Slash and company - aka Featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators - went to Nashville to record their fourth album. But don't expect to hear much in the way of Sturm und Twang on 4. Rather, the caper the group pulled off with Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb in Music City's historic RCA Studio A is all about attitude and sonics. By mutual agreement, the group recorded the 10-track set together and mostly live off the floor rather than the piecemeal, mannered methods of its predecessors, at least until COVD cases dictated otherwise.

The result sounds thicker and looser, as much performance as recording and the troupe's most band-sounding yet - although Slash's solos still soar out of the fray like sleek, heat-seeking precision tracer missiles. It all makes for an audible next step forward, as it well should after a decade together.

At this point the Slash crew is well-honed, and 4 shows off the quintet's brawny confidence along with a seamless interweaving of sources. In "The River Is Rising" - the opening track and first single - the quintet tears through a thunderous mingling of grunge (think Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box") with Tom Morello-leaning solo, "Paradise City"-style tempo changes and even a wink at Deep Purple's "Crazy" at the very end. Not bad for a mere 3:42, and the confluence does not sound at all forced.

Singer and co-writer Kennedy taps further into his Seattle rock roots on other tracks, particularly in the chorus of "Whatever Gets You By" and the Eastern-flavored "Spirit Love," filtering them through the muscular attack that is the Conspirators' default position. "The Path Less Followed" is a cranking, punching riff rocker while "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" chugs into heavy boogie, and "Call Off the Dogs" is the kind of high-octane blast that would've melted walls on the Sunset Strip 35 years ago. The Talk Box comes out on "C'est La Vie," and "Fill My World," Kennedy's love song to his dog, boasts the majestic ebb-and-flow construct Slash and Guns N' Roses perfected on "Sweet Child O' Mine."

The group takes the epic path just once on 4, with the album-closing "Fall Back to the Earth." The six-and-a-half-minute piece comes off like a hard-rock James Bond theme, dramatic and careening through texture changes as well as one of Slash's trademark, biting solos - shades of the Use Your Illusion era. With Guns N' Roses active again, some might reasonably ask why Slash or even Kennedy, with Alter Bridge and his solo albums, feel a need to keep other company. 4 is a convincing answer, the work of a band that continues to advance and evolve an identity that stands credibly alongside its principals' other endeavors.

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