Polished sound but familiar rock tropes on #4
It's been a decade since SMKC unleashed their heavyweight debut 'Apocalyptic Love' and introduced the world to their brand of stadium rock. With slash's expressive axe swinging and Myles Kennedy's remarkable wailing vocals, this is a supergroup that laid foundations for rock's new epoch.
On '4', producer David Cobb requested the band record live in the same room, old-school, with minimum overdubs. Let's be honest, this is how most albums should be recorded. Blessed with the freedom to play as they would on stage, the power and the play-offs between the band are more than evident. They just sound like they are having a blast, and it's this sound that makes the record really fly.
'The River is Rising' is a commanding and impressive opening gambit. It could almost be an outtake from Maiden's 'Senjutsu,' if it had more padding and twin guitars. 'Cest La Vie' offers a similar punch, then things become a bit safe and predictable, but this can be somewhat excused considering it's played and arranged to perfection.
'4' has muscular grooves and air-punching choruses galore, 'Actions speak Louder Than Words' 'Fill My World' and 'Call off the Dogs' are quality examples. But when the band shakes things up and is prepared to be more creative the magic happens. Album closer 'Fall Back To Earth' is an outstanding example of what the band is capable of when they are prepared to step outside the tropes and be more experimental.
Overall the writing on '4' may not be the band's strongest material, the top and tail of the album are exceptional and there's little to quibble over there, but the middle of the album, while possessed of well-crafted songs, prime steak production, musicianship, and bounding energy, the song's are as familiar as Slash's old hat and isn't a match for the dynamics of the album's opening and closing numbers.