Album Review: Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators - 'World On Fire'.
There can’t be many more mutually beneficial relationships than that that has developed between Slash and Myles Kennedy in recent years. As recently as 2008, the Alter Bridge front man had been singing the praises of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction’, citing it as one of his favourite albums, whilst at the same time, Slash, along with his bandmates continued their never-ending and ultimately fruitless task of finding a replacement for Scott Weiland in Velvet Revolver. Now three albums into a career that seems at the forefront of the top-hatted one’s priorities, it’s fair to say that theirs has been a fruitful pairing.
A fair amount of hype surrounds this release, with a one-hundred and thirty-two page newsstand fan pack, a limited vinyl pressing through Amazon, numerous mainstream rock magazine covers and the biggest and most high profile tour that the band have undertaken in the UK supporting its release. But is it any cop? Living in the shadow of the main protagonists’ considerable collective pasts can’t be easy. Not only has ‘World On Fire’ the inevitable Guns ’N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, as well as the Alter Bridge comparisons to live up to, but also the standard of the last two Slash albums (the first on which Kennedy was dominant amongst a host of guest vocalists, the second featuring the same ‘Conspirators’ that are present here), which contained more than a smattering of now classic tracks too.
Anyone expecting anything other than Slash’s patented ‘Rock ‘N’ F’n’ ’Roll’ need look elsewhere. The iconic guitar hero that he is, Slash and band very much revert to type with dirty riffs, sleazy solos and driving grooves that are laced with high-octane attitude. First up is the title track, and those who have seen the provocative video for the song will know what to expect. A killer chorus and an instant star turn from Kennedy kicks things off in fine fashion. ‘It may never be this good again’ he sings over a storming Slash riff. He may be right, and although Kennedy may be all over the song, Slash isn’t about to be upstaged in his own band, delivering a trademark fast and greasy solo. As a taster for what’s to come, it’s as indicative as it is irresistible.
Containing a total of seventeen tracks in all, the album is perhaps a little difficult to digest in one sitting. However, the stomping ‘Wicked Stone’ is an instant standout. With verse riffs consciously reminiscent of a bastardised ‘Paradise City’, a knowing wink is offered in its cheeky “last night in paradise” lyric. Slash however, dominates the song, pulling out more riffs and solos in one sitting than most bands can muster on an entire album. Second single, ‘Bent To Fly’ is another highlight. Not so much a ballad, as a brooding, mid-paced rocker, Kennedy turns in another outstanding performance on the album’s most reflective piece. A high-kicking chorus however keeps the schmaltz at bay.
It may be only rock ‘n’ roll, but that doesn’t mean that it’s one-dimensional, as demonstrated on some of the album’s more expansive tracks. There’s light and plenty of shade on the closing ‘The Unholy’. Adding a touch evil, it’s ‘World On Fire’s darkest song. ‘Beneath The Savage Sun’ meanwhile conceals within its stomping hard rock grooves a haunting breakdown which offers one of the more surprising passages on the album.
Of the remaining tracks, a familiar G N’R groove kicks ‘Shadow Life’ into gear, whilst ‘Avalon’ tips its hat to Rory Gallagher with its Celtic-tinged licks. ‘30 Years To Life’ piles on the vocal harmonies and is one of the album’s faster numbers, whilst the crackling vinyl and redneck verse that comically precedes ‘The Dissident’ betrays a surprisingly musically introspective piece that delivers one of its catchier tracks. Clocking in at over seventy minutes in total, there’s inevitably some filler too, with neither ‘Automatic’ nor ‘Dirty Girl’ shining amongst the admittedly top drawer quality presented elsewhere.
In a year that is short on high profile releases, it’s welcoming to find one that lives up to the hype. Four years in, and Slash has undoubtedly found the perfect foil in a singer who doesn’t suffer from the dreaded ‘Lead Singer’s Disease’, yet has the pipes to justify such a condition. But then you knew that already. One of the finest albums you’ll hear all year, get the air guitars at the ready. You’re going to need them.
First published on uberrock.co.uk, 8 September 2014.