Although Velvet Revolver may sound like the title of a James Bond movie, music fans will recognize it as the name of rocks latest supergroup. The well-publicized band is a fusion of Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland (vocals) and ex-Guns N Roses bandmates Slash (guitar), Duff McKagan (bass) and Matt Sorum (drums). Slash also recruited high school friend and former Wasted Youth guitarist, Dave Kushner, to round out the band.
Despite the inevitable STP/GNR influences, Velvet Revolver crafts a surprisingly distinctive sound on its debut effort, Contraband. The groups current single, Slither, is indicative of the rest of the CD with Weilands world-weary vocals and Slashs rapid-fire guitar solos. Collectively, the guys create an uncontrollable and defiant energy that pervades the entire album.
This energy is most apparent on rockers like Superhuman and Set Me Free. Filled with interesting riffs and driving guitars, they retain an edge that sets them apart from other typical rock songs. Weilands intense and thought-provoking lyrics also add originality to the bands work. On Big Machine, he laments that were all slaves to a big machine because we continually tie ourselves down to society with responsibilities and possessions. He explains that the more we acquire (money, houses, cars), the more dependent and restricted we become.
The record doesnt quite live up to its high expectations on repetitive tracks like Illegal i Song and Headspace, but it never sinks to the monotonous mediocrity that characterizes much of modern rock.
Of Contrabands 13 tracks, Fall To Pieces is the most impressive. This slower number chronicles Weilands marital difficulties and beautifully displays his raw, heartfelt emotions. His vulnerable vocals express his regret and disillusionment, but the song is too powerful to become overly sentimental.
While some may dismiss Velvet Revolver as a high-profile gimmick, the band is more than just five guys trying to revive their careers. They have created a fresh and aggressive sound that will appeal to those seeking a slightly more rebellious brand of rock. Contraband is a solid album that should bring Velvet Revolver the respect it deserves.