocals and no-holds-barred passion are still enough to allow Angel Down to soar.
Katherine Turman writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org