Saturday, 15 November 2014

Slash's 'World on Fire' - Album Review

Although this album was available with the Classic Rock Magazine's Fan-pack mid-September, it did not see a general release until last month. World on Fire by Slash (or Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators to give the band their full, convoluted name) was an album I was not originally going to get. For someone who enjoyed both his self-titled debut solo album from 2010, and 2012's Apocalyptic Love - the first of his albums to feature the same musicians on all of the tracks - this might seem an odd revelation. The thing that originally put me off though was the length of the album. At over 77 minutes long, nearly the full capacity of a CD, that is just too long. Unless you are Dream Theater, or any other progressive rock band, there is no need to make albums that length. At first I thought that the 77 minutes was the length of the Fan-pack version, as they usually come with lots of bonus tracks, but no, this was the length of the general retail release. Something about this really annoyed me and I decided not to pre-order it. However, when browsing in HMV one day shortly after the album's release, I decided to relent and give it a go and try and put the length of it out of my head. I am glad I did as, despite the overlong run time of this album, it really does rock and it is packed full of great songs! Slash and vocalist Myles Kennedy have once again written a collection of great, no-nonsense hard rock songs that ooze with equal amounts of class and sleaze. Those who are familiar with Slash's guitar sound and style will know what to expect here, and he does not divert far from his established zone. Although Kennedy is more known for his work with Alter Bridge, his work with Slash is actually starting to catch up now. With his band-mate Mark Tremonti working on his new solo album at the moment, I assume it will be a while before we hear any more from Alter Bridge! The rest of the band is made up of bassist Todd Kerns (Static in Stereo; Sin City Sinners), and drummer Brent Fitz (Union; Vince Neil) who have both toured and recorded with Slash for a while now. This band is as tight as anyone else out there touring at the moment and that translates well onto the album. On Apocalyptic Love, Myles Kennedy also played most of the album's rhythm guitar parts, but due to his commitments with Alter Bridge he has only contributed vocals here, leaving Slash to perform all of the album's guitars. This album also sees the band work with a different producer, Michael 'Elvis' Baskette, who Kennedy knows well as he has produced all but one of Alter Bridge's albums up to date.

The album's title track gets things underway in style. The opening machine gun riff is pure Slash and Kerns' pounding bass is prominent and actually drives the song while the guitar riff adds colour around it. Kennedy is in fine voice throughout this album, using a much more 1980s-inspired delivery than he does with Alter Bridge. In the song's chorus, he uses the upper end of his register to create a really driving vocal melody, aptly backed up by Kerns' punky backing vocals. Shadow Life opens out with a rather haunting clean guitar part, before the song explodes into another big riff which stops and starts throughout the verses, as Slash and Kennedy duel for the spotlight. This song sounds like something Slash might have come up with during the early Guns N' Roses days as it certainly has that vibe. It has a really excellent bluesy solo mid-way through too, that is quite fast but always full of melody. Slash has always written memorable solos that help the song's melody, and this is no exception. Automatic Overdrive has another stunning riff which is perfectly complimented with Fitz's ride-heavy drum pattern. It has that punky attitude that filled most of Slash's early work, and the song steams by quickly in a ball of energy. The song's main riff works well as the backing for the chorus too, with the descending guitar pattern making a good backdrop for Kennedy's soaring vocals. The next highlight is the strident 30 Years to Life. It opens with a simple drum beat that recalls Paradise City and some sleazy slide guitar, but the song soon kicks off and it is a real treat for all rock fans. Kennedy's lower vocals during the song's verses give the song real power, and as he gradually cranks through the gears the song builds around him. By the time we reach the chorus he is in full swing, and Slash's neat guitar leads in the background only help to enhance the atmosphere. I know this is a Slash album, but Kennedy really steals the show on this songs, and he shows why his is one of the best hard rock vocalists around at the moment. This is my favourite song on the album, and I hope this will become a live favourite for years to come. Bent to Fly is next and it opens with some really beautiful clean guitar and gentle, wordless vocals from Kennedy. This song actually has a very strong Alter Bridge vibe, especially with the way Kennedy sings in the verses. While they are fairly relaxed, the choruses are strong and powerful, turning the song into a real anthem. The song is pure class, and one all involved with it can be proud of! After a couple of more average tracks, we get to the heavy Beneath the Savage Sun. The song has a really dirty, almost metal riff and a verse that hangs on some seriously heart-stopping bass notes from Kerns. It still feels like a Slash song, but certain sections of the song are much heavier than we have come to expect from him, so it is nice to see him branching out a little and trying something different. The song's solo, however, reminds you instantly who it is!

Withered Delilah follows and this gets back to more familiar territory. It is not one of Slash's best, but it contains a really infectious chorus that is really hard to get out of your head. The riffs are still interesting, but it just lacks something that the earlier songs on this album had. Still, when Kennedy really lets rip during the chorus, you feel the power and it is hard not to sing along. Battleground is a pretty long song that goes through many different styles as it plays. It starts out as a ballad, with some really nice clean guitar patterns and Kennedy's gentle croon. The choruses are a little heavier, with some drawn out distorted chords. There is a really excellent guitar solo mid-way through that recalls some of his past moments of glory. It is epic in proportion, and goes on for quite a while as it builds up and gathers speed as it moves. Kennedy leads a wordless chant towards the end of the song that is sure to work well live with the arms of the crowd swaying in time to the music as Slash burst into another solo. Dirty Girl is exactly what it sounds like it would be, a sleazy strip club anthem. Fitz's punchy drums get things going, before a very 1980s hair metal riff comes in with a very danceable rhythm. Kerns' bass emphasises this rhythm in the verses which is sure to get hips shaking, and the chorus has great opportunities for crowd participation live. This is nothing clever or new, but it is a fun little song that does not care. Iris of the Storm is another song that definitely has that Alter Bridge influence in it. The guitar work is 100% Slash, but Kennedy uses the more emotional end of his vocals that has brought him so much success with his main band. The chorus has a great guitar arpeggio riff from Slash, and the guitar solo is almost shredded, which is a departure from his usual bluesy style. Again, this is something a little different that sets this song out from some of the others. It is great to see him try some new things, and it works very well here. Avalon is another punky hard rock number that sees plenty of soaring vocal lines and heavy, simple guitar riffs. At just under three minutes long, it is the album's shortest song, which is nice given the past two songs have been something more complex and original, so it's placing in the album really works well for it. The Dissident opens with a small, joke country rock section before one of the catchiest riffs on the album comes in and takes the song off in a really great direction. This is one of the album's best songs, as the chorus is huge and the riffing is full of that typical Slash melody. The playful melodies here are so infectious, and Slash's guitar solo is a real treat. A truly excellent song! After a short instrumental called Safari Inn, the album's last song The Unholy starts. It is actually not one of the album's best songs, and seems slightly anti-climactic after what has gone before. It never really gets going, and it is a shame that the album had to end on this song. Overall however, this is a very strong album. I still wish it was shorter, so my original doubts remain, but that does not take anything away from many of the songs here which are excellent.

The album was released on 13th October 2014 via Roadrunner Records. Below is the band's promotional lyric video for World on Fire.

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