I listened to Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell II yesterday, intending to enjoy and appreciate it as I always have done. The only distraction was that my mind kept drifting to how I was going to express my thoughts about the album on paper. Evidently that skill is becoming so engrained into me that I cannot even enjoy listening to my favourite album without dreaming up similes, metaphors, oxymorons, alliterations and onomatopoeias.
The first half of the album is a relentless, unprecedented assault on the hearing senses that makes me glad not to be deaf. “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” starts with a roaring guitar imitating a motorbike, rather like that in the titular song of Bat II’s predecessor; before a tinkling piano begins its now unmistakeable riff, and before long low drums and a wailing guitar join in, making the longest and most aurally astonishing intro in the history of music.
The instrumental in “Life Is A Lemon (And I Want My Money Back)” is one of thunder and lightning; while the instrumental in “Out Of the Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)” is one of fire and thunder. “It Just Won’t Quit” contains an interlude that always makes me feel as though I am about to be blasted off on the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland Paris, but without a safety harness.
Although “Rock ‘N’ Roll Dreams Come Through” is slightly toned down, like the rest of the songs that comprise the first forty five minutes of the album, it still contains a few moments of vocal majesty.
The second half of the album greets us with “Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”; an epic tale of friendship, death, and love. The next is a spoken recitation from songwriter Jim Steinman that was taken from his solo album, Bad For Good, in which he explores the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.
Things are slowly brought to an end through the ultimate music-loving teen rebellion song, “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”. This is followed by the haunting “Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)”; and prior to the comparatively minimalist “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” which closes the album almost subtly, there is a short instrumental titled “Back Into Hell”.
Although some songs were taken from other Steinman projects, they were songs that cried out for the Meat Loaf treatment; indeed some were written for him just before he lost his voice in the late 1970s.
Verily, it is the voice of an angel (albeit an unconventional one) singing heavenly music that originated in Hell. If, as according to Pope Benedict XVI, I am to go to that unholy place of fire and brimstone for listening to this music, then I’ll go down with a piña colada in my hand and my iTouch plugged into my ears, singing it with gusto.
When he sings, it feels as though the universe is about to split in two from the pure, undiluted strength of his unique voice. For the most part he does not let rip, but when he does chills of excitement vibrate up the vertebrae.
Surely there never has been, and never will be, another artist with the same sheer, raw, unrestrained vocal power, emotion, volume and range that Meat Loaf is blessed with. I sincerely hope there won’t be.