Sound — 10
Guns N' Roses has been moved to the 21st century in style, as Axl Rose & Co. have released an album of stellar material. Sure, you will get the old-school fans who will say "It's not GnR", or "It doesn't sound the same". I say to those people, free up your mind and listen a little more before you make up your mind. I used to think the new Guns N' Roses sucked hard, until I saw 'Better' performed live, which totally changed my opinion on the band. Axl's proven to the world that he is an amazing song writing talent, composing some of his best work (and GnR as a whole) on this album. Tracks such as "There Was A Time", "Better" and "This I Love", stand up among GnR's best. The production is stellar, and is a real strong point on the album, with every instrument and factor getting the spotlight at some point in the album, with no flaky sound, but all crisp and clear. New guitarists Bumblefoot, Richard Fortus and Robin Finck (not forgetting Buckethead, even though he has left the band, some parts still remain on the album) have a great chemistry, both live and in the studio, where their respective parts seem to melt together in an incredibly smooth fashion. 01.Chinese Democracy: the title track, surprisingly, is one of the album's weaker tracks. It's got some great guitar work, and I am loving Bumblefoot's fretless rhythm guitar during the verses, however the chorus doesn't jump out at you with a catchy hook to keep you interested. Great guitar solo courtesy of Buckethead, and Axl sounds great. My only real issue is with the lyrics, they are definitely the weakest point. No catchy chorus section, and an odd reference to masturbation in the middle. Good track, but not the best. Good opener and first single though, in my opinion. 8/10 02.Shackler's Revenge: ever since the track was leaked in demo form before it's official release on Rock Band 2, Shackler's Revenge has come on in leaps and bounds. The audio is far crisper, with a nice crunch in the guitar, with Axl's voice totally dominating the track, which isn't that bad, seeing as this is one of Axl's strongest vocal tracks on the album. The chorus is stadium-worthy mega rock at it's finest, with some fantastically catchy singing. The solo seems to fly off to nowhere in the first few seconds, but then it tidies up and sounds nice, with a brilliant sweep to tap run in the end. Not the best song on the album, very avant-garde with an industrial flair, great if you're into that kind of thing. I think it rocks though. 9/10 03.Better: the best raw rock song on the album, no doubt. If you're looking for a song to bring you back to the sheer punch and drama of old Guns, this is it. Axl is amazing, just simply amazing on this track, with a fantastic rhythm section, a wall of guitars, bass and drums that hits you hard. Some awesome sweeps and shred runs in this song by, and Bumblefoot has put some licks into the verse and chorus, to add a 4th dimension to an already brilliant track. This is one incredible song, easily one of my favourites on the album. The two bridge sections are defiantly catchy, with an amazing, blues ridden solo in the final section by Robin Finck. A solo worthy of the massive gap Slash left in the band, no doubt. 10/10 04.Street Of Dreams: the first ballad of many on album. Axl's wail is present and correct on this one, hitting some notes we long forgot he could hit. The rhythm guitar accompanies the piano perfectly, with a lovely crunch and some riffs in there challenging the crashing piano for dominance. A track renamed from it's old codename "The Blues", the blues really does ring out in this one, with sped up blues licks, an excellent solo ringing out between verses, and some great vocal melodies. A great all rounder, some good lyrics. Gorgeous melodies, and a huge Elton John influence can be heard in this song. Loving this one. 10/10 05.If The World: a slick song, totally fit for a modern soundtrack to city life. The bass line is infectious, a simple "ba dum, ba dum ba dum" ringing through the whole song. It's sounds like a kind of mix between Audioslave and Rodrigo y Gabriela, with some fantastic Middle Eastern/Spanish guitar from Buckethead to complement the bass and distorted guitar. There's a surprisingly energetic solo in there too by Buckethead. Couple the instrumental section with Axl's soaring vocals and this one's a winner. Especially check out the la, na na na bridge. You'll be hooked. 