Sound — 5
Allow me to come right out and say that this album has been produced very well. Frankly, after an 8-bajillion year wait, it bloody well ought to be. Each instrument shines clear in the mix, whilst not overpowering the others, except perhaps for the bass, which could benefit from a tweak in the upwards direction. This, however, is all undone by what can only be described as a very poor guitar tone. Think Linkin Park kicking Buckethead in the balls while Satriani gets drunk and plays with his effects. From that comparison, it should be obvious that it sounds far too digital, as if "Generic Axl-Supporting bandmate #1" is trying as hard as he can to emulate Slash, through studio tweaking. Axl's voice, too, whilst never exactly angelic, has sunk to new levels of stupid. His trademark "mnyaaaawh!" is still there, but it is sullied by what appears to be an attempt to sound more "gritty." It does not work. For most of the album, he is simply tolerable, but on songs like "Street Of Dreams" it becomes a nightmare.
Lyrics — 6
Having already disussed a lot of Axl's sound, it is now time to evaluate his technical skill. And it's not there. He sounds, at best, mediocore, hitting easy notes, and not trying anything beyond his new baritone. But then he remembers Appetite for Destruction, and tries to hit those wonderful high notes, and ends up sounding, well, old. The lyrics, too, are unimaginitive, right from the opening verse of the title track, which says: "It don't really matter You're gonna find out for yourself No it don't really matter You're gonna leave this thing to somebody else" There is the occasional stab at political or social commentary, but it comes off as trite and forced, leading to an overall poor impression of the lyrical properties of this album. But, it IS a metal album, and what do you expect, Chaucer?
Overall Impression — 3
This is by no means Guns N Roses' worst album, but it's nowhere near their best. The whole album screams of Axl and Co's valiant attempt to create an album that is an instant classic, whilst appealing to the electronic-humping pop community. With every song I listen to, my desire to never listen to this album again rises. It is a mediocre album from a band that should be stratospheric. In 2750, when their next album will probably get released, I sincerely hope they lay aside the dearth of effects, give Axl a wedgie, and stop him listening to November Rain. It worked once, but trying to do a soulful ballad with pro-tools and r'n'b influences on every second track does NOT work. The technical skill of the guitar is admirable, the production is good, but the rest is simply unsatisfactory.