CD/DVD Review: Sebastian Bach – ABachalypse Now

CD/DVD Review: Sebastian Bach – ABachalypse Now
Frontiers Records
All Access Review: B+

Sebastian Bach - ABachalypse Now
Twice, Sebastian Bach brings the proceedings to a halt, waving his arms and yelling, “Stop the show.” As only he could, the hyperactive former Skid Row front man admonishes the crowd at Hellfest in France on this warm, sunny summer day in June 2012 for not being as lively or making as much noise as he wants. 

They respond with feverish enthusiasm, and Bach gets his band to again rev their engines. And the caution flag drops, signaling a jailbreak restart.

To Bach, this is church, and the congregation has to be frothing at the mouth to receive communion in the form of screaming vocals, snarling riffs, searing guitar solos and thick, muscular grooves – except for the sweet power-ballad nectar of “I Remember You,” that is. No Sebastian Bach show would be complete without that Skid Row love potion of tangled acoustic strum, big swells of amplified chords and Bach’s surprising vulnerability. That goes double for the riotous “Youth Gone Wild,” which sends the Hellfest crowd into complete hysterics.

Captured on video and audio in a new Frontiers Records live two CD/DVD package – of varying, but mostly outstanding, quality – titled “ABachalypse Now,” the Hellfest performance is part of a trio of 2012 live Bach meltdowns crammed into one 160-minute DVD of what is being hailed as the ultimate Sebastian Bach experience. And it is wall-to-wall Bach up in here, his infectious exuberance impossible to ignore – and there are bonus music videos of “Tunnelvision,” “I’m Alive” and “Kicking & Screaming” to boot. Strong, but rough, sounding audio CDs of the Hellfest and Live at Graspop, Belgium, gigs are here as well, capturing the dynamic interplay of Bach and his band of heavy metal outlaws with full, hard-hitting sonic force.

Whether it was the heat in France or the slipshod camera work, the Hellfest performance is the weakest document of the three. Despite Bach’s efforts to rally the troops, the band lacks personality and energy, and Bach himself seems completely bored having to play “18 & Life” for the millionth time. Harder, edgier stuff like the bottom-heavy “American Metalhead” and “Monkey Business,” not to mention the combustible opener “Slave to the Grind,” saves the day, however, as Bach’s band thrashes, growls and salivates while gnawing on the bones and sucking out the marrow of these meaty songs.

In sharp contrast, the Live at Nokia show, filmed in colorful high-definition on Aug. 2, 2012, is absolutely riveting. Professionally shot and edited to thrill, this is worth the price of admission alone, ending with a savage rendering of “Youth Gone Wild” – enflamed by Black Veil Brides’ Andy Biersack joining his strong bellow with Bach’s wildcat howl. Lesser vocalists would leave the stage with collapsed lungs while delivering such a challenging performance, but the charismatic Bach is made of stronger stuff, prowling about like a dangerous animal being poked at by a trainer who’s about to be mauled. And he hits every seemingly unreachable note with gusto. With help from several guest guitarists, his band sounds sharp and vicious, attacking “Big Guns,” “(Love is) a Bitchslap,” “Piece of Me” and the heavy stomp of “Tunnelvision” with raging intensity, as drummer Bobby Jarzombek, of Iced Earth and Riot fame, hits everything in sight with bad intentions and guitarist Johnny Chromatic emits clear, rich tonality on every precise solo. Almost always in motion and supremely confident, they affect rock poses that are totally unscripted and completely born of the moment.

And “ABachalypse Now” isn’t finished, as Bach and crew battle the elements at Graspop. In a steady downpour, they forge onward, laying siege to an audience that deserves a powerhouse performance for getting soaked to the skin. And they get it. Splashing around in puddles onstage, Bach’s outfit guts it out, hammering their way through “Kicking & Screaming,” “Dirty Power” and the aforementioned “Big Guns.” And Bach invests himself fully in the proceedings, tearing his larynx to shreds in the name of rock ‘n’ roll and taking time out to laugh at the weather and kvetch about Mother Nature’s timing. Things go wrong, with false starts and the like, and that’s all right. The imperfections make it memorable and exceedingly likeable. So is “ABachalypse Now.” (
– Peter Lindblad

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