10/10 06.There Was A Time: the song opens up with this weird choir style bit at the start, but once Axl's voice kicks in it's a brilliant track straight away. Right from the word go, there are guitars matching the notes Axl is singing and the bass and drums are the perfect fit and lend the song a tense, edgy and modern feel. The whole thing is one massive wall of sound that attacks and keeps you immersed in the music, and is one of the best tracks on the album. The guitar solos are amazing, with some of Buckethead's best work he has ever done, (yes, that's including his solo material) and the outro solo is an orgasmic wah wah, clean sound behemoth that I cannot get out of my head! Seriously, it's so catchy it will stick with you. This song is worth it for the guitar alone, but add Axl, and the rest of the freaking band, and you have an instant, unforgettable, smashing classic. 10/10 07.Catcher In The Rye: this song blows my mind. If they had re-mastered Brian May's guitar solo of course it would have been even better, but still, this track is good anyway, with Bumblefoot's newly added solos taking up residence. Axl is on top form here, hitting all the right notes, with some fantastic melodies, the rhythm guitar is suitably thick but not over done, with some fantastic blues chords and licks played during the course of the song, lending it a real old school, classic rock tone. It's one great track lyrics wise too, e.g "How a body took a body and gave that boy a gun... " really stands out. One of my favourites on the album, and shows that no matter what anybody says, Axl Rose can still craft great songs. 10/10 08.Scraped: the opening harmony is cool, although it threw off most of my friends, who are hardcore GnR-heads, but straight after that harmony there are some bone crunching riffs, the heaviest song so far on the record. I see this song as a spiritual successor to Out Ta Get Me off the Appetite for Destruction album, although it's superior in every way. The lyrics contain the same rebellious f*** you connotations, with the same crunch on the guitars, and a fantastic solo. The drums have a 'Dom Howard from Muse' feel to them, which is no bad thing. It's clear to see that Axl's been paying close attention to the modern rock scene and how he can adapt himself to that style of hard rock around nowadays, some bombastic drums and riffs. Overall, good track, but compared to most of what follows it pales it comparison. 9/10 09.Riad N' The Bedouins: odd title, you say? Nothing odd about this song. One of the most straightforward rocks on the album, albeit with a rather drawn out intro. As soon as the main riff kicks in, the song demands that you take it seriously, and Axl soars over the mix, with a screaming Aaaaaaaaah that sounds so definitive of an overblown rock track. The solo simply screams Slash! too in the first few seconds, and then Bumblefoot melts your face with a stupidly catchy lick towards the song's closing moments, and Buckethead provides the outro. Overall, one of the albums great rockers, certainly better than the title track anyway. Very strong vocals, which took me a bit by surprise, I have to say. The high rating is mostly for those awesome, awesome vocals that accompany the main riff though. 9/10 10.Sorry: this song is the much lauded epic Sebastian Back was on about. "It has the rawness of Appetite, but the scale and grandiosity of November Rain". This song is a great reminder of what Axl set out to do, and that was to carry GnR intact to the modern age, which I think in this track more so than others, he does with a great flair. It really is a new Guns N' Roses epic, and easily stands up with songs on the ballad-heavy Use Your Illusion albums, in my humble opinion. Buckethead here proves to the world he is a unique talent, and can do any and every style. On this track alone, he shifts from blues, to classic rock, to metal, to classic rock again. Possibly (whisper it) the best song on the album. I don't know. 10/10 11.I.R.S: the weakest song on the album, which says a lot, seeing as it's not half bad. It's the only song on the album to even nearly sound like old GnR too, so it'll please old school fans too. I long for raspier vocals on this one, if we got that it might have been up there with Better as a classic track. As it is, the vocals are a bit weak, with Axl almost like he's trying too hard to get those notes he got back in the day. If he re-recorded it in mid-2007, there's not a doubt in my mind it would have been one of the best tracks vocals-wise. Cracking solo from Robin Finck and Buckethead, which add a lot to the song, but that alone can't solve the disappointment that was the vocals. Some really great lyrics though. It's a tough track to rate, I'm stuck between a 7/8 out of 10. 