Slash (aka Saul Hudson) – the top-hat wearing, Les Paul toting axe from Guns N Roses – is back with another solo effort, World on Fire, marking the third studio album for the breakaway guitarist. Though it’s not his first notable collaboration with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, it is the first time he’s done an album with just them featuring. Following 2010’s eponymous Slash and 2012’s Apocalyptic Love, World on Fire has enough rock-rage to rival Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. 

Slash and the band (Kennedy on vocals, Brent Fitz on drums and Todd Kerns playing bass) worked with producer Michael ’Elvis’ Baskette (Alter Bridge, Falling In Reverse, Incubus) for this one, assembling a whopping seventeen tracks including an instrumental. The album’s cover art is a colourful cacophony of all things cartoon (I think I spied Barney and Bart from The Simpsons and McDonald’s mascots amongst it all) courtesy of American contemporary artist Ron English, and matches the style and creativity of Slash’s previous album covers and sleeves.

Myles Kennedy is a familiar breed of male vocalist. Too high to be confused with Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and too baritone for Slash’s Guns N’Roses frontman Axl Rose, his rock tenor perfectly complements Slash’s heavy guitar hooks a la Chris Cornell in Soundgarden. His raw vocals work well alongside the lengthy riff, although they can grate with incessant listening. The blazing titular track’s solo smacks of ‘Sweet Child O Mine’, with its lightening-speed bends and pull-offs, but the set-up is consistent with the rest of the album’s verbosity.

Predictably, the record itself is an unashamed exploration of bombastic guitar hooks, but the in-depth musical production comfortably counteracts the emo-kid poetry (for the most part). Most songs are head-banging, mosh-pit ready rock riff anthems, but some (and these are the better ones) are deeper, more wistful than that. There’s an addictive, country-esque mellow tempo to the radio-friendly hit single ‘Bent To Fly’, with a welcomed fingerpicking intro to ease the listener in.

World On Fire is a rather over-stuffed affair. There aren’t any standouts like Slash’s ‘Ghost’ and ‘By The Sword’ (featuring Australia’s own Andrew Stockdale from Wolfmother), and it feels roughly seven songs too many. Sure it’s self-indulgent, and the almost seven minute running time of ‘Battleground’ and funky Americana hook of ‘Withered Delilah’ cements that very accusation, but it’s these few songs that are the most meaty and rewarding to listen to.

The playground soundscape intro to finale track ‘The Unholy’ is extremely out of place with the rest of the album, and indeed, the song. Inspired by the recent spate of pedophile priests being outed in the States, the song’s combination of the sounds of children playing and the lines “what you did to them has nearly torn us all apart” and “it’s you that should be crucified” sits very uneasy.

Overall, World on Fire is a strong demonstration of musical ability and finesse, but the songs are rather tried-hard in their attempts to stand out amongst other modern-day heavy rock offerings. Slash and Kennedy’s winning formula lies in the juxtaposition of vocals and guitar, but the album delivers little beyond that and finishes feeling like one, long rock opera.

5.5/10

World on Fire is out now via Slash’s own label Dik Hayd International and Sony Music Entertainment Australia.