Meat Loaf's lesser-known third Bat Out Of Hell album

Meat Loaf, the singer and actor who was born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas in 1947, has died at age 74. The larger-than-life entertainer began his career as a stage actor, performing in Broadway and L.A. productions of Hair in the early ‘70’s. Except for a 1971 duets album recorded with Shaun “Stoney” Murphy, Meat Loaf’s debut album was the 1977 release Bat Out Of Hell, which incredibly became one of the best-selling albums of all time. Lavishly produced by Todd Rundgren, the album was a campy, theatrical arena-rock opera, mixing Springsteen-like melodrama with Phil Spector-like walls of sound. The heavy-set Meat Loaf had impressive vocal abilities and showmanship to match the grandiosity that surrounded him. The songs were written by theater composer Jim Steinman (who died in April 2021, less than one year before Meat Loaf's passing), and Steinman was given uncommon billing on the album’s front cover.

Obviously, there was commercial demand for a follow-up to Bat Out Of Hell, which is now believed to have sold an astonishing 44 million copies worldwide. Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman attempted to collaborate on the anticipated follow-up soon after its initial success, but health and other issues caused the attempted album to run aground. Steinman finished the album he intended to be the second Meat Loaf album without the singer, and issued it in 1981 as his own album titled Bad For Good. Meat Loaf finally recorded his sophomore album Dead Ringer that same year, using a whole different batch of Steinman compositions. Both albums flopped, which suggested that the time of Meat Loaf and Steinman had come and gone. Meat Loaf recorded three Steinman-less studio albums in the early-to-mid-‘80’s, all of which are forgettable and forgotten. Meanwhile, Steinman wrote hit songs for other artists, including Bonnie Tyler ("Total Eclipse Of The Heart") and Air Supply ("Making Love Out Of Nothing At All").

In the early-‘90’s, the team of Meat Loaf and Steinman finally reunited to create a proper sequel to Bat Out Of Hell, and like a true sequel, the resulting 1993 album was titled Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell. A return to the operatic arena rock sounds of the previous album seemed out of fashion during the age of grunge, but the second Bat Out Of Hell proved to be another major success, having sold over 14 million copies worldwide. Digital-age production values gave Steinman (who was now the album’s producer) more room for exaggerated melodrama and showiness, and the newer CD format enabled the songs to run even longer. (Believe it or not, some of the songs on the original Bat Out Of Hell album were intended to have longer running times than they did have). Once again, the rejuvenated Meat Loaf was up to the task of being the undisputed star of his grandiose album, where less imposing singers might have been overwhelmed by its unabashed excesses. Song for song, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell now holds up better than the hall-of-fame original.

But many people may not remember that there was also a third Bat Out Of Hell album, as that album seemingly had little impact when it was released in 2006. Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose has reportedly sold 2 million copies worldwide – which probably makes it one of Meat Loaf’s better-selling albums, but certainly pales in comparison to the mega-successes of the two earlier albums in the Bat Out Of Hell trilogy. This album was recorded without the participation of Jim Steinman, but seven Steinman compositions from other projects were used on the album. A legal dispute soon arose between the two parties over the ownership of the title, which was eventually settled. Years later, Meat Loaf said that his decision to create the album without Steinman was “selfish”, and stated that “there is no Bat Out of Hell III. That should have never happened. To me, that record is nonexistent. It doesn’t exist.”

That statement may now be truer than ever. As of this writing, Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose seems to be commercially unavailable, either physically or digitally, as is also the case with the other four Meat Loaf titles released during the ‘00’s. Of course, the new attention the singer has received as a result of his passing may cause a reissue of this album to happen soon.

Even though half of the tracks were written by Steinman, his absence from the recording process is conspicuous on Bat Out Of Hell III. Much like a third installment in a movie trilogy that is made by different creative hands than the earlier films, this album noticeably does not feel the same as its two predecessors, even though it has the same star. That’s not always a bad thing, because as theatrical as Bat Out Of Hell III may be, it is plagued with fewer excesses than it likely would have been if Steinman had produced it. This album was instead produced by Desmond Child, who co-wrote six of the non-Steinman tracks, and Todd Rundgren arranged the background vocals. There seem to be at least as many male background vocalists as female ones this time around, and none of them are as distracting as, say, Karla DeVito. This album often aims for a harder rock sound than its two predecessors. The title track (written by Child, Nikki Sixx, and John 5) and “If It Ain’t Broke Break It” sound more metallic than operatic; “Blind As A Bat” sounds like a song that Evanescence might perform. The best-known song here is Steinman’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”, which was a #2 hit for Celine Dion in 1996. Meat Loaf renders the song as a duet with Norwegian singer Marion Raven, and it has a less slick feel of a stage musical number. Two of the other Steinman compositions were reportedly intended for an aborted Batman stage musical: “In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King” features good theatrical phrasing by Meat, and slightly metallic guitar by Steve Vai; on the gentler closing track “Cry To Heaven”, Meat seems to be singing in a Celtic accent, accompanied by flute and harp. Steinman’s “Seize The Night” is a nine-minute classical suite with metallic guitar passages, given more tasteful presentation than it probably would have received from its author. The same probably goes for the eight-minute Steinman ballad “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”, sung as a duet with Jennifer Hudson. However, the downside of Child’s production is that there are a few too many formula pop songs (“If God Could Talk”, “What About Love”, Diane Warren’s “Cry Over Me”), given more credibility than they deserve by Meat’s confident delivery. Material like this does not help the album's (expected) problem with overlength.

While it certainly has its entertaining moments, Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose ultimately leaves the same impression as a big-budget sequel to a blockbuster film that fizzles at the box office and fails to generate a major comeback for its star. You'll either be one of its defenders who argue that it is underrated, or (like Meat Loaf) you will hardly acknowledge that it ever existed.

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose

Meat Loaf “Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose” (Virgin 0946 3 63147 2 3) 2006

Track Listing:

1. The Monster Is Loose (7:12)
2. Blind As A Bat (5:52)
3. It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (featuring Marion Raven) (6:05)
4. Bad For Good (7:33)
5. Cry Over Me (4:40)
6. In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King (5:38)
7. Monstro (1:39)
8. Alive (4:22)
9. If God Could Talk (3:46)
10. If It Ain’t Broke Break It (4:50)
11. What About Love (featuring Patti Russo) (6:03)
12. Seize The Night (9:46)
13. The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be (featuring Jennifer Hudson) (7:54)
14. Cry To Heaven (2:22)