12.Madagascar: the dark horse of the album. It's the first one to be played live, and is the song that should take the blame for haters calling Guns N' Roses a hip hop band. However, this does not make it a bad song. It's got an extremely catchy synth hook at the start, and the hippity hoppity drum beat is awesome, no matter what the haters say. Also, Axl's vocals suit the song to a tee, but they are a bit weak. Nonetheless, I like it. Buckethead adds some great solo guitar in the verses, which pairs up with Axl's voice fantastically. The Martin Luther King Jr. speech and excerpts from Cool Hand Luke and Seven are a bit much, but they add so much to the album's already overly dramatic sound that I find it hard to dock points for this. The speech sections drown out a lot of the guitar work put on at the same time, which is a shame. Not my favourite song on the record, but it's deserved of a solid 9/10. 13.This I Love: for me, this is the best song on the entire album. It's the closest to Axl Rose we have ever gotten, opening with just Axl and some piano, singing some truly heartfelt lyrics. You can hear from Axl's voice that he really means what he's singing. Fantastic song, and a great showcase for his talents. It's pure ballad of Freddie Mercury proportions up until roughly two and a half minutes in, where Robin Finck lets fly with a distortion riddled, fabulous solo that echoes previous work by Slash on November Rain, with a great hook to reel the listener in. Some great vocal harmonies, innovative melodies, and a really stripped back track that puts truth to the phrase, less is more. 10/10 14.Prostitute: a heart warming album closer. The song kicks off with a little riff and unusual vocal melody, and seems like an immediate letdown as the closing song. From here on in though, the song is packed full of rich layers of sound, with Chris Pitman's finest synth work on the album, and some great piano from Axl, and two great solos from Buckethead. Axl's vocals are sharp and tight, with some simple yet effective rhythms from Richard Fortus and Finck. The solo is a face-melter courtesy of Buckethead, and the way Axl's piano fades out in the closing moments is perfect. Really great song, one of the album's best, and the perfect closer to an album such as this. 10/10
Lyrics — 10
Axl's singing on the record is far better than most had anticipated. Sure, he doesn't have the same old sound he had back in the 80's or early 90's, but that's what age does to you. He has aged. Even though it shows at parts, he still retains some most of the growl and scream that made him famous, and some of the vocals on this album are among the best in his entire career, when he adapts his voice to keep up with the frenetic music. Great vocals overall, especially on tracks like Better, Shackler's Revenge, This I Love, and There Was A Time. On This I Love's vocal track he sounds as good as if not better than he did in 1991, he's really that good. You won't find vocals as atrocious as the 2002 VMA awards ceremony, I can tell you that much. The lyrics as a whole are quite good, and certainly reflect Axl's odd experiences of the past 15 years. The lyrics fit with the music quite well, something a lot of people didn't see coming due to the new change in musical direction, which I see to be a big credit to the various musicians that have worked on the album, that they crafted something to fit Axl's vision for the lyrics and music. Lyrics get a 10 out of 10, with some greatly insightful lyrics detailing every day of the agonising past 15 years. Axl has written some fantastic lyrics, especially on tracks like "Sorry" and "This I Love", and shows he can still write an intelligent song, a fun party song, and a blast out rocker, and pick and choose words to suit each one. Fantastic.
Overall Impression — 10
OK, it's been a long and hard 15 years for every GnR fan. The simply unbearable length of time it took for Axl Rose to finish Chinese Democracy hurt. Blows have been dealt (tentative release date of March 6, 2007, for example), and gifts given (Shackler's Revenge on Rock Band 2), but in my humble opinion, it's all been worth it. The long wait is finally over, and I have never heard such a satisfying result. The new songs are fantastic, and easily stand up to the great Appetite for Destruction, GnR Lies and Use Your Illusions albums. Well worth checking out, and as a music fan you almost owe it to yourself to hear the myth that is Chinese Democracy. I can safely say there is at least one song for everybody on this album, of that I am sure. Ever since I bought it on launch day, it has been on repeat in the car, on the bus, walking, in my bedroom, everywhere I have a CD player or some headphones. If you do buy the album and you are not satisfied, take Axl's advice give it "some more Patience". It'll grow on you.