Sunday, October 28, 2012

Slash - Apocalyptic Love [album review]

Released in May

After the disjointed guest vocalist approach Slash took on his last self-titled solo release (which I reviewed in 2010), Apocalyptic Love sees the musician sticking with the lead singer and touring band he used to support that album: a Canadian rhythm section consisting of drummer Brent Fitz (Union, Theory Of A Deadman, Alice Cooper) and bassist Todd Kerns (Age Of Electric), plus lead vocalist Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge), who contributed vocals to a couple of the Slash album songs. Collectively, the outfit is known as Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators - not very succinct, is it? The band name may be a little weak, but Apocalyptic Love is anything but, especially in comparison to the highly disappointing results from Slash's last outing. Had some guy named Eddie Van Halen not put out an album earlier this year, Apocalyptic Love would easily be my guitar album of the year. 

Slash sticks to his strength with an album mostly consisting of the sleazy hard rock sound that turned him into a six-stringed icon with Guns N' Roses. The musician really airs it out over the course of the album's 13 tracks, with riff after wah-wah pedal-drenched riff that would assuredly flummox 99% of the guitarists in any band with an album currently on the Billboard 200 album chart, were they forced to recreate his licks. The acrobatic and greasy rhythm lead line he plays in the opening title track sets the tone for the album, with other standout solo turns on "Standing In The Sun", "You're A Lie", and "Shots Fired". The highlight of the album in terms of dynamic fretboard displays, though, is "Anastasia", where a classical acoustic guitar intro gives way to a neo-classical-influenced main electric riff, before eventually working its way towards the song's coda that recalls the epic Slash-led instrumental interplay on tracks like "Coma" and "Double Talkin' Jive" from GNR's Use Your Illusion I album. Slash's Chuck Berry influence is evident on solid tracks like "Hard & Fast" and "One Last Thrill", and there's also a couple of requisite power ballads with the bluesy "Far And Away" and the heavier, less memorable "Not For Me". Rounding out the other notable tracks are "Bad Rain", "We Will Roam", and "No More Heroes".

Slash was wise to rein in his collaborative process, which included leaving Kennedy to compose all of the lyrics (even if his words aren't terribly original) and co-write all but one of Apocalyptic Love's songs with him, resulting in an album that sounds remarkably more focussed than its predecessor and the best thing the guitarist has put out since the Use Your Illusion albums over two decades ago. I'd have thought Slash's former Velvet Revolver bandmate Scott Weiland would have been the guy that could get the guitarist to live up to his potential in his post-GNR years. Turns out that nod actually goes to the talented Kennedy, who, it should be noted, also sounds remarkably like Axl Rose at times, particularly when he pushes his voice into the higher octaves.

Rating: A-

Related post: my February review of Van Halen's A Different Kind Of Truth album