By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
Key Tracks: “Speaking in Tongues,” “Going All The Way (A Song in 6 Movements)”
Meat Loaf‘s newest, and apparently final release, Braver Than We Are, is reminiscent of playing catch with an aging, sickly dog; he struggles through the entire thing and by the end, everyone in attendance is upset at what they had to witness. It is a bleak record with an aged sound, shaky vocals and the cries of a fallen legend.
Braver Than We Are has reunited Meat Loaf and his partner in crime, producer Jim Steinman, for the first time in decades. In the past, the duo have given the world legendary albums like Bat Out of Hell and Bat Out of Hell 2: Back into Hell. Most tracks off the album have existed for a number of years in the form of unreleased material and B-sides, during the team’s time together. Sadly, the pair have lost their collaborative charm during their separation, as few tracks are able to hold a candle to their past work.
Through the cracks, it’s feasible to spot where the light was supposed to spill in, one such case is song number two, “Going All The Way (A Song in 6 Movements).” Coming in at a staggering 11 minutes, the elderly Meat Loaf pulls out every trick to keep the listener involved, including massive crescendos, a dizzying instrumental and a phenomenal performance by Broadway greats Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito. It’s a much more whole-hearted attempt than anything else that the record puts forward, although it still comes off as a strained song.
Braver Than We Are features different artists on four of its ten tracks, all of whom perform wonderfully. Unfortunately for Meat Loaf, they even manage to outshine him. As his voice limps through the piece, his partners soar, making the once iconic vocalist sound like an elderly man, singing a tune with his granddaughters at a Lion’s Club Christmas Party. Even on the featureless tracks Meat Loaf consistently sounds held back and off key. Instead of opting for hitting lower notes, which would better suited for his aged voice, he makes several attempts to return to the high C glory days of the ‘80s.
The only place this album manages to hit the mark is in it’s flow. Being no strangers to the composition stage, Meat Loaf and Steinman have created a group of powerful instrumentals that weave together in a grandiose fashion. Unfortunately, a sound which relies on aspects of the power ballads is not going to age well, no matter how well the production value may. “Speaking in Tongues,” the third song of the album, is evidence of this, even with modern recording techniques, the song sounds dusty and dated.
As Meat Loaf’s final stand, may we all remember him as he was: A legendary, mullet-sporting, Rocky Horror-ing performer, rather than the gurgling, raspy, out-dated grandpa this record paints him as.