There’s only ever been one candidate for Skid Row’s vocalist – reunite with Sebastian Bach. Whilst the vocals may have had a phase where it rivalled Spinal Tap’s drummer issues, hopefully it ends with their new recruit – Erik Grönwall. As soon as his addition to the band was announced, there seemed to be a collective agreement of “Yep, that makes sense” for both the band and the ex-H.E.A.T frontman.
Striking while the iron’s hot, The Gang’s All Here is Skid Row’s first album in sixteen years and the perfect way to showcase the new pairing. By the time the first track, “Hell or High Water” has finished, it shows it for what it is on paper – a master stroke. With the youth on Grönwall on their side, there’s a fresh energy to the band, playing with the exuberance of a band half their age when they were making those definitive albums of their career coupled with the expertise of experience and, for lack of a better term, age.
Really this is an album which reminds you of the glory days of Skid Row. As the back-to-back of the opener and title track kick down the doors, showing the band at their snarling, sleazy best. Meanwhile, “Not Dead Yet” sounds like a Conspirators-era Slash song, albeit at a slightly faster tempo than the top-hatted man and his band usually travel at. It’s an album full of up-tempo rockers that doesn’t put a foot wrong and keeping it to ten tracks makes this an incredibly tight listen.
Whilst some bands would bulk out the album with a couple of ballads, they’ve thrown a curveball here with “October’s Song” and with a title like that and run-time buried at the back of the album, you know it’s going to be a slower number. In fact, it doesn’t kill the momentum and despite the length being double that of most of the rest of the tracks, it never outstays its welcome and having two shorter, slower tracks likely would have killed the pace.
Despite the relative quick turnaround of Grönwall to the band and the release of the album, there’s a definite feeling of a lot of time and effort having gone into the music and it wouldn’t be surprising if some of these songs have been around for quite some time. One of the most welcome tracks is “Time Bomb” which sounds like the song Grönwall’s incarnation of H.E.A.T never wrote. Anthemic with just a hint more melody and pop gloss than the rest of the album, and a vocal hook begging for audiences to join in on. The chugging riff makes its presence known but it’s the rumbling bass line on this track which is the real star of the show, something which is revisited on “When the Lights Come On”, albeit with the main riff having more of a sleazy sharpness to it.
For a band this far into their career, it’s unsurprising there’s so much chemistry baked into the recording and producer Nick Raskulinecz has gotten the best out of them (and when you look at his CV, it’s unsurprising, producing the likes of Halestorm, Korn, Alice in Chains, Mastodon and Ghost to name a few). However, with the addition of Grönwall has revitalised the band, bedding in with them so well it sounds like he’s been performing and making records with them for decades, his own natural frontman charisma adding that extra je ne sais quoi.
One listen of this album is all it takes to put this with Skid Row’s finest moments from their heyday. Whilst many would likely still call for Sebastian Bach to reunite with them, the announcement of Erik Grönwall and this album finally being out for public consumption is finally the first time there’s been some tangible proof for those demands to stall. An incredibly polished and professional record which can rub shoulders with some of the best releases of a great year for music, The Gang’s All Here is hopefully a sign of stability from the band and hopefully they can recreate the magic found here on follow-up releases. H.E.A.T’s loss is very much Skid Row’s gain.
The Gang’s All Here is released on 14th October