Sebastian Bach – Kicking & Screaming (2011)

Posted: September 23, 2011 in Movies

Flashing back to the 80s era of hair metal is always a fun thing to do every now and then. Most of the bands from the genre are dead and buried today, but it was a great time for music. Everyone took a little bite of the apple back then – I don’t care who you are. Somewhere nestled between your Michael Jackson and Wham! albums, you know damn well you had a record of Def Leppard or, at very least, Bon Jovi tucked away.

A few bands from that golden age have even survived the test of time – to varying levels of commercial success – and continue to release albums today, some 20-plus years later. Ratt’s 2010 release Infestation was an easy top ten pick on my list of great albums last year, and several others have followed their footsteps in an attempt to make ‘glam metal’ relevant again.

The latest comeback, of sorts, is from the handsome, devilish, former-Skid Row frontman, Sebastian Bach. But calling it a ‘comeback’ might be a bit of a stretch. Bach has done everything possible to maintain his relevance in music and pop culture – from reality television to Broadway, even throwing in a few solo albums over the last decade for good measure.

But musically we really haven’t heard anything from the blonde bomber since 2007’s solo effort Angel Down (please don’t mention that awful Oregon Ducks thing from last year – that doesn’t count). As promised by Bach himself last year, though, he’s back (with Kicking & Screaming, slated for a September 27th release) and better than ever (well, we’ll just see about that).

One of the most interesting aspects of this album coming in was Bach’s decision to add the prodigal Nick Sterling to the band on guitar. Sterling, a self-taught virtuoso has played with quite a few famous rock musicians and bands, including Aerosmith, Kid Rock, Cheap Trick, Cinderella, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Peter Frampton, Bachman–Turner Overdrive, Jackyl, Guns N’ Roses and others – most of this before turning 20 years of age.

Securing talent like that had me optimistic for this release, for if anyone had the stones to revive the scene, it’s Bach. His energy and ass-kicking attitude defines what metal used to be, and the hope of bringing back some of that swagger placed a huge ray of light on this release.

But hold on to your hats. There’s a storm a-brewin’…

Kicking & Screaming opens with the title track, which has already been released to rock radio. It’s a strong offering any way you slice it, but it is never a good sign when you fill the bucket up with the very first track. I wondered why Bach didn’t follow normal, modern-day protocol by placing this track third or fourth on the playlist, but enjoyed the energy nonetheless. Nice guitar work was complimented by Bach’s still-strong vocals, and this song just may sell this record.

“My Own Worst Enemy” may be just that for Bach, as the singer dabbles in to ‘modern metalcore’ territory not unlike Avenged Sevenfold and the plethora of bands that sound just like them. Anyone who reads this blog with any sort of frequency knows I’m all for expanding and experimenting – but I will also call a disaster the second I spot it. And this is just that. Bach’s vocals are too grandiose for the monotone-heavy metalcore sound, and while the guitars are trying as hard as they can to keep the track together, they are excessively forced.

Is that a clap of thunder I hear?

One of my favorite modern guitarists – John 5 – makes a guest appearance on “Tunnelvision,” which confused me a bit. If you make a big deal about hiring a new ‘guitar-god-to-be,’ why in the hell would you bring on a guest guitarist to steal the credit. Honestly, there isn’t anything overly impressive about the guitar work here anyway. Nothing I haven’t heard John 5 do ten times better a hundred other times.

It’s starting to sprinkle a little. I can feel it.

The rain lets up for “Dance On Your Grave,” a pounding mother-fucker of a track that is heavy in bass and guitar crunch, and hints at Skid Row’s “Piece Of Me” (which was also a great track). Bach puts all the elements together perfectly here. When he chooses to punch you in the mouth with a great metal song, it’s obvious he can still knock your jaw loose. I’m not going to take of my raincoat just yet, but I’m at least unhooking the buttons.

“Caught In A Dream” finds Bach and the band in unfamiliar territory once again, but they handle it much better than before. I was instantly reminded of Papa Roach and Nickelback with the song’s modern-rock style, but it wasn’t really that bad. The guitar work was at its best so far here, and even though we didn’t get the signature Bach vocal treatment, I’m still taking the umbrella down – but watching the skies with trepidation.

With good reason, I might add. The break in the storm was only temporary. “As Long As I Got The Music” and “I’m Alive”, when played back-to-back”, are a combined hailstorm of awfulness, with their psuedo-ballad structure and lack of depth. Under normal circumstances, I might take a different perspective – but we’re talking about the same guy that penned “I Remember You,” “Wasted Time” and “18 and Life”. I hold Bach to a higher standard than this, and these two attempts couldn’t get down the storm drain fast enough…

“Dirty Power” is another break in the clouds – the kind that has you going out and stomping in puddles and trudging through the mud. It’s gritty and dirty, and pounds relentlessly away verse by verse. It was trying to sneak in a few ‘nu-metal’ hints along the way, but thankfully they were easily ignored. If you focus on the ‘heavy’ here, you won’t be disappointed. Same goes for “Live The Life.” It’s decent vocally, and musically has enough to keep you engaged. There’s a little bit of blues-flavor injected, but not too much to take it off course. A nice tempo change in the last minute adds a nice finishing touch to what may have been the best song on the album.

Lightning fills the sky and the wind howls, as this storm is back with a vengeance. “Dream Forever” might just be the worst attempt at a metal ballad I’ve ever heard – had I decided to finish it. The horror ended for me at the 1:45 mark, at which I skipped ahead to the next track. I’m sure it had a guitar solo and a message that I didn’t get the chance to experience, but I’ve adamantly followed the mantra of ‘fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me’…

Tornado sirens ring through the air as we get the one track that had a chance to be good, but failed. “One Good Reason” started with everything in place: good metal vibe, Bach screaming his guts out, and everything else necessary. Then we get a chorus that sounds like Oasis on methamphetamine, and the track falls apart painfully. Clunky solos, disheveled drum patterns, and an ending that went on easily sixty seconds too long. I would suggest ignoring Bach’s final few bars of vocals, or the tornado might just sweep you away.

Hurricane levels are reached during “Lost In The Light.” I’m not even sure at this point if Bach is even in the studio anymore, as if these are his vocals, he has obviously tired over the course of the session. Channeling the instrumentals from Disturbed is never a good idea, no matter how late in the album you are or how dry the idea tank has run. As far as this new ‘guitar god,’ you can color me unimpressed. There was really not much that made me even notice him along the way. So much for the hype.

I laughed a bit when I saw the name of the final track “Wishin'”, as I was really wishing the last track was the end of all this, but Bach treated us with five more minutes of mediocrity in ballad form. Honestly, it’s probably the best ballad of the bunch on this disc, but that’s not really saying a whole hell of a lot.

The most devastating fact of this storm isn’t what it did to me – I’ve weathered worse. I personally don’t mind getting rained on or hunting down my garbage cans after weather this bad. The true damage comes in the form of what this will mean for the future of the once-unstoppable singer. Knowing his personality, though, I think Sebastian Bach will bounce back from this relatively unscathed. He’s scratched and clawed his way all his life, so don’t expect him to go away quietly. If he does go away – as the album hints at – he’ll be ‘kicking and screaming’the entire time…


01. Kicking & Screaming
02. My Own Worst Enemy
03. Tunnelvision (feat. John 5)
04. Dance On Your Grave
05. Caught In A Dream
06. As Long As I Got The Music
07. I’m Alive
08. Dirty Power
09. Live The Life
10. Dream Forever
11. One Good Reason
12. Lost In The Night
13. Wishin’

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