Meat Loaf’s latest is ridiculously stale

By Josh Korr
St. Petersburg Times
October 31, 2006

Had any Halloween scares yet? Here’s a real creeper for you.

Pick up Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose and put on the nearly 10-minute-long Seize the Night. Close your eyes and let your imagination run wild as he sings, “Come with me and seize the night. Now’s the time for some inspiration. Leave the day and lose the light. No taboos, only new sensations.”

Who needs zombies when we have Meat Loaf singing about letting his monster loose?

Yes, with the release of Bat Out of Hell III, the man born Marvin Lee Aday has finally become the caricature many people think he always was: a cartoonish prog-metal pseudo-parodist with a penchant for puffy shirts, sex and absurdly bombastic mock-opuses.

The original Bat Out of Hell was so much more, possibly — don’t laugh — one of the best albums of the ‘70s. Composer Jim Steinman took the first 20 years of rock to their logical conclusion, combining prog-rock’s solos and metal’s fantasy metaphors with Springsteenian grandeur, Be My Baby backbeats and ’50s car songs. The joke wasn’t the album’s outrageousness but how closely Bat resembled the music it tweaked.

Steinman gave Bat Out of Hell its clever life; by singing like he totally meant it, Meat Loaf gave the music its soul. Meat Loaf still sings with abandon, but now the joke’s on him.

After years of legal battles between the two, Steinman has left Bat III with a bunch of leftovers. Bad for Good (the closest thing to a Bat I tune here) is from Steinman’s 1981 solo album, and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now was a hit for Celine Dion (though this version’s chilling harmonies and anti-Dion power chords show why Steinman at his best is rock’s Andrew Lloyd Webber). And those are the CD’s best songs.

The others try to turn Meat Loaf into a nu-metal god or to recreate Steinman’s multimovement suites. But Meat Loaf is too old to mimic Evanescence. The marathons lack Paradise By the Dashboard Light’s wit and structure.

Bat I worked as a paean to teenage hormones. On songs like Cry Over Me and What About Love, Bat III wants us to believe in Meat Loaf as adult paramour — or sex machine.

That’s far scarier than anything you’ll see trick-or-treating tonight.

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