Saul Hudson, more famously known as Slash, is a polarizing figure in modern rock. Some blame him for the break up of Guns N’ Roses. Some blame him of trying to sell us average and increasingly irrelevant music. I blame him for allowing Fergie to ruin Paradise City.
I approached his latest record World On Fire, released via Dik Hayd Records on 15 september 2014, with a certain amount of trepidation. I am a huge fan of Slash and love all of his work, from Guns N’ Roses to Velvet Revolver to his solo albums. I wrote an article some time back about my love for solos and its decline and Slash is one of the most famous lead guitarists in the world today. His self-titled first album is one of my personal favorites and his next album, Apocalyptic love, was a good follow up. I did not want him to disappoint me by putting out a couple of rehashed old songs. He did not.
Clocking in at a shade over 77 mins, World on fire is a glorious monster of an album. It has everything. GNR fan ? Slash gives you the title track and ’30 Years to Life’. Want something that sounds more like modern rock ? There is ‘The Dissident’ and ‘Bent to Fly’. Want something darker and heavier ? Listen to ‘Beneath The Savage Sun’ and ‘The Unholy’.
The first time I listened to the album, the thing that struck me more than the quality of the songs was the diversity. If there was one criticism of Apocalyptic love, it was that it suffered from a lack of diversity. No such complaints here. Slash showcases his full repertoire of skills and then some. Along with his trusty wah and his inane ability to come up with amazing solos, Slash belts out riff after riff. And he does it while showing restrain. While he may have been accused of overshadowing his “bandmates” in the previous album, there can be no such misgivings here as everybody from ultra talented singer Myles Kennedy, to decent enough bassist Todd Kerns and I-dont-know-who-this-guy-is drummer Brent Fitz shine on this album. They feel much more like a band rather than just Slash featuring the The Conspirators.
The album starts out in a blast of past glory as Slash rolls in the old school GNR sound with a furious riff, thumping bass, soaring solo and the classic cowbell (more cowbell) in the title track. This is followed by ‘Shadow Life’ which has a catchy riff that gets stuck in your head. Myles Kennedy channels a bit of Alter Bridge in the chorus of this song. Slash continues to turn back the clock with his next song ‘Automatic Overdive’, a fast paced powerchords based song that has a short but interesting solo. It has a stellar performance by Myles Kennedy as he makes the song his own without overpowering the instruments.
This is followed by a very groovy ‘Wicked Stone’. It opens up with an energetic intro and never lets the pace drop. This was one of my favorite songs of the album and features a catchy main riff. The song features an interesting slow section, the kind of which Slash is very adept at and ends with a typically strong solo that manages to knock your socks off while still being classic Slash. The next song ’30 Years to Life’ is a throwback to one of GNR’s most famous songs, ‘Paradise City’, complete with a similar intro, similar cowbells and a similarly fast paced outro. Its a good song but you get bored after listening to it a few times.
5 songs in and I was as hooked as I was worried. Worried because I did not want this to be a GNR tribute album. While that would not be such a bad thing in and of itself, I would have been disappointed if Slash had gone down that route. Fortunately he does not and the next song ‘Bent to Fly’ sounds more Alter Bridge than Slash. It is a welcome reprieve from the 80’s hard rock onslaught and goes some way to easing my fears. It is also one of the slower paced songs in the album and as always, Slash does not disappoint and gives us a characteristic solo that suits the song perfectly. The next song ‘Stone Blind’ starts off with a phaser infused Dream Theatre-esque intro. The song ventures into similar hard rock territory with some ambient parts that the song could have benefited with more of from.
The next song ‘Too Far Gone’ is one of the weaker tracks on the album and covers no new territory. Next up is my personal favorite from the album, ‘Beneath the Savage Sun’. It has a very Soundgarden/Slayer feel to it as it starts off with a doom-y intro. You would be hard pressed to recognize it as a Slash song if not for the vocals. The main riff is extremely catchy and the whole song is very well done. The song feels almost Thrash at some places and ends with a strong outro. Up next is more cowbell with ‘Withered Delilah’, which is a thumping arena rock number and the contrast with ‘Beneath the Savage Sun’ is interesting.
Myles’ influence can be seen in the next track ‘Battleground’ that is a slow emotional song and ‘Dirty Girl’, which is a rambunctious groovy rocker. ‘Iris of the storm’ and ‘Avalon’ further show Slash’s versatility. ‘The Dissident’ is Slash’s attempt to be Christopher Nolan as he fools you with an old blues intro that turns into a modern rock song.
The album ends with 2 strong tracks in ‘Safari Inn’ and ‘The Unholy’. ‘Safari Inn’ is a bluesy instrumental that is another favorite of mine. It features extended solos from slash it never gets boring. This track was one of the highlights of the album for me and whoever thinks “Slash has lost it” should go listen to it as he melts your face with solo after solo. The last song ‘The Unholy’ is a moody, melancholy track that serves as the perfect way to end the album.
One of the complaints with this album would be that it has too many songs. It would have benefited from having 2 or even 3 of the mid tempo rockers being removed. That would have made it a dead favorite to be named as album of the year in various publications. Special mention should go to Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz as they finally show that they are not just hired live musicians and shine in this album.
If you want something new and revolutionary, give this album a miss. This album is a throwback to the classic 80’s hard rock era interspersed with some modern rock numbers. It is an anomaly in the current music scene yet is all the more better for it. Slash answers all his critics and then some with a very good album that only suffers from too much music.
Rating – 8.5/10