Steel Panther Turns it to 11: A Review of Balls Out

For most bands, writing a debut album with the perfect mix of humor, pop sensibilities, memorable songs, and a vibe that recaptures the feel of a time gone by, is no easy task. Writing a follow-up album? Damn near impossible.

Steel Panther, however, was not only up to the task: they pulled it off.

When Feel the Steel was released in 2009, the mix of shockingly raunchy lyrics and catchy riffs won over the ears and hearts of many. If you’re a Steel Panther fan, you love Steel Panther. I went in to Balls Out with a different mindset than I did Feel The Steel. I this time, the raunchiness was expected; the vulgarities became a staple of what listeners wanted from their music. This is what makes Balls Out different from their debut: the anticipation of shocking lyricism. However, Steel Panther knew this, and they went ahead and made a record filled with some of the catchiest, can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head-until-I-learn-it-myself songs ever written. The songwriting abilities of guitarist Satchel puts some of their glam metal influences to shame.

Always sly and not afraid to pay clever tribute to some of their influences (if you listen to the bridge from “Critter”, the lead vocals and echoing backing vocal accompaniment beckons the prechorus to Europe’s “The Final Countdown”, and the stomping main riff of “Tomorrow Night” leaves one reminiscent of Shotgun Messiah’s “Heartbreak Blvd.”), the songs on Balls Out are searing with glammed up hooks and choruses that would’ve soared to the number 1 Billboard spot in 1986. Most of the music is better than the music established 80’s bands are putting out nowadays.

Vocalist Michael Starr’s voice is in tip-top shape; whereas on Feel The Steel he wore his David Lee Roth influence on his sleeve, with Balls Out he looks to have found his own signature voice. His powerful chest voice and airy-yet-tremendous head voice soars over the blazing riffs Satchel seems to be able to pull out of thin air. The final pieces of the puzzle, drummer Stix Zadinia and bassist Lexxi Foxxx, mesh together as the perfect rhythm section, pounding out a steady beat to perfectly compliment and accompany the busy riffing and vocal melodies. With only one of each instrument, Steel Panther is a dangerous weapon. Each of their members completely holds their own, making the band a powerful working unit.

If you haven’t picked up Balls Out yet, it’s highly recommended. The concept of Steel Panther is one that would be short-lived had it been conceived by anyone but the individuals that make up the band, and I’m excited to see where they take it next.

Make sure to catch Steel Panther live, as they’re on tour now. Dates in the NJ/NYC area include December 1st at the Starland Ballroom in Sayerville, and January 3rd at the Gramercy Theater in Manhattan.

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