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Retro Review: Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind

 

 

Skid Row is not a hair band. That seemed like the message the band was intent on sending with the release of Slave To The Grind, the album’s first single and video for “Monkey Business,” and the ensuing tour, which had Pantera in tow as the opener.

“Hair Band” wasn’t going to be an easy label to shed. The way they looked when their debut album hit big, the fact that they were directly tied to Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, and the tours they ended up doing earned them the designation.

That wasn’t how they saw themselves though. There was a difference between bands like Poison and Warrant, and Skid Row. What they set out to do on Slave To The Grind was to establish themselves as a premier hard rock band. What they did, was record a masterpiece, and the first “heavy metal” album to debut at #1 in the Soundscan era.

The first song on the album, the first single released and first video they recorded for Slave To The Grind was “Monkey Business,” which set the tone pretty perfectly. It was harder, that’s for sure. The video wasn’t an elaborate set with pyrotechnics, but a black and white video of them on train tracks.

To be clear, this wasn’t a metal record, the way you’d describe one from Iron Maiden or Pantera, but a hard rock record, the way you’d describe Appetite For Destruction or Metallica‘s Black Album.

The difference between “Monkey Business” and the first single from their debut, “Youth Gone Wild,” wasn’t striking, but it was different none the less. The screams were harder and the riffs were thicker. The whole thing just sounded, dirtier.

There are songs on Slave To The Grind that are faster, as well. The title track, maybe the best song on the album, has the same anti-authority stance that songs on the first record had, but are delivered in a more deliberate, faster way. Heavier. Not just heavier, but better. “Riot Act,” is another “faster” song on the record. Both songs also give a nod to the punk influences that Skid Row always had.

The album isn’t without ballads either, it’s got three of them. One more than the first album had. The difference between the ballads on Slave To The Grind and the self-titled album is obvious though. There’s a gloss that’s gone, and a darkness introduced on songs like, “Quicksand Jesus” and “In A Darkened Room.”

The best testament to Slave To The Grind is that it still sounds good, almost 20 years later. The production is still right on, the lyrics don’t sound dated (well, mostly), and the songs themselves are still just as great as the first time I heard them.

The shift in record label thinking toward grunge may have lessened the impact this album had at the time past it’s initial release. As time passes though, it’s pretty clear that Slave To The Grind sits among the greatest rock albums released in the 90′s.

If you don’t already own the album, and you go out to get it, make sure you get the original version with “Get The F*ck Out” as track six. At the time, the PMRC was still actively trying to censor music (hi Tipper Gore!). Eventually the album was re-released without the song, and the inferior “Beggar’s Day” in its place.

Click here and listen to the entire album on Spotify.

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