Bat Out Of Hell III:
The Monster Is Loose

Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf’s original Bat Out Of Hell album marked a seminal moment in my teenage years. Not only was it an album I loved (and still love), but seeing Mr. Loaf and company was the first ever rock concert I attended. Some 15 years later, Meat Loaf and Bat songwriter Jim Steinman reconvened in what was a sign of hell freezing over (the Eagles had nothing on this reunion) for Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, and we were all treated once again to the bombast and passion (not to mention the single, “I Would Do Anything For Love”) that was (and is) this duo’s music. Now here we all are, some 13 years later, and Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose is released, and this new Bat is as wholly different from its predecessors as it could be.

Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf have grown through a tumultuous partnership over the years. In fact, just recently these guys settled a lawsuit over the Bat Out Of Hell moniker. Not surprisingly this latest and final Bat features only seven Steinman songs out of 14 and a new producer. I knew this disc would be different, but I like to judge a thing for what it is, not for what it could, should, or might have been. Or at least I try to.

The opening title track, a seven minute-plus exercise penned by Nikki Sixx (Motley Crew), John 5 (Marilyn Manson), and Desmond Child starts out pretty good, but peters out someplace in the middle (unlike the first Bat record, which opens with a kick-ass title song, and Bat II with “I Would Do Anything For Love.” There I go comparing!). There’s the Steinman oldie “It’s All Coming Back To Me,” being touted as the single (and video). You might recall this one being a hit for the water-logged, Vegas icon Celine Dion (Which makes me wonder if Steinman has contributed only seven songs, why is this insipid retread included on this record?). There’s an interesting instrumental by Desmond Child (un-credited), the obligatory Diane Warren track, and a few middle-of-the-album numbers, also written by Child and other songwriters, which show-off Meat’s vocals and Child’s overblown production.

For me, the non-Steinman standouts (I’ll get them in a bit) are “Bad For Good” (written by James Michael and Child) and “What About Love”. With its changing time signature and featured vocals by Patti Russo, this Desmond Child ditty is about as good as this CD gets. As for the rest of the Steinman songs (ok, I’ll admit I was looking out for these more then any others). “Bad For Good” has some great guitar work from Brian May (yes, that Brian May!), but lyrically the song lacks Steinman’s humorous wordplay. “In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King” with Steve Vai and Kenny Aronoff is kinda fun (at least the title is), but for me the last two songs, “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be” and “Cry to Heaven,” are the best from Steinman here. In fact, the simple “Cry” is very good, harkening back to songs like “Heaven Can Wait” from the primal Bat Out Of Hell.

While Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose is a decent CD, I feel it’s not a Bat album. There are those three or four tunes in the middle of the CD that simply do not work, and way too much strings substituting for drama in the overall production…is this the usual Desmond Child ‘touch’? When Child leaves the production alone, as he does thankfully on the last two songs (maybe Steinman locked Child in a closet when they recorded them) and on “Bad for Good” then the majesty and yes, the pomposity that is Meat Loaf truly comes through. Taken as a trilogy with the other two Bat albums (which we must do when one titles an album Bat Out Of Hell!), Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose is truly the weakest of the trio. Without the direction of Steinman’s songs, this bat’s wing span has been clipped. It can’t fly as high or see as well at night. Pick the metaphor that works best for you, but just don’t listen to Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose in the same sitting as Bat Out Of Hell or Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell. You’ll be surely disappointed.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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