For more than two decades, Steven Adler’s personal struggles have overshadowed his talent as one of the Great Rock Drummers–anyone who has ever paid any attention to the bridge in “Welcome to the Jungle” can’t dispute this status. The formation of his new band, Adler, and November’s* release of their new album Back from the Dead brings Steven Adler’s substantial talents back to the forefront, where they belong.
Equally important, in the age of the download, where the single is king, Back from the Dead starts strong, finishes strong, and there are no weak spots in between. It serves as proof that the album, as a form of its own, is also very much alive– in the right hands.
In this debut, Adler is an ensemble at the top of its game. The title track kicks off the album with Lonny Paul playing a dirty-blues guitar riff that cuts to a pounding electric guitar. And it just keeps getting better with every song. Jacob Bunton gives us fearless, soaring vocals; Steven on drums with Jeff Pilson on bass sync to provide the kind of rhythmic energy that would have almost certainly ended with a speeding ticket had I been driving while listening for the first time. I’m talking about the kind of speeding ticket that ends with me calling my friends to wire bail money. That’s how good it is.
In addition to playing bass on all tracks, Pilson offers up his musical chops on six-string guitar, keyboards, and some backing vocals. His ample experience as a producer brings polish and balance to the mix while maintaining the raw power of the tracks. After studio recording was complete, Johnny Martin joined the band’s lineup on bass, so he’s the guy you’ll see live and, presumably, on the next album, but evidence from his performances indicates he’s well up to the task of carrying Pilson’s torch in the rhythm section.
“Just Don’t Ask” features Slash on guitar, as noted pretty much everywhere. I’m not a big fan of slower tempo rock—I prefer the hard-driving tracks like the title cut and “Blown Away”—but this is soulful and dark. Lyrically, it’s got a confessional flavor that reminded me of Sixx A.M. So, yeah, even the power ballad won me over.
Rolling Stone still has Back from the Dead available for preview, but, as I said above, this really isn’t music for sitting in front of the computer. You’re going to want this album living in your ears wherever you go. This is music for running hard and driving fast—but maybe set your cruise control, because, you know, safety first. You wouldn’t want to miss what these guys do next.
1) Back from the Dead
An anthem of triumph for anyone who has ever overcome hard times of any variety, which is to say, all of us. Try sitting still through this one. I dare you.
2) Own Worst Enemy
Dirty guitar hook with hard-rocking rhythm section.
3) Another Version of the Truth
Don’t let the lyrical phrasing fool you; listen for relentless pacing in the drum line.
4) The One That You Hated
Complex arrangement and broad dynamic range keep this track interesting but also accessible. This was the single released as a preview last spring for good reason. [Editor's note: And it was written in 15 minutes.]
5) Good to Be Bad
I love the opening guitar hook here–lead guitar courtesy of John 5. Also features the most infectious chorus of the album–feel free to join in at the top of your lungs. This track is on our short list to become the DGT&G national anthem.
6) Just Don’t Ask
Slash’s style is usually immediately recognizable, as is notable on Apocalyptic Love, his own recent outing with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. The virtuosity is evident here, but the styling blends with the rest of the group seamlessly to create a well-balanced, skillfully crafted and soulful ballad.
7) Blown Away
This is my favorite track. It’s got my two favorite things: dark guitar tones and an angry chorus. I should probably seek professional help.
Another slower tempo track. The refrain “too many tears throughout the years” belies a bright and hopeful tone. It’s a spot of sunlight at the right time and place in the lineup.
A tale of rock ‘n’ roll excess with menacing bass slinking through the middle.
10) Your Diamonds
We love the keys–thank you, Michael Lord–and the vocal harmonizing on this track. An unconventional choice that takes us back to the joys of the 70s.
11) Dead Wrong
Drum solo at the bridge can only mean one thing: the natives are restless, and they’re bringing a bass with them. A strong finish that mainly makes me sorry the album is over. So glad I only have to press a button to get back to track 1.
*This review originally published on November 26, 2012. Annotated track listing and commentary about production added to current posting.
Coming tomorrow … a surprise fun fact about Back from the Dead, courtesy of Lonny Paul.