I don’t mind admitting it. I am still in awe of Eric Valentine. Back in 1992, after recording several SF Bay area bands, who wanted high quality demos they could shop to the majors, he produced, recorded and mixed his own band’s one and only eponymous album. His band was called T-Ride. The writing, the arrangements, the recording, the mixing are the nearest things I have heard to genius in the world of popular music, (the only guy to get close is Peter Wolf, with his Chicago and Lou Gramm productions). Ironically, the T-Ride release didn’t prove to be all that popular, but has become something of a cult album down through the years. Artistic success, commercial failure. A familiar story.
But that was then and this is now. Valentine has since become a sought after producer, with his own purpose built studio (you tube) and he produced this latest album from Saul (Slash) Hudson.
And part of the problem is this : every time you listen to Slash you’re unconsciously comparing the music to ‘Appetite …’ or maybe even The Illusion releases. And the new stuff always comes up short. Yes, ‘Apocalyptic Love’ has been damned by faint praise in the music press, the bulk of which is still expecting the man who co-wrote ’Paradise City’, ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ and ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ to continue breaking ground in a spectacular manner. And that expectation has blinded many to one unassailable fact : ‘Apocalyptic Love’ is an outstandingly good album. Hudson has very productively teamed up with the hugely talented vocalist/guitarist, Myles (Alter Bridge) Kennedy and the result here is an impressive, heavy rock assembly of lean hooks and muscular riffs, fuelled by a wired energy and driven by a strident urgency. Occasionally the guitar tone or an axe motif will stir a distant memory – like the one that embellishes ’No More Heroes’ biting groove, but for the most part, the embryo relationship formed during Hudson’s first solo outing has blossomed into something fresh and exciting.
Naturally, Hudson’s incendiary axe work is all over the music, but the duo always make sure that, in among the fire and thunder, there are songs, and emotion and, thank god, memorable melodies.
And there are plenty highlights:
The steely, postmodern hard rock of ‘We Will Roam’ ; The rapidfire punkrock squall of ’One Last Thrill’ and ‘Standing In The Sun’s explosive hook, where Kennedy’s voice snakes through the lyrics with a sinuous grace, tearing up the notes as only a man with a four-octave range can.
‘Anastasia’s focused harmonies and purposeful beats recall T-Ride in all their multi tracked glory while ‘Not For Me’ is a smoking slab of contemporary hard rock. Hudson kicks the doors off with a thick cut riff and Kennedy wails convincingly as the debris falls, on what could easily have been a heavy metal version of any unreleased track from the Beatles’ ‘White Album’ sessions. Unarguably an album standout.
Finally, ‘Bad Rain’s funk laden groove is so freighted with sounds and ideas – with Hudson releasing relentless salvoes of booming, bass heavy axe work onto a trail strewn with Kennedy’s vocal theatrics – that it threatens to sink below the heaving swell of Valentine’s cutting edge sonics. Awesome.
Don’t let anyone fool you. This is one outstanding album, with impressive performances from all concerned.
Rated 8 out of 10