Over the 15 years since its release, Bat Out Of Hell has so far sold 25,000,000 copies and made an unlikely star out of Meat Loaf. Now, original Bat songwriter Jim Steinman reunites with the Loafmeister to produce that rock rarity, the sequel LP. Even the original's producer, Todd Rundgren, and duettist Ellen Foley are present again, albeit only as vocal arranger and backing vocalist. The songs clock in at absurd lengths, Steinman indulges himself lyrically and there is a wailing duet. Truly this - not Dead Ringer, not Steinman's Bad For Good - is the genuine follow-up to the most over-the-top rock album of all time.
It's also largely composed of old songs. Six songs here are remakes - Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through, Out Of The Frying Pan (& Into The Fire), Lost Boys And Golden Girls and an unannounced Love & Death & An American Guitar come from Bad For Good, while Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) and It Just Won't Quit are off Original Sin by Steinman's Pandora's Box. None of them differs wildly from the originals, they're just a bit louder.
The new songs are huge things, from the epically excessive Everything Louder Than Everything Else to the hopeless, near-Springsteen parody ballad Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are. Some are hilarious - Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back is the daftest rocking rebel song of all time - and some are classically Loafesque - most notably I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), which is a grown-up version of Paradise By The Dashboard Light (and features, in the Foley role, Mrs. Loud from Newcastle's duo The Louds. Honest). And everything is bloody big.
This is Back Into Hell's only flaw. Where the epicness of Bat Out Of Hell was offset by the softness of stuff like Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad, here even the ballads are Roman orgies of sound and fury (Objects In The Etcetera is 10 minutes 15 seconds long; not necessary). There's also the error of demanding direct comparison with Bat Out Of Hell - revving-up noises at the start of this sequel do not usher in the greatest, maddest motorbike shag death song ever, but the considerably weedier I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That). Even the album's probable theme - the crushing effect growing up has on teenage dreams - seems to get lost among the thud and blunder.
But these are mere gripes. Ultimately, Back Into Hell may not trash its predecessor, but as a mad, crunching, stadium rock album, it's probably the best thing of its kind you'll hear this year.