I can’t remember when I watched it, but in late June 2021, The Contrarians released a new YouTube video titled, “The Contrarians Patreon Zoom Chat: What is a Contrarian Album you would defend to your last Breath!?” Someone mentioned Skid Row’s Subhuman Race (1995) album and I’ve wanted it since. I was even considering getting that Skid Row Atlantic Years (1989 – 1996) box set, so I could have that one album. Then, on a lucky trip to Hungry Records in Kakaʻako on January 8, 2022, I found Subhuman Race on CD for $6.00!
The line-up that played on this album includes Sebastian Bach on vocals, Scotti Hill on guitars and backing vocals, Dave Sabo on guitars and backing vocals, Rachel Bolan on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Rob Affuso on drums and percussion. Bob Rock produced the album. With all that said, let’s get on with the music!
The album kicks off with “My Enemy” and it’s very dark, but I like that. The song fits the time because again, Subhuman Race came out in 1995, when grunge was hot on the charts. Hello, why do you think Def Leppard released Slang a year later? Bach goes a bit screamo at times on the vocals, which I don’t mind. The guitar solo is very harsh, like screeching to your ears and not in a good way. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the song.
The second track is “Firesign” and I love the lyrics, particularly the bridge, “On a carousel through my yesterdays / Doubt sees the obstacles / Faith sees the way.” I just think that part is so relatable. It has a lighter tone, compared to “My Enemy,” so it’s a nice little breather. The next track is “Bonehead” and it is pure thrash metal, which I did not expect from Skid Row, but I really dig it. The drums have a very raw sound and I think they give the song a heavier vibe. The arpeggio guitar solo is brief, yet effective.
Then, we have my favorite song on the album, “Beat Yourself Blind.” Even after my WordPress friend/blogger Mike Ladano pointed out that the song is about wanking, I still like it. The reason why I enjoy “Beat Yourself Blind” so much is because Bach goes full screamo mode during the chorus, which is a very simple AC/DC type chorus, where the singer repeats the song title over and over again. Also, this song has a sick bass riff. The next track is “Eileen” and it’s got a haunting feel to it, like you’re walking through the woods. I get that from these lyrics, “The songs you sing are scaring me.”
I love the drumming style on “Remains to be Seen” because it keeps the song busy, but not too busy to the point where it’s overbearing. I was confused about the chorus though, like what is it? Is it the “dive head-on into me, dive head-on into you” stuff? I’m not a fan of songs with unrecognizable choruses or when it’s only sung once; “Don’t Stop Believin,’” I’m looking at you. It’s not my favorite track on the album, but it’s enjoyable and I dig the guitar solo.
The title track is pure speed metal and that’s not a bad thing! This song just comes and hits you in the face, with no shame. “Subhuman Race” is only two minutes and forty seconds, but there’s a lot going on during that short time, including a shredding guitar solo. “Frozen” has an odd drumming style in the verses because Affuso hits on the upbeat and downbeat. That can be a bit confusing, but once you get past the verses, the song is easy to get into.
“Into Another” has a lighter tone and not surprisingly, it was a single for the album. The time signature for the song is weird and you can hear that clearly in the verses and chorus. The song has a more uplifting and pleasant vibe; not sure if I like it or hate it. Next up, we have “Face Against My Soul” and holy cow, I can’t believe these are the same guys that wrote “Can’t Stand the Heartache.” This track is very alternative rock and Bach sounds so evil with his screams. Plus, the rhythm section is on fire!
“Medicine Jar” freaking kicks butt! It has such a headbanger feel, like fist pumping in the air and not giving a f*ck about what’s happening in the world. Like the lyrics go, “In your private hell, now you’ve found yourself”! Everything in this song is done with high energy from the singing, the drums, the guitars, everything. “Breakin’ Down” is another breather from the dark and alternative vibe of the album. I do like the lyrics, particularly the chorus.
The album closes with “Iron Will” and what a killer track! It has my favorite chorus on the whole album and this track is so dark and heavy. Look at how intense these lyrics are “Pride is all in vain without the blood of need / Bones can break in shame from taking charity / Hide from all the hell and wash up with the tide / Wait and you commit psychological suicide.” I mean, the songwriting for the whole album is incredible, but wow. My only complaint is around the 4:33 mark, the song stops and there’s just pure silence until the 7:02 mark. This was the 1990s, so artists were playing around with the CD format with hidden tracks and blank spaces in songs.
So I enjoyed 12 out of the 13 tracks (“Remains to be Seen” and “Into Another” got half points), which is about 92 percent. With that in mind, I’ll give Skid Row’s Subhuman Race a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. This album marked a big change for the band and unfortunately, they don’t reflect on it positively. Not sure if it’s because of the production or because it didn’t chart well, who knows! But, forget about what the band thinks, just listen to this album!
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