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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Reviews: Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Firewind

Slash: Apocalyptic Love (Roadrunner)

Following on from his first solo album in 2010 the 'Cat In the Hat' returns with his second effort and this is a far more coherent offering mainly due to their being just one singer and style rather than the multiple on offer on his self-titled debut. That vocalist is Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy, who co-wrote most of the album, and provides rhythm guitar. His magnificent voice is unmistakeable and he adds the much needed consistency to the album, as for Slash he is on top form backed by his backing band of Bren Fitz, on drums and piano and Todd Kerns who provides the bottom end and co-vocals on Hard & Fast. The album is heavier than many of his previous bands, there are the obvious nods to his past with the first four songs and many others having the sounds of G'N'R and Velvet Revolver, especially on Standing In The Sun which has more than a hint to Mr Brownstone and One Last Thrill which sees them re-visiting VR's Sucker Train Blues and lets Kennedy do his best Weiland impression backed by a speedy riff. There are the trademark 'Mountain-top' moments from the ballads with Not For Me and Far And Away providing these in spades. It's not all backward looking though as Anastasia proves with its acoustic opening sampling Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor before moving into the progressive appeggioed AOR rocker. Hard And Fast is punky ode to the road, Shots Fired finishes the album properly with a dark almost You Could Be Mine-esque rocker. The bonus tracks are the hard rocking Crazy Life and the talk box drenched Carolina. The production of Eric Valentine is warm because of the live/analogue way it was recorded. This album is for fans of all hard rock, Myles and the Mr Hudson. Flawless. 10/10

Joe Bonamassa: Driving Towards The Daylight (Provouge)

13 albums in 12 years is truly a feat for any man but Joe Bonamassa is no ordinary man. This album is another look back at Joey B's roots with the majority of tracks being blues covers from some blues legends and also other more outside bets like Bernie Marsden, Bill Withers and Tom Waits. The rest of the tracks are made up of Bonamassa originals the best of which are Dislocated Boy, Heavenly Soul and the ethereal title track, these are all harking back to Joe's first more blue based material whereas the covers are enhanced by the tricks Joe has learnt from his albums made with Kevin Shirley (who produces again). The covers are excellent his cover of the original bluesman Robert Johnson's Stones In My Passway is electrified and fizzing with energy, Howlin' Wolf's Who's Been Talking? is turned into the Zeppelin track it influenced. This is another fine album from Bonamssa, whose voice seems to get better and more rich and varied on every release and one showing more of what Joe did before he became the worldwide success he is today. 910

Firewind: Few Against Many (Century Media)

Since 2002 Firewind have slowly become one of the best metal bands around. It was 2006's Allegiance that really brought them to the masses. Since stabilising their main line up from that album on they have been increasing in confidence with every release. They have also been shedding their Power Metal tag and becoming more of a straight up metal band. The band has always been led by the astonishing guitar prowess Gus G (which is probably why Ozzy has made him his newest sideman) and on this album he excels himself, every track with the exception of the Apocalyptica backed ballad Edge Of A Dream he unleashes riff after furious riff and squealing superfast soloing. This album is far more mature than previous releases and hints at Judas Priest, Accept, Ozzy (on Losing My Mind) and even thrash bands like Megadeth and Metallica. Apollo's vocals are far more varied and powerful on this album; Katsionis' keys are understated and add an extra layer to the songs. The real revelation is new drummer Johan Nunez who is a powerhouse especially on the extremely aggressive Wall of Sound and also on Trivium sounding title track (which even has a breakdown!) The album blends Firewind's PM roots with head bashing metal ferocity of thrash and modern metal (perhaps due to Jason Suecof's involvement). This is Firewind's finest album so far and will definitely show why Ozzy brought Gus on board. 9/10

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