Meat Loaf’s return marks his thirteenth studio album and his first in five years. But is it a masterpiece?
“Who needs the young?” – it’s the opening moments of hard rock hero Meat Loaf’s thirteenth studio album, his first in five years, that establishes, affirms, and qualifies ‘Braver Than We Are’s’ mission statement: an all-out old-school rock opera scaling the trials and tribulations of love, loss, and life, complete with the return of Meat Loaf’s infamous composer extraordinaire Jim Steinman – their first album together in twenty-three years. Indeed, the reunion of the voice and the composer – Meat Loaf and Steinman – is filled to the brim with operatic piano solos, dizzying looping guitar riffs, and songs about forbidden love. On paper, it’s a (re)match made me in heaven. On disc, it’s a little below the belt for these heavyweight superstars.
Opening with a riff more akin to a country-rock quartet than the bat out of hell himself, ‘Braver Than We Are’s’ curtain raiser ‘Who Needs The Young’ is a sure-fire choral rock opera reintroduction to the partnership that is Loaf & Steinman, however it isn’t quite as impactful as the opener of their last outing together – ‘I’d Do Anything For Love, But I Won’t Do That’ from 1993’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell II’ – and doesn’t allow you much promise for the rest of the album.
Whilst there isn’t much of a story to follow, you’ll grasp a very basic outline of the traditional Meat Loaf and Steinman boy/girl tragedy throughout ‘Braver Than We Are’s’ standard ten songs which comes to fruition and peaks with a trio of songs in the shape of ‘Speaking In Tongues’, ‘Loving You’s A Dirty Job (But Somebody’s Gotta Do It)’, and ‘Souvenirs’. The former plays out like a Meat Loaf handbook – a dosage of piano solos and a hell of a lot of choral harmonies, and let’s not forget the sexually-charged-masked-as-true-love lyricism only Steinman could produce: “It’s that time to start a fire, and I know we’ll make it good/we’re overflowing with desire/you got the spark, I’ve got the wood.” Whilst the middle song digs deeper and darker into Meat Loaf’s arsenal, loading up with 90’s techno keyboards and 80’s classic rock guitar riffs, the latter leaves your jaws agape at both its audacity and success of pulling off a saxophone solo in 2016.
‘Braver Than We Are’ has enough about itself to be instantly better than the double-whammy onslaught of the horrifically under-average records he released last – 2010’s ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ and 2011’s ‘Hell In A Handbasket’ respectively. Of course, as much as it’s the best thing Meat Loaf has released in about ten years, it isn’t quite the extravaganza we’ve come to expect from a man who made his money from running to and from hell, with the majority of the albums tracks missing that special something that made the ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ trilogy the legacy it has become.
Rescuing the album from the obscurity of Meat Loaf’s fading voice, Stacy Michelle takes her many duets on the album and smashes them into tiny little pieces, leaving you momentarily in disbelief, as if you’re within the song, a witness to the thinly spun web of a story Steinman has crafted. Her voice shines brightest on the aforementioned ‘Loving You’s A Dirty Job’, where her voice flows seamlessly with Meat Loaf’s, as if they’re not singing but living in the moment.
To answer Meat Loaf’s thematic question, this album proves that perhaps he may need to rethink his outlook on music, shake up his songs, and go for broke with something entirely new and original. Of course, after 48 years and 80 million records sold, who cares what your music sounds like, right?
‘Braver Than We Are’ is out now via SLG, LLC.
This Meat Loaf article was written by Jack Press, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.