Album Review: Skid Row – The Gang’s All Here

Album Review: Skid Row - The Gang's All Here
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

When you look back to those heady days of the late eighties and early nineties, you’d have been pretty on the button by suggesting Skid Row had the world at their feet. With Bon Jovi in their corner and an appearance at the Moscow Music Peace Festival, a European debut at Milton Keynes Bowl and a tour with Motley Crue all before the end of 1989, leading on to even bigger and better things with the follow up, Slave to the Grind. I reviewed the Atlantic Records output from the band last year – which was a real nostalgia trip – and was reminded how much I still liked Skid Row.

Then the wheels seemed to fall off. Sebastian Bach left in 1996, just a year after Subhuman Race was released, replaced by the late Johnny Solinger for the extremely competent Thickskin and Revolutions Per Minute albums and former Dragonforce frontman ZP Theart between 2016 and 2022.

So, with that (very) abbreviated history of the band out of the way, the ever-present trio of Sabo / Bolan / Hill, along with sticksman Rob Hammersmith have recruited one-time H.E.A.T. vocalist, Erik Grönwall, and have – in a Hold My Beer to Tool - put out their first original music since 2006.

The first half of the record reads like a statement of intent from the band. Hell or High Water arrives and instantly reminds you why you loved Skid Row back in the day; it’s filled with crunchy riffs and big choruses and from the outset, Grönwall make his presence felt, fitting into the machine like a bespoke-crafted part. There’s a flavour of Slave to the Grind here and a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Tricky Little Vicky, last seen walking along South Street in Rattlesnake Shake.

Album Review: Skid Row - The Gang's All Here

The not-so subtle choruses of both Not Dead Yet – “You don’t throw dirt on an open casket” and Resurrected - “We’re not playing dead, we’re resurrected” suggest the band is back. Not Dead Yet’s punk attitude propels the track, while Resurrected’s heavy guitar lines and Slave to the Grind feel reminds us all that Skid Row once locked horns with the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.

The title track leads with Rachel’s bass and a scratchy guitar, with a Big Guns vibe and an obvious gang vocal, while Timebomb plays it as a down and dirty grinder with an ever so slightly cringy chorus.

The second half of the record sees Skid Row cut loose from their history a little and brings in Nowhere Fast, Tear It Down and World on Fire, all driving tunes showing it’s not just some reliance on the past at play here, although the ballsy When the Lights Come On does feel like taking a stroll down LA’s Sunset Strip with any number eighties Glam Bands.

The Gang’s All Here’s biggest song comes in the form of the seven-minute October’s Song, which is either the album’s obligatory ballad or Skid Row’s attempt at doing something a bit different. Bookended by Dream Theater flavours and operating within the acceptable tolerances for cheesy, October’s Song will be a lighters-up, couples-embrace live experience; it’s not I Remember You or Wasted Time, rather an intelligent attempt at trying something a bit different.

So, on this evidence, is Skid Row 2022 still relevant? Hell, yeah, they are. Bands with the pedigree of Skid Row – along with last year’s self-titled Helloween record and the recent Digital Noise Alliance from Queensrÿche – show it’s more about evolution than revolution.

Long-time Skid Row fans will love this record, as will the Stonedead brigade as it plays directly into their nostalgia without sounding dated. Welcome back, lads, it’s been far too long.

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