Skip to content

Flint’s One-Album-Wonders #7: Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell



In this month’s feature on artists’ sole successful albums (in the writer’s mind), we tackle on something big and cheesy but ever so brilliant. It’s time to step away gentle indie melancholy and beautiful atmospheres, and hit the rock and roll highway with Meat Loaf.

I love over-the-top music.

This may get a little bit lost among all the talk about how I love subtle details, moody atmospheres and other buzzwords I endlessly repeat but I have bat2a big thing for music that chucks in every single kitchen sink in a ten mile radius and isn’t afraid to sound GIGANTIC. I love bombast and I love grandeur, and I especially love them when the artist is unashamedly over the top about it. Sure, there’s extremely cheap ways of making things sound big (generic string orchestras, repetetive cymbal crashing) and they can get cringy; however, when you really know what you’re doing, going massive can be sheer artistic brilliance.

Jim Steinman is a master of over the top music. He knows how to wield instrumental virtuosos, he knows how to make massive productions sound incredibly detailed and artistic and he’s got a lyrical pen to match it – his lyrics are just as over the top, just as ingenius and just as long as his songs, often blossoming into massive rhyming essays of wild imagery and rock and roll spirit. He is a model example of a person who knows what they’re doing when they’re handling countless instruments together. He is also the man behind “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and as such, deserves a medal for that alone. There is only one problem: he’s not a performer. Steinman isn’t a bad singer, but he’s not a strong one either. He gets lost under his own productions when he tries to front them. It’s one of the reasons why he’s more often been a songwriter for hire rather than a frontman. But while his release history is full of him finding suitably strong vocalists to make his visions come alive, there’s one man that’s always been his greatest companion in this matter. One man with both voice and charisma so large that he’s more than a match to Steinman’s insanely large songs.

That man is Marvin Lee Aday, or Meat Loaf – one of the greatest voices in rock and roll. In saying that, he’s hardly a notable artist in his own right: he’s spent his decades-long career largely defined by his collaborators and an anything-will-do attitude, as long as that anything is big rock songs. The result is a frighteningly patchy mess of a career of a few brilliant moments and hordes of bad imitations and clones of said moments. But give him the right material and his quite frankly stunning voice gets to soar. And if it’s big rock songs he wants to sing, Steinman is the greatest possible match for him – it’s become more or less canon that Aday’s career highlights are the ones where he and Steinman worked together, while time has largely forgotten about the rest. The first Bat Out of Hell album has always received the general accolades but while good, I’ve always found its lacklusters 70s production to not do justice to the songs. The sequel, released a couple of decades later, on the other hand…

Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell is both men’s shared masterpiece. It is an album about rock and roll, where electric guitars are gods and misguided youth find purpose and faith in their life through crashing drums and loud sound, and where rock and roll dreams come through. It’s cheesy as all hell, frequently, but it doesn’t care; instead, Steinman just keeps applying one more kitchen sink after another to make his long-winded rock operas even grander and grander. Loaf grabs onto every single one of his words and sings them out like gospel, never letting all the choirs and orchestras and massive rock bands and loud guitars drown his voice out. Every song feels like an Event, something that means more than life itself. If the idealised concept of rock and roll was a religion, these would be its hymns. Each more rocking song is an anthem, each aggressive number a call to arms, each ballad a tearjerking torchsong. Like any song that wants to embody some kind of ideal, the ones here are instantly engaging and each and every one contains at least one, often more, moment so powerful that it makes you marvel at the at the craft behind it.

I have a special place in my heart for Bat Out of Hell II because it’s a breathtaking album, in many ways. Steinman’s incredible knack for a hook and a melody is mixed with excitingly humongous yet lovingly crafted and detail-packed arrangements that are genuinely joyful to dig into and Loaf’s vocals are almost empowering in their sheer strength. It’s also almost nearly an all-killer/no-filler album – the instrumental interlude “Back into Hell” is superfluous and largely pointless and while it’s short, it still contributes to the somewhat fittingly gigantic 70-minute length of the album. On surface it’s an album full of cheesy rock operas but there’s intelligence, passion and soul behind each song. It may be over the top, but it sounds like its creators mean every word from the bottom of their hearts and they pull it off in such a fashion that you too want to become a believer.

Life is a Lemon (And I Want My Money Back)

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: