It’s easy to view Sebastian Bach’s new album with a haze of cynicism. Bach is in the middle of a publicity windfall thanks to his appearance on MTV’s Celebrity Rap Superstar, so a new record seems very convenient. However, Angel Down has been in the works for seven years, and is Bach’s first real solo record since leaving Skid Row in 1996. Although 1998’s Bring ‘Em Bach Alive contained five new songs, it was mostly a live record, with Baz shouting out Skid Row classics. The new songs were decent enough, but contained little of the fire of his previous band.
Angel Down is Sebastian Bach’s triumphant return to the metal throne. Bach has not sounded this focused since 1995’s Subhuman Race. With its lean production and razor sharp guitar riffs, Angel Down is almost an extension of that record. Bach’s titanium pipes are still in tact and he hits every high note effortlessly. Many of these songs have been floating through Bach’s live sets for several years, and they reach their full potential here.
The title track continues the grand metal tradition of a soft intro followed by a roaring chorus. This technique has been used by so many bands that it could easily morph into self-parody. Bach diffuses the cliché by using the intro as a warning. Once the guitars kick in, the song does not let go. The band spends about ten seconds on the opening riff before Bach comes in with a devastating roar.
One of the more puzzling aspects of Angel Down is the presence of Axl Rose. Rose comes out of his artistic coma to lend his voice to three tracks. Rose is in surprisingly good form vocally, but his contributions are a mixed bag. He fits in well with the album’s ridiculously titled first single, “Love is a B*tchslap,” a gleefully chauvinistic romp that sounds like a leftover from Appetite for Destruction. The lyrics cannot be repeated here, but it is impossible to take them seriously.
The album’s only misfire is Bach’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle.” The song is performed as a duet with Axl Rose, and the dynamic duo completely misinterpret the song. The raunchy blues groove of the original is mutated into generic heavy metal. Every element of this song is out of place, from Bach’s overdrawn screaming to an embarrassingly metallic solo. When have you heard Joe Perry play a million notes in rapid succession? That’s right. You haven’t.
Fortunately, “Back in the Saddle” is one weak moment in an album of greatness. Angel Down won’t change the world and doesn’t have anything particularly “important” to say, it’s just a heavy metal record. Bach’s loyalty to the genre is part of what makes Angel Down such an enjoyable listen. This has everything you want out of a metal album: It’s fun, unpretentious and sounds best when played at high volumes. Sebastian no longer has the youth, but he remains forever wild.