1. We Are The Damned
2. Give It The Gun
3. Catch Your Fall
4. Damnation Army
5. Zero Day
6. Sheer Heart Attack [Queen Cover]*
7. Rats In The Cellar [Aerosmith Cover]*
* = Bonus Tracks
Skid Row returns with the second chapter of their “United World Rebellion” EP series on August 5th, via Megaforce Records. I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter but this one takes it to a whole new level. They return as aggressive and angry as ever! This easily could have came out between “Slave To The Grind” & “Subhuman Race” back in the 1990’s. The band is firing on all cylinders and is as cohesive as ever.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The heart of the band remains the same as their heyday of the late 1980’s to mid 1990’s, primary songwriters, guitarist Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan as well as guitarist Scotti Hill. The changes being at the drummer & vocalist slots. For the past four years ex-Rockets to Ruin drummer Rob Hammersmith has occupied the drum throne while vocalist Johnny Solinger celebrates his fifteenth anniversary with the band, having joined in 1999.
I’ve been a fan of Skid Row since 1989. I was eager to see what the new lineup could do. I have been a fan of vocalist Johnny Solinger since the mid 1990’s & owned his cd’s with his Dallas, TX. based band, Solinger. The BIG question was how would he handle the classic tunes & what would the band sound like with Johnny? Before the newly reformed Skid Row released new material they hit the road. I was fortunate enough to see the Solinger-fronted Skid Row open for Kiss on their Farewell Tour on August 28, 2000 as well on July 26, 2003, both times at different venues in Wichita, KS. Johnny does a fantastic job with the classic Skid Row material while making it his own and more importantly, he allows the band to continue on & for that, I am grateful.
I’ve enjoyed all their releases with Johnny, two studio albums and now, two EP’s. Judging by the advance I received, the new EP is my favorite body of work from the Solinger-fronted version of Skid Row. It is a perfect follow-up to 2013’s “United World Rebellion: Chapter One” as it picks up where the first EP left off, except this Chapter is more aggressive and combines the heaviest elements of classic Skid Row without sacrificing melody.
“We Are The Damned” is a sonic tank rolling through the fields and crushing the weaker bands that they sadly get lumped in with from the 1980’s. Continuing the sonic blitzkrieg is ” Give It The Gun”. This track would make a killer live show opener. It has a riff heavy intro, Johnny’s guttural scream at the thirty-five second mark and the bands trademark gang vocals during the chorus lends itself to being a crowd pleasing opener. This cut is relentless. Nice ending guys! *wink wink* “Catch Your Fall” gives the listener a chance to catch their breath and rest their neck. Starting off with a beautiful acoustic intro segueing briefly into a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone”, Johnny gets a chance to show his range on this ballad. I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of ballads but this one is very well written and executed. The solo is stellar and this tune may soon replace their 2003 ballad “Ghost” as my favorite of the Solinger era.
Hope you enjoyed your four and a half minute break because Rachel channels his inner-Lemmy as the band joins in for a breakneck intro to “Damnation Army”. This is a call-to-arms anthem beckoning the masses to join the band in a musical uprising. You definitely hear the punk influences coming through here. Lyrics such as “They can try to take us down, but never take our pride.” and “Rebels we are! Held together by scars.” along with the sheer heaviness of the track have me going out on a limb here & say this could have easily been called “Youth Gone Wild For The New Generation”! Longtime fans as well as fans of 2003’s “Thickskin” will get what I am saying. We have come to the end of the Skid Row originals with track #5, “Zero Day”. The opening riff has a “Rocky Mountain Way” meets “Highway To Hell” vibe to it before Rachel joins in and the rest of the band takes the song in a heavier, sleazier musical direction. Lyrically it continues the “Us vs. The World” theme that is prevalent within the first two EP’s. The guitar solo outro is a nice touch to end on and will give the band a nice jumping off point for the third volume.
Just like the first chapter, the band covers two of their favorite artists. On the first EP, Skid Row covered Judas Priest’s “United” & EZO’s “Fire Fire”, on this second EP they cover “Sheer Heart Attack” by Queen & “Rats In The Cellar” by Aerosmith. Both stay true to the original but have just a little heavier punk edge to it. The solo is on “Rats in the Cellar” is on fire!
Finally, if “Rise Of The Damnation Army:United World Rebellion:Chapter Two” is any indication of where Chapter Three is heading, I am super excited. I hope once all three chapters have been issued that they’ll trim the cover tunes off all three and combine them to make one album, in the order as they were released. Then combine all the bonus tracks along with a few more to make a bonus covers EP. It would make a nice package for us old-school fans who still buy physical product but don’t want to haul around three separate EP’s although I did buy Chapter One’s Collector’s Box to house all three!
Overall, the band sounds better than ever. The songwriting tandem of Snake & Rachel are back on the same page after Snake’s hiatus during the “RPM” sessions, Rachel & Rob are locked in to a punk-infused groove, Scotti is the perfect complement to Snake’s guitar-hero theatrics while Johnny’s vocals have a bit of snotty-snarl to them on this EP. Maybe he is getting a tad sick of all the internet tough guys (aka shit talkers) and naysayers? I know I am! I’m one of the few who prefer “Solinger Row” live & on record to the past incarnation because I know when I shell out my hard earned money, I am going to get a consistently great rock show….I couldn’t say that pre-1999.