Axl Rose Delivers

No, this isn't some sort of joke. Chinese Democracy is actually available to buy in shops.

Being able to do this seems surreal enough, let alone actually listening to it. I'll confess to being a bit of a GNR fanatic, and I've been left disappointed by the numerous false starts that have peppered the album's tumultuous production. In January 2006, Rose promised us we would hear the music in that year, and then, towards the end of 2006, he set March 2007 as a tenuous release date. These deadlines came and went and people continued with their lives.

But now that the album is actually out, is it any good? The answer is a definitive yes.

It may have taken 14 years and millions of dollars to finish, but Axl Rose and co. have delivered an album that is in parts, absolutely stunning. It's not perfect (what album ever is?), but it is an emotional tour de force that grabs you from the outset and doesn't let you go until you hear the final strain of the last track.

The album mixes the blistering hard rock seen on the original band's seminal debut album Appetite for Destruction with the grandiosity and emotion of the double albums Use Your Illusions I & II, but also throws some interesting elements into the mix.

Elements and samples of hip-hop (Better) and flamenco guitar (If the World) add an eclectic feel to the album.

Chinese Democracy opens with the title track, which reintroduces you to Axl's famous howl. Equally heavy songs such as Scraped, Shacklers Revenge, Riad N' The Bedouins don't quite hit the heights of the hard rock delights of Appetite for Destruction, but they are good tunes nonetheless.

What makes this album so special is the ballads - they dominate the album and leave a lasting mark on you.

The overarching impression you get listening to this record is just how emotional Rose is. After over a decade he's still as angry and expressive as ever.

Street of Dreams has shades of Elton John about it, and There Was a Time is an epic song with some of the best guitar playing I've heard in years. It's the November Rain of Chinese Democracy.

The penultimate song, This I Love, is probably one of the most emotional and heart wrenching songs I've ever heard. The emotion drips from every lyric and the piano parts are beautifully crafted.

One of the most experimental tracks on the album is Sorry, which has Axl singing over backing vocals from Sebastian Bach and a death metal type beat. It's different, but it works well. The track is deep and dark, with Rose railing against - it seems - anybody and everybody.

This is a trend that runs through the entire album. The lyrics throughout the 14 tracks are quite ambiguous. 'You don't know why/ I wont give in/ To hell with pressure/ I'm not caving in/ You know that I got/ Under your skin/ You sold your soul/ But I wont let you win' Rose sings on 'Sorry'.

Are the lyrics directed at all those who criticised Rose? His old band mates? Scott Weiland? The fans themselves? Who knows.

However, the album isn't just about Rose. All the lyrics have been written by Rose, but only one song was worked on solely by Axl (This I Love). The likes of Chris Pitman, Dizzy Reed, Paul Tobias and Tommy Stinson have all pitched in to make the record.

But the album isn't perfect.

In places it feels overproduced and tampered with a bit too much, which is inevitable given the fact that Rose has been working on it for so long. The more hardcore fans will complain about changes made to some songs from earlier leaks and they do have a point to a degree. The guitar parts in Catcher in the Rye are more prominently heard than in an earlier leaked version, and it does take something away from the song.

After so long, people will slate Chinese Democracy and say it wasn't worth the wait. No album, no matter how good it is, is worth a wait of 14 years.

But this album is definitely unique. Rose has used the experiences of the past decade or so to craft a record that is overblown in places, but also displays shades of the brilliance that made Guns N' Roses one of the world's greatest bands back in their heyday.

Slash, Matt, Duff, Izzy and Steven may be long gone, but Axl Rose has still got it.

4/5 

Comments

I (based on the numerous reviews I've read and the album that I soon-soon intend to buy or acquire by other means) agree. Many have reported it to absolutely not live up to the expectations - 14m dollars HAS to mean the album of the decade. Which, it ofcourse cant be (what album could ever be?) nor supposedly is. However, it definitely exceeds the average threshold of today and has already made some hardline critics rephrase themselves.

By jaakpardi

Personally I still prefer the older albums like Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 to the new one, but then again what often happens is that it takes a while to get in to the music anyhow.

The peak sound for me was on songs like Sweet Child O' Mine, Paradise City, November Rain, Knocking On Heavens Door, Estranged etc.

Slash is missed for me as I guess the riffs will never quite be rivalled again. Although, it appears it's making a generally great public appeal.

 

By stuartwilson

Axl could still hit the heights of AFD and UYI I think. He's shown on CD that he's still as good as he ever was. Apparently he has three albums worth of material recorded and there has been talk that Chinese Democracy could be part of a trilogy of albums.

Although true to form we might not see any new material for a good while!

By AlanMcGuinness

I'm still in shock that it's out and that it got some good reviews. I was fully expecting it to dive. Looks like Axl had the last laugh over the rest of them. With the current situation with Velvet Revolver this will certainly leave a bitter taste in the mouth for Slash and co.

4/5 (average score from most reviewers) for an album like this is a great score. I wonder where it'll stand up against the other bands of their era recent albums like Black Ice and Death Magnetic and I suppose you can include Iron Maiden's A Matter of Life and Death in there too. Be quite a fun thing to keep an eye on I think.

By robhayes

Personally I think it's better than Black Ice, and I think it's sold more copies already.

By AlanMcGuinness

I haven't listened to the album yet, so I can't call it overrated, but I don't think it should have been released under the name of Guns n Roses. It's more just Axl Rose.

 

By Rebecca Hughes

It is, but then again Axl has never really cared about his public image or what people think of him.

By AlanMcGuinness