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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - 'Bat Out Of Hell III' (Virgin)
Artist - Meat Loaf

It's been about 13 years since the release of the second chapter of Meat Loaf's globally-acclaimed rock-operatic masterpiece, and this chapter's about as unexpected as the last one. In fact, a couple of my co-workers and I saw the commercial for the release of Chapter III last week, and collectively responded with "No WAY!" (Of course, I was the only one who was actually excited about it; the others' responses were laced with sarcasm...) Obviously, for those who love cheesy rock-opera (like me), this is a long-awaited slice of dripping apple pie. With extra cheese. If it was possible to go any more over-the-top than the uber-dramatic "Bat Out of Hell II", then Jim Steinman and Desmond Child have accomplished it. From the opening title track, orchestra, choir, and cathedral organ permeate the rock even more on this album than the Mighty Meat's last effort, in some cases a little too much so. The most notable evidence appears on the most epic and longest of the tracks ("Seize the Night"). The producer tandem even saw fit to twist a modified version of the Roman Catholic classic hymn "Dies Irae" (made famous by composers such as Mozart) into the song somehow, which, admittedly, doesn't fit well at all and serves only to over-dramatize it. Most of the rest of the album sounds pretty much a continuation of Bat II, albeit with a few darker and sometimes nu-metal-ish guitar licks. In fact, a few of said licks come directly from the previous "Bat" albums ("Seize the Night"'s riffs come directly from Bat II's "Good Girls Go To Heaven"), and serve as a nice reminder of Meat's past glory. The theme does continue nicely for the most part, but one just can't help but feel the musical dj vu. Again, if that was the point of this album, then bravo! There are a few standouts that should translate well to the financial juggernaut of radio-friendliness; of course, the money shot being the now-familiar first single "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" (which was a duet originally written for "Bat II", but eventually all but butchered by Celine Dion). Here on "Bat III", it's finally done some justice, and makes for a catchy duet featuring Norwegian songstress Marion Raven. Many have already given it the classification of "this decade's `I'd Do Anything For Love'", and that's an accurate statement. It's every bit as infectious. In my opinion, Marion sounds great, but the female vocal nod should've gone to Patti Russo (who sang with Meat on Bat II's "I'd Do Anything..."). Russo fans shouldn't fret, however; she appears in another not-as-stellar duet on the album ("What About Love"), making an above-average showing. Other standouts include the not-overly-but-just-dramatic-enough "Blind As a Bat" (immediately memorable), and the VERY 80's-sounding "In The Land of the Pig, the Butcher Is King" (the chorus of which I found myself singing along to by the end). American Idol fans will be happy to hear 2004 finalist Jennifer Hudson's amazing chops on the duet "The Future Ain't What It Used To Be". It makes for a nice surprise, and she complements Meat's vocals fluidly without overpowering him too much. Overall, this is a pretty good effort for Meat Loaf, who despite not getting any younger still has the vocal range and power to pull off another rock opera-style epic. It's not as solid and a little darker for the most part than Bat II, but still very good, and as rock opera-style epics go, it did satisfy my on/off-again craving for dramatic rock-n-roll laced with strings and choir. If you're a fan of the Meat's previous two Bat albums, you'll definitely dig this one. Just prepare for maximum cheese to go with your apple pie!