As anyone in Hollywood will tell you, creating a sequel that's successful both commercially and artistically is one of the toughest tricks to pull off -- a degree of difficulty that ramps up exponentially when trying to go to the well for a third time. Well, some three decades after bringing forth one of the biggest-selling (and most cinematic) albums in rock history, Meat Loaf has managed to do just that on this appropriately outsized completion of the Bat trilogy. The Monster Is Loose
is clearly the fruit of the same family tree that bore Bat Out of Hell
and 1993's Back into Hell,
but it also conveys a sense of progression that's palpable -- in both the heaviness of its sound and the feistiness of its presentation. The shift has a lot to do with the presence of songwriters other than Jim Steinman -- the man who crafted the classics on the first two discs but bowed out midway through Monster
due to health reasons. Steinman's contributions, characterized by the soaring "Seize the Night," which brings a children's choir into the mix, exude all the grandeur that Meat Loaf fans have come to expect. That vibe reaches its zenith on "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," a song popularized by Celine Dion but perfected here by the Loaf and duet partner Marion Raven. It's intriguing to witness how well Meat and company manage the integration of other voices, like Nikki Sixx and White Zombie/Marilyn Manson vet John 5, who bring an industrial tinge to the gnarled title track. On the other end of the spectrum, producer Desmond Child imparts a lush Euro-styled vibe to a passel of his compositions, notably "If God Could Talk." Meat Loaf has implied that this is his swan song -- and if that's the case, it'll be one of those rare instances of an artist clearly going out on the top of his game.