Genre: Hard Rock
Release Date: September 15 (Classic Rock’s Slash Fan Pack)
Released by: Dik Hayd International LLC
Links: SLASH ONLINE
1. World on fire
2. Shadow life
3. Automatic overdrive
4. Wicked stone
5. 30 years to life
6. Bent to fly
7. Stone blind
8. Too far gone
9. Beneath the savage sun
10. Withered Delilah
12. Dirty girl
13. Iris of the storm
15. The dissident
16. Safari inn
17. The unholy
MYLES KENNEDY (vocals),
BRENT FITZ (drums)
TODD KERNS (bass)
When the press were first treated to an exclusive airing of ‘World On Fire‘ and a short acoustic set from Slash and Myles back in June 2014, it was clear that this, the third solo release from Slash, was going to be rather special. A single listen of the album, surrounded by noisy journalists and assorted photographers suggested a richer more anthemic album that was a clear progression from 2012’s ‘Apocalyptic Love‘.
As the press copies are distributed for review, the opportunity to finally give the album the attention it deserves and listen to it without distractions presents itself. ‘Automatic Overdrive’ with its energised guitar intro immediately grabs the listener and delivers a comforting message that this is indeed going to be good. The band sound tighter than ever and are clearly a real unit with purpose. Forget the long winded band name “Slash feat: Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators”, this is not a group of musicians that are guesting on the album with Slash but a fully fledged hard rock act producing material that will stand the test of time.
Standing the test of time is something that this album will indeed do. It sounds timeless, with a sound that is very accessible in this day and age, it is also an album that will sound fresh ten, even twenty, years from now. The energy the band portray on the album feels effortless at times but represents the quality and experience of the musicians playing here. ‘Avalon’ with its “it’s been way too long” line on the chorus is infectious and a stand out single. Not surprisingly it gets repeated listens before moving on to the rest of the seventeen (yes, seventeen!) tracks on offer. When ‘Apolocalyptic Love’ was released back in 2012, it went straight into the Billboard charts at Number Four. Two singles hit the top of the rock charts and it’s likely on the strength of tracks like ‘Avalon’ that this feat should be repeated if not bettered. There is a definite buzz surrounding this latest release and pre sales suggest it will indeed fare very well.
The longest track on the album at 6:59 is ‘Battleground’ with a bass heavy intro and groove. It slows the pace only slightly but maintains that stadium driven element that hooks the audience at every level. The ‘ Hey Jude‘ like finale to the song will have crowds singing along long after the song has finished and demonstrates again the progression of the band from ‘supportive’ to ‘inclusive’ members.
Comparisons to past bands and glories are always going to happen and with ‘Bent to Fly’ the intro evokes memories of ‘Don’t Cry’ from Guns’n’Roses ‘Use Your Illusion I’, helped in no small part when the opening line includes the lyric “Mama don’t you cry…“. ‘Dirty Girl’ has elements of the harder intro to ‘Paradise City‘ lurking under the hood but these are only complimentary components to the songs that make them more immediately accessible to the listener.
On this release, they have worked with producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette (Alter Bridge, Falling In Reverse, Incubus). Given this is the fifth release that Myles has done with Baskette it’s not surprising that he has been able to get the best out of the band. From the Press Release that preceded the album’s launch;
SLASH: “Elvis is very conscious about guitar and guitar tones as well as drums, bass and vocals. For me, it is important to work with somebody who is very dialed-into guitar sounds. In this particular day and age it’s a rarity to find someone who really understands guitar sounds. Elvis is an extremely hard-worker. I consider myself a hard worker as well as Myles. He was somebody that, over the course of making the record, gave me an even more of an extra push in some moments. So he brought out the best in me as well as Myles and the drums and everything. He was a pleasure to work with.”
MYLES: “Elvis is brilliant. It’s the fifth record I have had the pleasure of recording with him. His ability to get the best out of a rock band is pretty special. He always seems to be aware of what the fans want to hear from an artist. He did a great job documenting Slash’s tone and sound. I remember the first time I heard the solo for “Battleground”–I was blown away. Elvis captured the sonic hallmarks that made Slash’s playing resonate with me 25 years ago.”
It would be wrong to focus solely on the guitar work on the album as Myles Kennedy has never sounded better than he does here. Even though the day job with Alter Bridge has rewarded us with some excellent releases, the work he does with Slash seems to take him and his voice to another level. On ‘The Dissident‘ every note is pitch perfect and the “woah-oah-oah-oh” in the chorus cannot fail to raise a smile and encourage the dial to be turned up another notch or five. By the time we reach ‘Iris of The Storm’ and ‘Safari Inn’ we are almost 40 minutes into the album and lesser bands may well have stopped there, called it a day and released the material. Not so here as the album clocks in at a staggering 1 hour 17 minutes. Value for money or are there perhaps filler tracks on here that if trimmed would have presented a tighter, more coherent release to the public?
Thankfully, fears can be alleviated as there is nothing on this release even close to filler material. What we are presented with is variety and it’s the variety that keeps us engaged throughout wondering what might come next. With ‘Safari Inn’ we get an instrumental, a bold move in the days where listener patience is usually limited and solos can draw sighs from a crowd during a live show. Yet again however, the instrumental is interesting, grabbing and inclusive. It makes you stop and take note, drawing you ever closer into the track to listen to the small intricacies of Slash’s playing. Before you know it, three and a half minutes have disappeared and Myles voice returns on ‘Shadow Life’ another track that will translate perfectly to the arena stage.
Looking at the latter end of the album, ‘The Unholy‘ showcases how ‘epic’ tracks should be performed, grandiose without being overblown (former colleagues take note please) and ‘Wicked Stone’ instils a sense of fun and energy again when compared to the more sombre aforementioned predecessor. The cowbell and riff brings some swagger to ‘Withered Delilah’ which contains yet another chorus that firmly embeds itself in the brain. Such is the quality of song writing across the album, the title track doesn’t even make an appearance until the end along with album closer ‘30 Years to Life’
The evolution of the band has been an interesting one to behold. From the début album where a collection of riffs and ideas were shared with his best ‘rock’ friends on which Myles contributed to the most tracks, to album number two where a line up was settled upon and an approach that said “let’s see what we can do as a band” to this album number three where everything falls into place. Album number three is an interesting point in history for many bands. Like ‘Slippery When Wet‘ and ‘Pyromania‘ this could be the release that allows the band (and Slash once more) to reach a global audience outside of just the hard rock fraternity. The content might not be as raw and edgy as say ‘Appetite for Destruction‘ but the quality is just as apparent and ‘Appetite..’ sold a few copies in its’ time I am told!
Definitely a contender for album of the year and a view borne out my other opinions out there as well. It may well be fashionable to praise Slash and wax lyrical about how good he is etc.. but the truth of the matter is that this album is fantastic. To produce 17 tracks of this calibre is no mean feat and the adulation being aimed at him, Myles, Brent and Todd is nothing if not deserved.
Written by Adrian Hextall
Ratings Adrian 9/10