Back in June, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators released “World On Fire” – the title track off of their latest album – as their first single. The seemingly endless wait finally concluded this week when the album was released. It is said that the best things in life are worth waiting for, which is absolutely true in this case.
World On Fire is a quintessential hard rock album that blends Slash’s brilliant guitar playing, Myles Kennedy’s incomparable vocals and The Conspirators, a hard rock ensemble that rivals every incarnation of Guns N’ Roses. Although they don’t have the name recognition of Slash and Kennedy yet, Todd Kerns (bass), Brent Fitz (drums) and Frank Sidoris (rhythm guitar) will very likely become household names by the time that this 17-track, hard rock masterpiece runs its course.
THE MAKING OF…
In a recent interview on SiriusXM’s Octane, Slash and Kennedy discussed the writing process for new material. During the interview, Slash said that the hardest part of recording World On Fire was figuring out the right sequence for the tracks, which made a few things abundantly clear.
First of all, Slash is a perfectionist who sees (and hears) things from a different perspective than fans of his music. The truth of the matter is that, while sequence can have a huge impact on a typical album, World On Fire is anything but typical. This album could be played on a random sequence with each listen and not lose a bit of its luster. To be fair to Slash, the first ten tracks probably should be grouped together because they have more of a GNR flavor than the final seven tracks, which are stellar in their own right, just a bit different.
The other thing that was made clear about the writing process between Slash and Kennedy is that they are as close to a perfect combination as you can get. While many lead vocalists and lead guitarists have clashing egos, this dynamic duo has an undeniable chemistry, and mutual respect for what the other one brings to the table. This comes across both in their live performance and on the album.
…WORLD ON FIRE
Often times, album reviews break down each track, but in this case, things would start to get very repetitive (in a good way) with that approach.
World On Fire is filled with so much great material that it is almost impossible to pick favorite tracks. I’ve always found that, with albums like this, picking my favorite track is like hitting a moving target because my favorites tend to change after multiple listens. For what it’s worth, when I saw the band live recently, Kennedy said that “30 Years To Life” is his personal favorite. There is no doubt that it would make for an excellent follow-up single, but then again, many other tracks would as well.
SLASH ~ MYLES KENNEDY ~ THE CONSPIRATORS
Slash is in a class by himself when it comes to making the guitar “sing.” The distinct sound that he honed during his GNR days are front and center on many of the tracks (especially the first ten), but he definitely has more than that to offer on World On Fire. From aggressive, angry riffs to his more bluesy side, Slash once again proves that he should be mentioned in the same breath with other guitar heroes like Ritchie Blackmore and Eric Clapton (to name a few). While it’s easy to praise his leads, which are all very impressive, one of the things that struck me about this album is his ability to add tasteful, subtle accents to bring the songs to life.
Until his first collaboration with Slash back in 2010, Kennedy inexplicably managed to fly below the radar for his astounding vocal abilities, which are even more impressive when you consider that his first love is guitar.
When Alter Bridge released the critically acclaimed Fortress last year, I couldn’t help but wonder if Kennedy would still be motivated to pull double-duty with Slash. Clearly, that is not an issue, given that he found the time to write enough material with Slash for nearly two albums, while still doing select dates with Alter Bridge. The voice of this generation of hard rock has a seemingly endless supply of energy and brilliant songs to go around for both bands.
Although it is less common nowadays, there were a number of singers back in the 80s who could hit soaring high notes, just like Kennedy does, but usually not with the same musicality. For Kennedy, the song is more important than showing off with vocal acrobatics. His range is impressive, but what really makes him special is his ability to effortlessly blend numerous styles into one song and make it fit the mood perfectly. He has an uncanny knack for melody that somehow manages to make even the most moody, melancholic, brooding moments on the album feel uplifting.
From the dark, haunting low notes to the powerful and soaring high notes, Kennedy puts on a vocal clinic throughout the entire album. And, just when you think that you’ve heard it all, Kennedy somehow manages to take it to another level on the final track – “The Unholy,” where he theatrically mixes rage with beauty, similar to the way that Geoff Tate did on Queensryche’s epic Operation Mindcrime album.
Of course, no musical masterpiece would be possible without a great supporting cast, and The Conspirators are that (and then some). In fact, with Kerns’ singing ability, The Conspirators would be a formidable power trio if they performed without Slash and Kennedy (hypothetically speaking, of course).
Two decades ago, it was hard to find a silver lining to the breakup of GNR, the apparent heirs to the hard rock throne. The formation of this band, and the release of this epic album (and Apocalyptic Love for that matter) is, without question, that silver lining.
Slash, Kennedy & The Conspirators are an energetic, melodic, hard rock tour de force that epitomize everything that rock and roll should be about. Their chemistry, both on stage and on record, is readily apparent in every song that they play. From the obvious brilliant vocal harmonies to the more subtle accents and breaks, this band is a cohesive unit that excels on every level.
THE BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE
At the age of 49, Slash is at the top of his game, and like fine wine, he continues to get better with age. Clearly, there is something to be said for experience, because with the exception of Sidoris, the entire band is in their 40s.
Everything that made Slash’s playing with Guns N’ Roses special is still a big part of his repertoire, and pairing with Kennedy has definitely expanded his horizons and brought out the best in him.
AN INSTANT CLASSIC
World On Fire is an outstanding album from the first note to the last, on par with Appetite For Destruction and even better than Use Your Illusion I and II. With 17 outstanding tracks, it’s like buying a double-album for the price of one. You really couldn’t ask for more, and yet, it still feels like this album ends too soon!