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Slash “Slash” Review

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There is little left to be said about Slash’s past work that hasn’t already been dissected a million times over: The guitarist is widely considered to be one of the greatest soloists of all time—if not one of the greatest guitarists of all time—and the songs created during his years playing with Guns N’ Roses will forever be remembered as some of the best in the history of rock music. Furthermore, Slash’s ability to reestablish himself in a new era with Velvet Revolver only goes to further cement his status a vital member of the modern rock community; not to mention his million-plus selling Slash’s Snakepit project and his countless guest contributions over the past 20 years. To say that Slash is a departure from the guitarist’s past work is a bit of a stretch, but in describing the new album—his first “solo” record—it would be achingly difficult not to suggest that it further reinforces the idea that Slash as one of the best in the world, regardless of time and supporting cast.

That’s not to say that the lineup performing with Slash on the album isn’t remarkable though, as the distinguished rhythm section alone, featuring bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction, Alanis Morissette) and drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, the Vandals), offers up a wealth of talented support. But when considering that Ian Astbury (the Cult), Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Dave Grohl, Iggy Pop and Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead) are but a few of the guests who make contributions throughout the album it quickly becomes apparent that Slash has surrounded himself by some of the best in the world when taking on this new project. Even when you’re one of the best in the world it doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with legends.

Astbury is the first of the bunch to join in, lending his voice to “Ghost” which leads off the album. With the track Slash, accompanied by his long time Guns N’ Roses counterpart Izzy Stradlin, quickly identifies a trend which is followed closely throughout Slash: Rather than taking the spotlight he focuses on playing to the strengths of the vocalist. In this case “Ghost” sounds less like Astbury standing in on a Guns N’ Roses track and more like Slash joining the Cult for a rumbling journey into the band’s history. The same can be said for “Crucify The Dead” where Slash slows things down and takes the approach of an epic soloist lurking in the background while Ozzy Osbourne controls the song.

One of the first unexpected developments on the album is Slash’s collaboration with Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie on “Beautiful Dangerous.” Having previously performed with Slash at his 2008 birthday celebration, Fergie comfortably steps in as an unusually sharp rock soulstress in the track, with Slash creating a wave of sound which carries her voice far beyond initial expectations. This isn’t to say that Fergie isn’t a talented singer in her own right, but simply that her ability to carry the song’s chorus is completely unexpected—no matter how tacky her hurried verses might be.

Myles Kennedy, formerly of Alter Bridge, follows with the slow rolling “Back From Cali,” his first of two appearance on the record (his second comes with the bluesier “Starlight”). With the pair of tracks Kennedy and Slash reveal an unusually compatible chemistry which translates well with the recordings. Oddly enough, at times Kennedy ends up sounding more like Chris Cornell than Cornell himself, who follows with the jagged “Promise.”

After Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale steps in with the record’s second single, “By The Sword,” the album’s second unusual pairing pits one of Slash’s slow-moving riffs against the smooth vocals of Maroon 5′s Adam Levine. And while the slowed down pace of the song might be the most uncharacteristic on Slash, “Sword” does find the guitarist once again placing himself humbly in a position where he’s supporting the vocalist to allow for their talents to shine.

The album continues as Lemmy Kilmister lends his legendary growl on the raucous “Doctor Alibi,” Dave Grohl and former G’n’R Duff McKagan accompany Slash on the album’s only instrumental “Watch This,” and Kid Rock lends his voice to “I Hold On.” But it’s the third, and possibly the most striking, surprise which again reinvigorates the record. In “Nothing To Say” Slash joins Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows with an edgy riff that wouldn’t be entirely out of place within the group’s driving mainstream metal. While “Nothing To Say” is neither the best song on the album nor the best depiction of Slash’s talents it does showcase another uncharacteristic sound on the record, something which gives Slash a fresh feeling all the way through. Following Kennedy’s second appearance and the acoustic “Saint is a Sinner Too,” Slash is joined by Iggy Pop on “We’re All Gonna Die.” Pop’s vocals on the song sound about as flat as his 2007 Stooges reunion album The Weirdness however, leaving the record fading away on an unfortunately sour note.

It’s hard to fault anything Slash does musically as the man is steady in his craft and has delivered time and time again for well over two decades. But when adding the element of outside influence, as with the laundry-list of contributors who were invited to join him with Slash, the risk of becoming a parody of oneself becomes a real one: In each of the album’s tracks Slash could very well sit back and be the top hat wearing, chain-smoking icon we know him as, steadily jamming out while each vocalist sits in and tries to fall into line with the guitarist’s sound and mystique. But instead each track comes across as not only an honest collaboration of ideas, but an oddly out-of-body experience for the guitarist. With each track Slash steps out of the sound which we’ve come to expect from him and showcases an unexpected side to his talents. In terms of an individual musician this might not seem like that big of a deal. But when considering history’s greatest guitarists and their tendency toward insisting on being the unwavering focal point of their songs, Slash translates as something far more incredible.