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Guns 'n' Roses - Chinese Democracy

Published November 23 2008

=Staff's pick

Chinese Democracy*
Shackler's Revenge
Street Of Dreams*
If The World*
There Was A Time
Catcher In The Rye*
Riad 'n' The Bedouins
This I Love*

Genre Sleaze/Rock
Axl Rose
Tracks 14
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal
Runningtime 71 Min.
Richard Fortus
Label Black Frog/Geffen
Tommy Stinson
Release 23 November 2008
Framk Ferrer
Country USA
D. Reed/C. Pitman
Similar artists Hanoi Rocks, Mötley Crüe

It takes the punch out of a great joke. When hell freezes over, when a black man becomes president in the US, when Chinese Democracy is released … Well, 2008 is the year of wonder. It is hard to look past the fact that this record has been a reality farce for the past 14 years and cost about 20 millions to make. My first thought now when it, after all these twists and turns, finally get released is that it is no way it can live up to its own hype. But I will try to make a judgement about the music, as if this was a regular release.

One problem is that I don't think that anybody, not even Axl himself, knows who is playing what on which track anymore. But then again, this is basically Axl's one man show with various guests.

The title track starts with a surprisingly old school heavy metal riff that puts you in a good vibe. It is followed with a distinct chorus. A nice rocking starter. Shackler's Revenge is a bit more modern and electronic sounding and takes a couple of times to get hold of. I had expected more in that vein, but with the whole picture at hand is this not the case. Better has a song melody in the verse that reminds of old Guns N' Roses days, while the chorus is a bit lame.

Street Of Dreams is the first ballad. While the solo is not in November Rain class, there is a nice flow over the whole composition that reminds of old habits. Axl goes higher than I think I ever heard him do, and mostly he manages it, although it feels a bit strange here and there. If The World starts with a funky Spanish guitar intro and Axl once again sings in extreme high pitch. The tune is a bit slower and jazzier, but grows on you.

There Was A Time starts soft with symphonic arrangements that almost feel too much, but gets some balls in the chorus. Catchy Catcher In The Rye lowers the guard a bit at first, but manages to grow on you while it is played.

Scraped is the first song that I actually don't like. I can take a filler, but if you have 14 years to make a record, you should be able to come up with at least one great song a year, one could think. Ironically, it is one of the hardest rocking tracks. Unfortunately Sorry is even weaker, as a quite slow and simple tune. The bad trilogy continues with Riad 'n' The Bedouins that mostly is Axl yelling some hard to catch supposed melody. IRS is a slightly better one, but with a lame text about American authorities.

Madagascar has a title that takes something extra to live up to. At first I'm not sure if Axl makes it, but it grows huge with some repeating. It has harmonies that are just brilliant. This I Love on the other hand stands out immediately. It is a totally beautiful piano ballad, in class with all the classic G'n'R ballads. Axl gives me goose bumps on this one. It would have made a perfect 'goodbye'. Therefore it feels strange when Prostitute starts it up all over again. To that you get a feeling that you already heard the song, earlier on the record.

Although the years of waiting, I could have waited a bit longer for at least three or four of the songs. They are just taking up space and time and disturbing the overall impression. A few of the symphonic arrangements could have been skipped as well. I guess it all is a bit overworked after all these years. But besides from that I am absolutely stunned. This is far better than anything I expected. It sounds up to date but yet without traces of modern US metal (which I generally don't like). And, most of all, it sounds Guns N' Roses.

If you are looking for a late follow up to the sleaze anthem Appetite For Destruction you will be disappointed, but the more mature parts of Use Your Illusion I+II are certainly reached and in my opinion even passed. Axl still has a totally unique and surprisingly vital voice (well, he could have done thousands of takes for each song by now and made the rest in a computer as far as we know - but still). I would say that I have never been a fanatic about the band, no more than the average headbanger acknowledging their place in the history books. But, or perhaps just therefore, I must repeat: this was far better than anything I expected.








8 chalices of 10 - David

I find it ironic how Guns toured with Metallica in '92, and finally both released their long awaited albums. The magnetic thing is Metallica dominates with the best album of the year; having learned their lesson in violence, while Guns, after over a decade, revolve with velvet polyester stitched threads of weak sewn inspiration. Sure, some songs echo the essence of using your illusion, which contained certain songs, which never became hits. Think: Don't Damn Me', 'Get In The Ring', 'Coma', or 'Estranged'. This album is a crazy democratic shuffle of songs which neither flow with ease, or are itchin' to please. The Axle Rose road show should either re-unite with Slash, Izzy, Duff, & Matt, or throw in the towel. //Michael the MettleAngel (6,5/10)

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