40 years after its release Bat Out Of Hell remains big, preposterous and totally mad. This is the album that took it upon itself to fuse hard rock, doo wop, insanely overwrought ballads, prog-rock and Wagner to create something that to this day no one has been able to emulate, least of all the two men behind it’s creation.
Be it the wounded-roar of the former Marvin Lee Aday, the elephantine drumming of Max Weinberg, the piano playing of his E-Street bandmate Roy Bittan, the high-melodrama of Jim Steinmsan’s lyrics, or the over-clocked guitars of super-producer music-nerd Todd Rundgren, nothing here is held back, and the resulting bombast is milked for all it is worth. Infact there is a good case to be made for Bat Out Of Hell being the most ludicrously excessive rock album ever made, with only Queen’s A Night at the Opera offering anything by way of real competition. Bat Out Of Hell doesn’t do subtlety or delicacy, instead it’s a huge blundering brute of an album, but despite (or maybe because) of this, it’s strangely lovable in its own way.
From the epic title track, to the three-act mini-serial that is “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” and everything inbetween, there’s nothing cool about Bat Out of Hell, but because of it’s uniqueness it therefore remains ageless, remaining way beyond any kind of real criticism, simply because it sounds like nothing else. As such it exists in its own sealed off universe, ruling over a kingdom with a population of one, it’s every unreasonable whim and fantasy met, simply because it’s so outrageously silly that it ultimately becomes oddly compelling.
Bat Out of Hell is entertainment for entertainment’s sake and its bravura is one of the reasons that it was embraced so tightly at the height of punk, and remained such a consistent success for so long after its release. Sure, it would be easy to dismiss it as a load of big dumb noise, but that’s missing the point somewhat. Bat Out of Hell is an album fuelled by ambition and single minded focus, and for it to go on to be one of the most successful rock albums ever released, is surely a reason for celebration. Big and inelegant it may be, but it’s also pure of purpose and lovable.
Bat Out of Hell is an insane daredevil of an album. From its macho to the point of satire artwork (which renders every other attempt at ridiculously macho heavy metal imagery moot), to Meat Loaf’s howling despair in the final moments of closing track “For Crying Out Loud”, it is an album which ignores restraint and good taste in the name of over the top entertainment. Bat Out of Hell is The Great Gonzo of the rock world, and it is all the more glorious for it. In the words of the blue, bug-eyed, hook-nosed freak himself, “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing without a parachute”.