This is one of those times.
Generally, I hate it when reviewers say negative things about an album that they can’t seem to support with evidence from the work. They just blindly criticize it for no reason at all. Unfortunately, I found myself in this position when I listened to Slash’s latest solo album World on Fire. You’d think the fact that he recorded it with one of my favorite singers of all time would make me instantly fall in love with the album, but it didn’t. Something’s… missing from this one, and I can’t put my finger on it.
Make no mistake, this album is an improvement from Slash’s previous effort with Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators. In that record, he tried too hard to turn Myles into “the new Axl Rose,” and his backing band into the second coming of the original Guns ‘N Roses lineup. But I listen to this album, and then I listen to Slash’s first solo album, where he had a revolving door of singers, and Kennedy’s work with Alter Bridge, and those other albums have a polish, a “magic” if you will, that I just don’t feel when I listen to World on Fire. Maybe it’s the rougher guitar sound (a slight surprise given that they switched to producer Michael Baskette, who has produced Alter Bridge’s last 3 records). Maybe it’s the “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll” lyrics that feel like retreads from the 80s and have all the depth of a kiddy pool. Maybe it’s the predictable pattern of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus that nearly every song falls into. But the whole thing adds up to a final product that feels rushed, like they just came up with a few riffs, threw some generic lyrics in there, came up with some solos on the fly, and then didn’t even bother to pare it down to the very best songs. Ordinarily, I’d be chomping at the bit for 17 tracks of Myles Kennedy’s singing. But the band’s rigid adherence to one formula over and over again makes all the songs run together to the extent where at one point I forgot which one I was listening to while I was taking notes for this post. I’ve been reviewing music on and off for probably around 5 or 6 years, and that has never happened.
But those thoughts make it sound like I hated listening to this album, and I didn’t. Myles certainly didn’t mail in his performances. He shows off his singing talent, and throws some of his favorite techniques in there, such as the whisper he uses on the title track and “The Unholy.” He also isn’t afraid to venture into the higher and lower regions of his range, which adds some flair to the album. There’s also some catchy riffs and cool moments on the record that make one’s ears perk up, such as the country-esque intro to “30 Years to Life” and the texture changes and single-note parts of “Bent to Fly.”
But yet, I return to what I’ve been saying all along: the record just doesn’t feel complete. Which is a shame, because right at the end, you get a sense of what this band could be if they realized their full potential. “The Dissident” has a great, melodic riff and a solo that builds off the chorus. Myles’s ooohs in the chorus are also really cool-sounding. “Safari Inn” is an instrumental that has a jam session-y feel but still feels like a unified song. “The Unholy” keeps the listener engaged and also has some interesting moments where Myles’s delivery make you wonder if the main character in the song is lying to you or not.
So what all this boils down to is a borrow it rating, if you’re a fan of Slash and/or Myles Kennedy as I am. But if not, you’re probably okay skipping it. As much as it hurts me to say that, it’s the truth in this case. My track picks are the last three, linked below: