Love them or loathe them, and the jury’s very much still out on that one, Guns N Roses were a once in a lifetime band that typified yet simultaneously reconstructed an entire generation’s attitude to rock music.
Those five Sunset Strip degenerates sat atop the very apex of their genre for some five years before Kurt Cobain’s grunge juggernaut rolled into town and delivered the mother of all onslaughts.
But Guns’ legacy was never forgotten.
That is why, 25 years after ‘Appetite For Destruction’ first ruptured eardrums the world over, any whiff of output, creative or otherwise, the former Gunners emit is met with a lingering interest on both a critical and public level. Duff McKagan is off exploring his punk heritage with Loaded, Steven Adler has become something of a morbid curiosity as years of drug and alcohol abuse have taken their toll, and we all know what Axl has been up to.
And then there’s Slash.
Top hat. Mane of unkempt black curly hair cascading over a face adorned with sunglasses even on the darkest of stages. Cigarette dangling recklessly from the lips. Solo hollering effortlessly from the vertically upright Les Paul. The iconic figurehead of the band.
More so than the others, the very image of the legendary guitarist instantly evokes a sense of what his band stood for, and above all stands as a timeless reminder of just how monumentally wondrous they could be when at the top of their game. So it is perhaps no surprise that it is he that has arguably amassed more success in his post GNR career than his former bandmates.
Well, maybe not in terms of ticket sales. Suffice to say Axl and his admittedly impressive travelling band claim that accolade. In terms of acclaim, however, Slash wins hand down. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him when the highly lauded Velvet Revolver crashed and burned four years ago, the second time in his life the frontman’s ego has culminated in the painful death of something that could have been wonderful.
And in 2010’s eponymous debut solo album he rose like a phoenix from the wreckage in some style, sticking a middle finger up to anyone who thought he couldn’t go it alone. But whilst this does ring true for the most part, one glance at the supporting cast on that record will show that maybe Mr Hudson did rely on a little help from his (A list rock star) friends.
Two years and a shit load of tour dates later, Slash has stopped playing the field and settled down once again. A one band man. For although ‘Apocalyptic Love’ is touted primarily as a solo album, you may notice that this time the names of Myles Kennedy and ‘the conspirators’ also make an appearance amongst the artwork, albeit in a slightly smaller font than our hero’s. This is the band that have toured relentlessly since the release of the first record, Kennedy in particular leaving global audiences begging for more with his breathtaking adaptability and uncanny knack for sounding more like Axl Rose than Axl Rose on certain GNR tracks.
All this considered, the decision to ditch the revolving door approach and recruit the Alter Bridge powerhouse as a permanent fixture surely seemed a prudent one, but in reality ‘Apocalyptic Love’ is ultimately a more formulaic affair than its predecessor. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life and if you remove that from the equation all that is left is another rock and roll outfit confronting the prospect of that difficult second album.
Unsurprisingly given the track record of their main driving force, they pull it off. The title track that kicks off proceedings leads with a markedly funk driven guitar tone that is still somehow unmistakeably Slash, and astutely allows Kennedy to exhibit the range of vocal styles that made him such a live smash.
‘One Last Thrill’ could be a frenetic outtake from ‘Appetite…’, while the sultry ‘Standing In The Sun’ is a menacing bass motivated anthem that features the first of Slash’s many trademark solos. Lead single ‘You’re A Lie’ seems an odd choice to showcase the finished article, far from the strongest number present but an undoubted future live staple nonetheless.
As was the case with ‘Back From Cali’ and ‘Starlight’ on the first album, the more divergent tracks truly stand out as an opportunity for Myles Kennedy to display the diversity of his voice, and with highlight ‘Anastasia’ he is afforded another vehicle to hit the heights. The mesmeric acoustic intro and enticing riff conclusively cement the song as the moment this collection of vagabonds came into being as a band in their own right, and that momentum ploughs straight through into melodic Aerosmith-esque ballad ‘Not For Me’.
Adrenaline fuelled stomper ‘Hard & Fast’ hits you, well, hard and fast, while in ‘Bad Rain’ you get the distinct impression the singer was the primary conspirator such is its Alter Bridge comparatives. ‘Far And Away’ administers a deliberately understated cut of mournful soul searching before the record bows out all guns blazing with the aptly titled rabble rouser ‘Shots Fired’.
Contrary to the rumours that surface at least once every year, Guns N Roses as we know and love them are gone and are never coming back, but as long as the likes of Slash is still around and on this level of form the JD soaked spirit of 1987 will never die.
To borrow the catchphrase of the man himself: Rock and fuckin’ roll.