HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

SLASH - Made In Stoke 24/7/11

God love Slash - he's just an old classic rocker and he's never changed his spots. Sure, he got lucky with the over-rated Guns N' Roses, but he continues to rock 'cos he wants to. Now, Slash is a revered guitarist, and if I had to struggle to surmise why, it wouldn't be because there's anything special about the riffs he writes or the solos he composes, tosses off spontaneously... however he does them - it's all traditional Aerosmith-derived meatloaf rock without much brains beyond sculpting the blues into something interesting. No, if there's magic, it's in his tone, his intonation and definition and his sixth sense execution of the ordinary, or to be kind, the traditional, that whole, 'he plays guitar like it's an extension of his body' thing. And I love how his band is a blended average of similar Strip-trampling rock dogs - sorta any one of them coulda been a Gunner, particularly Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz, good ol' glamsters with earnest enthusiasm. But almost more important than the banjo player is vocalist Myles Kennedy (Mayfield Four, Alter Bridge, plus tied up in those Zep rumors), who twangs like Axl and Glenn Hughes and bluesy inflects like Paul Rodgers (or Richie Kotzen!). And so the team attack serviceable Slash solo songs, GN'R songs, VR, over two CDs of average, intentionally raw recording, plus a short DVD, all packed in a very nice, fat digi, with poster (OK, but who ever unfolds these CD posters?). The DVD helps the experience actually, raising the thing above an LA Guns or Faster Pussycat live joint, 'cos the band look great, pose great, and are captured in sharp focus and bright colors in a plush theater setting, clean stage, nice clothes, very tasteful dirty hair metal, if there's such a disposition. Plus this is where you really get to feel the brush and scrape of each note Slash hits, and that really electrocuted, captivating tone that is his alone. The affectation of Myles' uber-twang can get a nose-wrinkling, but he's a great frontman, taking the foot off the pedal of messianic just as you go, 'Wait a minute...?!' Interview is cool too, with Slash distinguishing smartly between this bunch of doods and "Slash's Snakepit," as if it really matters (I guess it does).
Rating 7.5

OPETH - Heritage

It's reassuring testimony to the open minds of metal throngs that folks are discussing Opeth's radical transformation so matter-of-factly. To me, it's like the house is on fire - it's a big deal, and worth much more controversial ranting. But yeah, weirdly - and maybe it's because there's so much choice out there, and because people really know Mikael well enough to have picked up on the signals over the years - Opeth, of course, at least for now, have ceased to be a progressive death metal band, instead, providing us with pure prog of a hard-hitting, uneasy, mildly nightmarish nature, definitely dark of spirit like '70s King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator or The Alan Bown, but mainly Crimson, an imagined super-duper one where the Bruford of Red, here portrayed by Martin Axenrot, applies a drum tornado to the first three albums. It's all very highly entertaining, well-executed, loaded with events, textures, smart, tasteful, fluid playing, gorgeous production, so yes, long live Opeth, but the old Opeth is dead, which again, is not to say that it couldn't come back. But sure, this is Mikael completely indulging the dream of becoming the very best Vertigo Records act from '70 through '74, with a little exotic Krautrock and Swedish cult prog nodded toward as well, sagely and with facial hair.
Rating 8

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