Thursday, August 28, 2014

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators - World On Fire - Reaching To New Heights

Slash has perhaps made his most powerful statement since walking onto the world stage with Guns 'N' Roses Appetite For Destruction way back in 1987. He's finally once again put the whole package together, and he's got the perfect team on World On Fire helping him to put it all across.

In a world reduced to mp3 files and ear buds, it's good to hear that some bands and acts are still doing it right, and making records that sound great. Slash has raised the bar another notch higher with his new album, World On Fire. Teaming up again with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, and bringing on for production duties longtime Kennedy collaborator Michael "Elvis" Baskette, everyone's favorite top hat has blessed us with an album filled with great guitars (excellent riffs, solos, and songs), state of the art vocals, and a throbbing rhythm section. This record is jumping out of my ancient studio monitors, and they're howling and thumbing like a Marshall 4X12 - and that's exactly how it should be.

Slash has also delivered the goods vis-a-vis the sheer amount of rock on this offering - World On Fire clocks in at over 77 minutes, a double album by any standard with 17 tracks that should keep the kids busy until at least Christmas. By now you've most likely heard the title track, and if you haven't go now to you local Youtube and check it out, because it's a great representation of what you'll get for your money here. It's picture perfect classic hard rock/metal that features a familiar but not that familiar opening salvo that wouldn't sound out of line on any '80s classic album, and it's solid as anything he's out out in his long, illustrious career.

Photo by Jamesy Koutelis
However, while this album visits, and pays homage to the past - it doesn't live there. This is heavy, hard, and contemporary. Slash is a guy who obviously keeps his ear close to the ground, and he's nowhere near a throwback to an earlier time. His partner Kennedy sees to that - his vocals occasionally pay tribute to such voices as Dickinson, Rose, and Coverdale, but as far as I can tell, he's doing them as well as they are these days, so I'm content with the parallels, and he's often brilliant in his own right. The Conspirators are particularly inspired on this album - Todd Kerns' bass tones are huge, and he's up in the mix quite nicely. His unholy racket on Beneath The Savage Sun is one of the best rides you'll take this year. When you hear someone talking about a ballsy bass sound, this is what it sounds like. Brent Fitz is perfect behind the kit as he sets a blistering pace across the album, driving the band, and being both musical and powerful.

This album is surprisingly metallic. It's riff-a-rama time, and Slash has put in the time to insure there's nothing half baked to be found. His riffs are consistently engaging and classic in their conception and execution, his soloing is the best I've heard from him, he sounds smoother, faster, and his right hand seems to be getting better and better. The notes are popping of the neck, and there's none of the occasional sloppiness that hindered his work in the days of wine and roses. He's now standing beside the Schenkers, Tiptons, and Murrays of the world in terms of fast, clean, melodic, and ear catching solos. I invite longtime fans to listen close, and I'm guessing they'll agree that he's always been a very good player who is now closing in on some true greatness. His writing and playing has been elevated.

Photo by Richard Booth
I keep toggling back and forth between this and past Slash endeavors, and indeed World On Fire sounds more focused, more direct, and articulated. This album is mean and clean - it's production is crystal clear and pristine, but it's also right in your face and willing to take no prisoners. It's not as feral as 2012's Apocalyptic Love, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't rock even harder - Slash is the only guitarist here, and there's less trying to arrange for what sometimes sounded like a nod to a two guitar past. I will say that I definitely prefer the production on this album. Slash has conceptualized the guitar arrangements brilliantly throughout. Kennedy has never been better presented, and his dynamic range is more apparent than ever. This album sounds like a band, a great band - and that's the bottom line.

I'm going to resist my usual approach of going through the album song-by-song because I want you to discover them for their own qualities, but I'll add that the consistency of the package is blowing me away, and I'm thinking that you'll have this on your players for quite some time digesting its brilliance. You can pick up the needle and put it down at any point and come away smiling from ear to ear. The other reason for not going through the whole roster is the size of the roster - I'd be writing until next month, and all there really is to say is that you should buy this record, you should love this record, and I hope that Slash and this current outfit keep making records of this quality for a long, long time.

Slash has been a superstar for a long, long time, and he's certainly got a great catalog and resume behind him, but I truly feel that this album elevates him to yet a higher plain. The songs are better, the guitar playing has been tightened up, toughened up, and beautified, he and Kennedy are more eye to eye as writers, the band is growing as a working unit, and Michael Baskette has captured it all wonderfully. I'm more convinced than ever that a great producer is an essential part of the making of great records. There's now a whole generation that has missed the beauty of fantastic sounding rock, and they need to hear material such as this.

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