Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell

Roaring Harleys, screeching vocals and teen angst once again run amok as Meat Loaf makes his return after an eight-year absence — and 16 years after the release of the multiplatinum Bat out of Hell.

Why, after all this time, a sequel? Perhaps because the theatrical carnage inflicted by the 1977 original continues to be much appreciated — to the tune of a brisk 15,000 units per week. Or perhaps, after dueling lawsuits, he has made his peace with his former partner, writer-producer Jim Steinman. Whatever the reason, Loaf hasn't made a record since Bad Attitude, in 1985 — which died a quick death — and he has been splitting his time between acting and perfecting his curveball on the softball fields of New York City's Central Park.

Accompanied by an impressive cast from the original album (keyboardist Roy Bittan and drummer Kenny Aronoff, with vocal support by Ellen Foley, Kasim Sultan and Todd Rundgren), Bat II is 75 minutes of the same harmless, low-octane operatic drivel. But this is the age of safe sex — no groping teens, please, not even a grunt. Just some insufferably long Steinman compositions with equally long names ("Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are" clocks in at 10:15), sprinkled around guilty pleasures like "It Just Won't Quit," "Good Girls Go to Heaven (But Bad Girls Go Everywhere)" and "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)."

Loaf, who'll soon turn 46, is in fine voice. He is also said to be in fighting trim at 250 pounds. Still, 16 years is a long time. Maybe the answer to Bat out of Hell II is revealed in the radio-friendly "It Just Won't Quit," when a mournful Meat Loaf gently croons: "There was a time when I knew just what I was living for/There was a time, and the time was so long ago." But, who knows, with the current trend for all things '70s, there still may be a place in this world for Meat Loaf.

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