The band then recorded a single Set Me Free for the soundtrack of the 2003 film The Hulk. Not long afterward, they began working on their debut album Contraband at Pulse Recording and NRG. Velvet Revolver along with producers Josh Abraham and Nick Raskulinecz decided that since this was a new band, they wanted this new album to sound completely different from anything they had done together in Guns N' Roses. The result of this was a sound that was much heavier, grittier, and far more alternative than before. On June 8th of 2004, the moment of truth came when the album was released to the general public. Fortunately for them, Contraband debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts. It sold 256,000 copies in the first week.
Set Me Free starts off with an absolutely killer riff from Slash which then leads into a big build-up from the rest of the band. The verses themselves are pretty laid back where Weiland is mostly singing over a bass-line from McKagan and a beat from Sorum. After another build-up of a pre-chorus, the chorus kicks down your front door for you to rock out to and sing along with. While there is some amount of soloing in the song, surprisingly Slash takes a more laid back approach in this tune. Nonetheless it is still some fantastic guitar work.
You Got No Right is more of a laid back song in some respects, but both Weiland and Slash REALLY shine through on this one. Of course Kushner's acoustic work can't be ignored either. Like most songs on this album however, while the beginning and the verses are mostly softer and melody based, it does get loud and heavy at certain points, especially during the climax of the song where Slash busts into one of the most catchy, beautiful, and melodic solos of his career. Seriously, it's an eargasm. Weiland while usually known for the grit in his voice seems to genuinely sing in this song and put some real feeling into it. There are even some nice backing harmony vocals. The ending after Slash's solo goes back into straight acoustic with Weiland singing until it goes back into another chorus until the song comes to a close.
There are very few albums in existence that can be considered all killer and no filler, but Contraband is definitely one of them. It shows the kind of renewed energy that all of these musicians had at the time it was made and also proves to the world that they could be more than just Guns N' Roses without Axl Rose. I could go on and on about every last track on this album, but that would just take way too long. If you're into heavy alternative rock, this album is right up your alley. Even if you're not, it's still worth a listen. I wasn't that much into that kind of thing, but giving this album a shot was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Contraband, by Velvet Revolver receives 5 out of 5 stars.
1. Sucker Train Blues
2. Do It For the Kids
3. Big Machine
4. Illegal I Song
6. Fall to Pieces
9. Set Me Free
10. You Got No Right
12. Dirty Little Thing
13. Loving the Alien
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