App Reviews

Slash – Apocalyptic Love and Slash 360 app

Apocalyptic Love Review

Image

When describing albums, I think a lot of music fans would have heard the term “some killer, some filler”, and I think that sums up Apocalyptic Love. Actually, I think it would be more accurate to describe it as “a few killer, the rest filler”. I find it really unfortunate that I have to say this, as I bought this CD because I am a big fan of Slash’s work, but most of the CD’s material isn’t very strong. The simple reason behind this is despite the fact that there are great hard rock compositions here, many of the songs lack a good hook even after multiple listens.

Anyone who knows something about rock music will no doubt agree that Saul Hudson, most commonly known as Slash, will go down in history as a legendary guitarist. Anyone who knows anything about music in general will know about the hard rock band Guns ‘n’ Roses and their powerful debut album Appetite for Destruction (released in 1989), or at least the songs “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Paradise City” and/or “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Slash co-wrote these songs, the most famous of these being the latter, with that instantly recognisable guitar riff. During the 90’s, tensions in the band, mainly caused by arseholery (I don’t think that’s a word…) frontman Axl Rose. I’m pretty sure Slash was the last original member to leave, which had occurred in 1996, leaving Arsehole Rose the opportunity to continue the band with some hired croons. People tend to refer to this expansive, ever-changing line-up as the “New Guns ‘n’ Roses”, but I personally prefer calling it “Axl and Friends”.

Needless to say, it’s sad that a band with such commercial and critical success had ended up like this. Though Slash, it appears, is no man to let a bad situation get him down, as he has been very active since he left GNRs. He has been in a number of bands, most notably Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver. Once again, the tensions between the lead vocalist and the other band members have lead to Velvet Revolver being on hold for the time being, so more recently, Slash has been focused on solo material. That turned into his impressive self-titled debut solo release Slash in 2010. While he did form Slash Snakepit and that was mostly his project, it was also a band effort while the songs on the Slash record were all primarily written by the guitarist. As legendary as the guitarist’s axe work is, he can’t seem to sing a note, which is why a guest vocalist sings on every track. Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy, the only guest vocalist to sing on two of the songs, fronted Slash’s live band for the tour to promote the album.

Slash strongly believed in the dynamic that Myles Kennedy, along with bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brentz Fitz provided on the tour, so much so that he decided to collaborate with them on his next album. Releasing it under the name of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, the album by the name of Apocalyptic Love was released in May of this year. An iPhone app was released with it, called Slash 360, that allows users to watch the band perform the entire album live in the studio with the ability to choose and manipulate the camera angles.

So as I said at the start of the review, a lot of the material here isn’t very good. I don’t think it’s the fault of the production or the musicians, because the sound of the album is great. Slash’s signature tone is here, and so are his solos. Myles’s vocal deliveries sound great, as do the backup vocals by Todd. As one discovers by watching the DVD included with the deluxe edition of the album, and by using the Slash 360 app, the whole album was recorded live in the studio with the whole band, rather than using Pro Tools on separately recorded parts. As Myles describes it, this creates a “human element” in the sound of the album. Once again, this is not a problem for the album. The underlying critical problem of the album is the simple fact that the material the band was working with wasn’t the best.

I remember reading or hearing somewhere that Slash seems to consider writing material as just a way to get to his favourite part of being a musician, the live performances. That would certainly make sense with this album, as it seems the band just made the album without really caring about its quality so Slash could go back on tour. I guess you could say that the album was made with a carefree state of mind, but it didn’t work in the album’s favour this time around. Most of the songs lack a soul, unlike the majority of the songs on Slash, which had undergone a process, with the guest vocalist being an important part of that process, giving those songs character.

Of the 15 tracks on the album, including the bonus tracks, there are only about 4 I would include on my iPod. Some of the others, such as “No More Heroes” and “Far and Away”, are solid but then there are boring tracks such as “Not For Me” and “Bad Rain”. The two singles released so far, “You’re a Lie” and “Standing in the Sun”, I wouldn’t even consider worthy of the status, though the former has a rather catchy chorus. The best track is “Anastasia”, which I believe will be a fan favourite. It’s the longest song, at over 6 minutes in length and is one of the only songs on the record that had any effort put into it. The album’s closing track, “Shots Fired” has more of the energy expected from a rock band than what most of the album presents. It will surely be a killer live, in fact I think the entire album will greatly benefit from being performed live in concert. Perhaps the energy from a live concert full of fans is what this album needs to help the songs truly stand out.

