The sound of a genius with nothing to prove and everything to play for.
Review by Gary Cordwell
Release date: 15 September 2014
So here we are, the return of the Stoke on Trent native, and what a return! Trust me, this review will be running on excitement and adrenaline because the creator of the second greatest guitar riff ever (according to Radio 2’s recent list) is back – and not just a “pretty good” back, this, finally, is “back” back – the “back” us long term fans have been wishing for!
If you’re reading this and don’t know who Slash is then you’ve obviously gone astray online looking for a Birmingham-based quarry so let’s crack on with the album. At 78 minutes and 17 tracks it’s an embarrassment of riches – almost too much to take in in one sitting but amazingly there isn’t a single duff (apologies Mr McKagan) track!
Two things hit you as soon as you press play: the production and the chutzpah! Slash kicks off with the title track, a full on sleazy rocker with a killer solo. It all sounds at ease, confident, right. However great this song is Slash doesn’t feel the need to hold it back for later – everything that follows is just as good and he knows it!
And it all sounds incredible – step forward Alter Bridge producer Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette. Slash has finally found his producer, it sounds deep, rich and gritty. Previous producers have all seemed to try to replicate the sound of the ‘Illusion’ albums which, to me, always sounded slightly sterile and polished. This, however, sounds glorious, it lives and breathes and Slash’s guitar has never been recorded better.
Slash has rediscovered his place again, as the guitar player in a kick ass rock ‘n roll band, and what a band this is! The guys have really bedded down and are no longer bit players in an extended solo project – their name is perfect, they are indeed Conspirators – equals, in this together. Slashs’ talent and baggage had always in the past seemed too big to be contained in whatever project he was in, but no longer!
And Myles… the man is singing on the form of his life, confident, assured and sassy. Axl and Scott always polarised opinion, Myles doesn’t – everyone loves him! He’s not a diva; he’s one of us, almost like a best mate… if your best mate happened to have, pound for pound, the best voice in hard rock today.
The rockers on this album will put a dizzy (apologies Mr Reed) grin on your face. ‘Automatic Overdrive’ wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ‘Appetite’, while ‘Wicked Stone’ – a loose, riff laden masterclass, recalls ‘Mr Brownstone’. They sound effortless – funky, seedy, dirty fuckers one and all, replete with cowbell, Adler stylee drumming and freewheeling solos that sweep you up and deposit you on Sunset Strip circa 88 with a bottle of Jack in hand!
But it’s not all straight ahead stuff, oh no! There is more ambition and experimentation on here than on anything he’s put his name to since ‘Use Your Illusion II’. ‘Bent To Fly’ is one of the best ballads he’s ever done with a rolling riff and an absolute beauty of a solo which is just begging for one of those “Slash wailing away on a mountaintop/desert” videos. ‘Beneath The Savage Sun’ is huge! Probably the heaviest track on the album, its throbbing riff spinning into a jaw dropping solo, Slashy showboating like he hasn’t done for far too long before jumping back into a riff of Hetfield proportions.
‘Battleground’ segues from a melodic yet bruising riff (with skyscraping high notes from Myles) into a joyous, extended ‘Hey Jude’ style big finish which will probably last for about a week live while the final track, ‘The Unholy’, is a huge change of tone. A pitch black, sinister, brooding song full of guilt, recrimination and religious imagery which builds in dark intensity towards a cinematic horror movie of a final riff.
‘Safari Inn’, the albums sole instrumental, kind of sums up where Slash is at now. Freed of high maintenance vocalists, it’s loose, relaxed, loping. He isn’t particularly showing off, just doing what comes naturally – at ease, completely on top of his game, he sings through his Goldtop, and talks, shimmies, shreds, expresses emotion and howls for joy. The sound of a genius with nothing to prove and everything to play for.
Axl once described Slash as “stumbling from the wreckage” – and he has, with style, attitude, class and balls! This really is the album we’ve been hoping for since ’92, it all comes together. There must be a huge, shit-eating grin somewhere under that hat and hair right now and for anyone, like me, for whom G ‘n R were the only band that mattered for a few wild, glorious years – you need this album in your life.
9 out of 10
- World On Fire
- Shadow Life
- Automatic Overdrive
- Wicked Stone
- 30 Years To Life
- Bent To Fly
- Stone Blind
- Too Far Gone
- Beneath The Savage Sun
- Withered Delilah
- Dirty Girl
- Iris Of The Storm
- The Dissident
- Safari Inn
- The Unholy