Skid Row’s self-titled first album was released in the year 1989, around the time where the popularity of hair metal was dwindling more and more by the day. The band’s first effort proved to be very successful, giving an edgier and heavier vibe to the glam metal scene that had been going on. In my humble opinion, there could not have been a more perfect album to close out that era. It is probably my favorite glam metal album as well as even one of my favorite albums of all time.
However, the year 1991 would be an even more successful year for Skid Row. With the release of their second album “Slave To The Grind,” they throw away most of their hair metal roots (they show up every once in a while on the album) and crank up the heaviness factor to an all-time high. Typical fun 80’s metal lyrics were replaced with (can you believe it?) serious issues. Everything modern world was skimmed over from resistance to authority to organized religion.
The band’s shift in style is made very apparent in just the first two tracks. “Monkey Business” is a great opening track that incorporates some very heavy guitar riffage. While still maintaining the heavy quality, it also parallels a few aspects that the first album encompassed. The track isn’t too serious, it’s just a KA number with some amazing vocals (as usual) by Sebastian Bach, as well as some honorable guitar work from both Scotti Hill and “Snake” Sabo. The title track “Slave To The Grind” is much more mature in regards to lyrical content, which is essentially a heavy metal version of “Take This Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck (meaning: “The working man is a sucker”). The track is in drop-D tuning and is set at a fast tempo, giving it an overall heaviness that no other song by the band can match. The closest thing I can compare it to is Motley Crüe on speed, but to some people that wouldn’t be giving the song enough credit. “Slave To The Grind,” while not perfect, is a great song that gets my blood pumping every time.
Continuing in the drop-D tradition is “The Threat,” an angry song proclaiming that “the end of sacrifice is a threat to society.” This song, more so than the previous track, sounds a good amount like Motley Crüe, specifically like “Dr. Feelgood.” It has a heavy tone but also a grooving rhythm that feels easygoing in a way.
For those of you worrying when I’m saying that the album is much heavier than the first, don’t fret right away; they did include some of their softer, occasionally ballad-type songs too. Actually, they included three of these types of tracks (“Quicksand Jesus”, “In A Darkened Room”, and “Wasted Time”). “Quicksand Jesus” begins at first like a slower ballad type of song, acoustic guitars and all, but gets heavier as the song progresses. This is a dimension to the song that I really admire. It really shows how much the writing process of songs has expanded since the first album. The song is a great listen that has some emotional depth to it (not to mention some amazing vocal work once again). However, “In A Darkened Room” feels a tiny bit flat overall. It may have one my favorite vocal performance of the album, but as a whole there just isn’t anything that sticks out to me as there are in other songs. “Wasted Time” may be the most somber of the three, as well as the most full-on 80’s power ballad type of the three. I’ve already established on numerous occasions that I love Sebastian Bach’s vocals, so let us just shut up on that matter entirely. It is the longest song on the album (close to six minutes) and while that does show, it does have a large amount of emotion that I appreciate. “Wasted Time” is the last track on the album and it is a decent listen and a good way to close.
“Slave To The Grind” also kicks out some rock tracks that are just pure fun. One example is “Livin’ On A Chain Gang” which is mostly about the major hypocrisies in modern day society. While that sounds relatively touchy and serious, this is yet another song that I’m going to have to compare to Motley Crüe. However, this is more like “Shout At The Devil” Crüe, which was easily the heaviest period during their career. The song has an arena rock feel to it and has some cool guitar work that I found impressive. Another one like this is “Riot Act,” which reminds me of a faster and more upbeat version of “Can’t Stand The Heartache” from their first album. The point the lyrics are trying to get across is primarily “Don’t tell me how to live my life.” The song is short, but then again so are most of the songs on the album. The short amount of time the track does take up is totally worth it. “Riot Act” is probably the most fun out of any other tracks on the album.
While Skid Row’s self-titled debut is the album I still hold in higher regard, I can see why people would prefer “Slave To The Grind.” “Slave” has a darker, grittier atmosphere than does it’s predecessor and songwriting has expanded in a great new direction. It is very close to as good as the first album and I believe “Slave To The Grind” can be freely admired by both the hardcore metalhead and the casual metalhead.
Top 3: Monkey Business, Slave To The Grind, Riot Act