I was disappointed in this album; after a number of listens, it did grow on me, but only slightly. This month I am seeing Slash in concert, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy these new songs much better performed live, but it’ll be his old material that I’ll be itching to see. Apocalyptic Love needed more hooks to turn the dull tracks into good ones. Most of the tracks I wouldn’t hesitate to skip if they came up on my iPod. The few good songs do rock, and it’s glaringly obvious when you listen to any single one of these songs, that Slash’s signature sound is present. I think that the Slash album is much better than what is present here. Apocalyptic Love is still very listenable, it’s not that I dislike any of the songs, it’s just that most of them don’t speak to me. I would recommend giving Apocalyptic Love a few listens to pick your favourites and put an EP’s worth of material on your iPod, but regardless I’m sure that Slash fans, Alter Bridge fans and hard rock enthusiasts will enjoy what’s on offer here. I rate Apocalyptic Love 3/5.

Tracklisting below; the bonus tracks did not impact the score.

 

1.

“Apocalyptic Love”

2.

“One Last Thrill”  

3.

“Standing in the Sun”

4.

“You’re a Lie”

5.

“No More Heroes”

6.

“Halo”  

7.

“We Will Roam”

8.

“Anastasia”  

9.

“Not for Me”

10.

“Bad Rain”

11.

“Hard & Fast”

12.

“Far and Away”

13.

“Shots Fired”  
Bonus Tracks

14.”Carolina”
15.”Crazy Life”


Slash 360 App Review ($5.49 AUD)

Image

The Slash 360 app allows iPhone users to watch the band and producer Eric Valentine as the songs from Apocalyptic Love are performed (bonus tracks not included). For each song you have the option of viewing the performance through six cameras, one for each member of the band, one for the producer fiddling with knobs and another for a wide shot. Each camera allows you to manipulate where it’s facing by touching the screen or moving the phone with gyroscope. You can also zoom in or zoom out. There’s also some extra bonus stuff on the app, which are artwork, photos, relevant links, social network integration and lyrics for the songs.

I’m not sure if this idea for an app has been done before, but I am surprised on how well it works and how cool it is. It’s so easy to just pick any song from the album and just muck around with the cameras. You can zoom in on Slash’s solos being performed, then rewind to watch it again, and then switch to Todd playing bass with absolute ease. I didn’t make much use of the sixth camera with producer Eric, as most of the time he nods his head to the music and moves studio knobs around, but there’s a freebie for anyone who wants to use it! But speaking of freebies, would it have been really hard to incorporate the bonus tracks into the app, seeing as I spent $5.49 AUD on it? Another thing that annoyed me is that every time a song finishes it goes back to the tracklisting instead of just segueing into the next song, which obviously ruins the feel of watching an album being performed from start to finish. It would also be cool if it allowed the lyrics to scroll down while they were playing.

Image

The app is by far the largest on my iPhone, taking 1.79 GB of space. This isn’t a complaint, as it makes sense that an app costing over $5 would use a lot of resources on the phone. You can tell it does, as the performances sound great (for the iPhone speakers that is) and is visually of high quality too. The app refused to download unless I had at least 4 GB space free (if I remember correctly), so most likely you’ll need an iPhone 4 or later with at least 4 GB free before even considering buying this app. It says you can use iPhone 3GS or 3rd generation iPod Touch, but I have a strong feeling those devices will struggle to even run this app properly. There’s also a much cheaper version of this app, but it only features the average single “You’re A Lie”, so I wouldn’t even bother.

Despite the fact that Apocalyptic Love isn’t a very strong album, the Slash 360 app shows a lot of promise that I hope can be expanded on in future updates. Hopefully other bands can make these apps for their albums too, as it makes great use of the functionality of smartphones. The Slash 360 app is a bit expensive at $5.49 AUD, but I think it’s worth checking out, especially if you like the album. I do find it’s one of those cool things to show your friends too! I give the Slash 360 app 3.5/5.