Veteran vocalist, Meat Loaf, has scored a hit once again with his new album, “Hell in a Handbasket.” The singer’s eleventh full length studio release features what is arguably some of his finest work to date. Each song on the album follows the common theme of everything that’s gone wrong with the world, and how it’s led to the world going to “Hell in a Handbasket.” But in a larger scheme, one could argue that this album is really a concept album of sorts.
“Hell in a Handbasket” could be argued to be a concept album in that it opens and closes in a near story-like fashion. The album opens with the song, “All of Me.” Meatloaf starts off singing to his audience, “This is my anger/this is my shame/These are my insecurities/This is my fortress crumbled ’round my feet/Take a good look baby/This is all of me.” He sings of a person who is frustrated with what people had caused him to become. That leads into songs full of social commentary in the likes of ‘The Giving Tree’, ’40 Days’, and a cover of Tom Cochran’s ‘Mad Mad World.’
For all the commentary in “Hell in a Handbasket”, the album does have some more positive moments. It also includes songs of life and love. They come in the form of the amazing southern rock styling of ‘Live or Die’, ‘Our Love and Our Souls’, and what is arguably one of the album’s best songs, ‘Stand in The Storm.’ Meatloaf brings along country superstar Trace Adkins, Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath and hit rapper, Lil’ Jon along for the ride in this arena anthem. Meat Loaf sings, “Somebody’s gotta stand in the storm/In the lightning when it pours/be strong enough to lean on/show you what a backbone’s for.” This one leaves absolutely no doubt as to what its about. And being that it’s one of the album’s closing tracks, its placement on the list is no coincidence. It leads straight into ‘Blue Sky.’ ‘Blue Sky’ is the exact antithesis of ‘Stand in The Storm.’ It’s much softer both musically and lyrically. This is the point where the story’s character is beginning to come to a realization. He sings, “Have you a heart that beats/Heave you a breath to breathe/and have you veins that bleed/have you a brainthat dreams/Is it so hard to see that/we’re all the same machine/Don’t we all live and die/under the same blue sky?” That’s his character asking, don’t you realize we’re all just human? We’re all the same. It’s a perfect lead-in to the album’s closer, ‘Fall from Grace.’
‘Stand in The Storm’ and ‘Blue Sky’ lead ultimately to the story’s main character coming to the revelation that no one is perfect in ‘Fall From Grace.’ And although nobody’s perfect, that’s okay. He sings his epiphany, “No one is safe/You can fall from grace/In so many ways/One step forward two back/You can’t run away/From that empty space/You will find your place/When you run away/We will all fall from grace.” Again, this is self explanatory. The more positive vibe brought from the piano directly contradict the more uneasy feeling of the album’s opener. That song, too, was led by a piano, only in a more ominous tone. So it’s a perfect closure to this musical adventure.
“Hell in a Handbasket” isn’t necessarily a concept record. But considering how it opens and closes, and the material that fills the album, it could be argued to be something similar. And while concept albums in general tend to get a bad reputation, Meat Loaf’s new album is one great record, concept album or not. One could even go so far as to say that in the bigger picture of albums due out in 2012, “Hell in a Handbasket” is a sleeper hit. And it’s also one of the year’s best.
“Hell in a Handbasket” is available in stores and online now. Meat Loaf currently has no tour dates scheduled. Though he did recently perform on Leno. To get more information on Meat Loaf’s upcoming plans, fans can check him out online at http://www.meatloaf.net, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MeatLoaf, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RealMeatLoaf.