Today, Apocalyptic Love turns ten years old. Not quite the “oldie” status given to most of the albums we look back on in this feature but hitting double figures isn’t something we should ignore given where it stands in the pantheon of the top-hatted six-string slinger’s catalogue. Working as Slash’s second solo album, whilst Velvet Revolver was, at the time, still on ice and the thought of him re-joining Guns N’ Roses was laughable (yet three short years later he would), Apocalyptic Love was the official birth of one of the longest band names in history – Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
Indeed, this was the fruits of the labours from Slash, Myles Kennedy, Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz touring Slash’s self-titled debut for the best part of two years, morphing from a solo project into a fully-fledged band. It also welcomed in the addition of Frank Sidoris on rhythm guitar (albeit on a touring basis until 2018’s Living the Dream) as Kennedy provided his own rhythm guitar prowess for the record. Six months previously, Made in Stoke showed the world what a tight unit they already were as they hammered through Slash’s Guns N’ Roses days, both incarnations of Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, as well as the vast variation he dabbled with on his 2010 debut.
But as they took the Conspirators moniker, creating an album of original material as a band, it made them more focused and launched their trademark sound. And as the band have just finished a tour of the US for 4, it speaks volumes to the album’s quality and enduring appeal that a number of those tracks still feature prominently in their setlist. Apocalyptic Love would also become a mission statement for the band – create albums where the entire tracklist can be performed live and in the course of its life, they did that with all thirteen (fifteen if you had the special edition) songs. A feat they would repeat with World on Fire and Living the Dream. 4 isn’t at the end of its cycle yet but you can bet they’ll do it a fourth time. However, that’s something which sets this album apart from its more recent successors (they’d return to it on 4) – it was recorded live, rather than individual tracking. You can feel the energy and chemistry the band had even in those relevant infant days, bleeding through the speakers as Slash laid down some of his best work of the 21st century.
Even lyrically, it became the blueprint for the band. The title track, “One Last Thrill”, “Halo”, “Hard & Fast”, and the funky talk box-driven “Crazy Life” all covered the theme of living for today because tomorrow isn’t promised. It’s a theme Kennedy would revisit on subsequent albums but like those successors, he found room to tell stories like “Standing in the Sun”, the sultry “Bad Rain”, “Carolina” and the glorious “Anastasia”. Whilst that riff had been teased on Slash’s epic solo on the afore-mentioned Made in Stoke, it wasn’t until it was laid down on record in its true form where the main man showed he was well past the stage of having anything left to prove but still had plenty of tricks tucked under his top hat. However, there were a handful of songs people could pull from their own lives and see themselves or the world at large. “No More Heroes” questioned where the next generation of people who will stand up for the right thing will come from whilst warning that not all those who present a good image are true (a theme Kennedy still draws from in Slash songs, Alter Bridge as well as his own solo endeavours). “Far and Away” dealt with heartbreak and lead single “You’re a Lie” took aim at some of the nastiest people you’ll find – narcissists.
Put that album on today and I’m transported back a decade. In the band’s playing and the production, it’s an upbeat, good time rock and roll record and was a perfect reflection of where I was in my own life – I worked every hour I could with people I liked and my bosses were great as employers and as people. I was in the last of my teenage years and I wanted for nothing, except to see Slash perform in person. And this album got me that – three times on this album. From a traditionally rainy Friday evening at Download, to a couple of months later for a full headline set in Edinburgh and a few months later, I’d do my first bit of real travelling for a gig – Glasgow to Blackpool. Yeah, Blackpool may seem like a weird place to see a band but the Empress Ballroom is a great venue (I’d even catch Todd Kerns’ bass pick during “Dr Alibi” at that last one).
Even its announcement, where they revealed the new band name, the album’s name and artwork came at a serendipitous moment. I’d more or less just gotten out of my first tattoo session where I sat for four hours having Appetite for Destruction engraved into my arm for all eternity and to take my mind off the dull ache as I waited for the bus home, I scrolled through Twitter (scary to think our social media habits are that old) and there it was. I thought the new band name was cool and the album title so evocative, matching perfectly with the artwork. That was the part I was completely transfixed by. It looked like it told you everything you needed to know about the album before hearing it. It was dark, dangerous, bleeding rock and roll and a call back to rock’s halcyon days when vinyl ruled the roost and bands went all in on intricate artwork.
As that May release date came around, I remember coming home from work, anxious for my Classic Rock Fan Pack edition to match my previous one from 2010 and once I hit play, I shut the world out. The opening riff of the title track built until Myles Kennedy’s vocals kicked in, tearing their way through the album until the romp of “Crazy Life” faded out with Todd Kerns’ bass work rumbling menacingly alongside it whilst screaming his backing vocals. It showed how creative a drummer Brent Fitz is as the two Canadians of the band locked into to create one of the best rhythm sections in rock today.
I would go on to play that album relentlessly for two years, forging in me a love for this band that far eclipsed my teenage one for Guns N’ Roses. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators may have made better albums since, building on what came before but I always find myself going back to Apocalyptic Love. It may be as real as its successors but the rawness and joy found in the record is unrivalled. In a time when rock was perhaps at its most artificial, leave it to Slash to remind the world what real rock and roll sounds like. It’s here, in every riff, in every drum beat, in every vocal, in every bass line. In 2012, it was an instant classic; timeless yet bursting with modernity. A decade on, it’s still all of that.
Header image by Travis Shinn