Sound — 8
It took 17 years and an entirely new line up to assemble the album that is Chinese Democracy, and was a journey wrought with legal troubles, fan backlash, half-cocked tours, and expenditures of millions upon millions of dollars. When people think of Chinese Democracy, these are often the first and only things to pop into their minds, and instead of listening to the music itself, they reject the album. However, if listened to it with open ears and mind, there really is a good album behind it all. Throughout the 14 songs, there is a mix of styles, ranging from the almost old Guns rock of There Was A Time and I.R.S., the industrial blat of Shackler's Revenge, and the Broadway-styled piano ballad of This I Love, and everything in between. While there is a large range of sounds on the album, not everything is pulled off as well as it should have been, such as the James Bond-esque "If the World", which doesn't seem to go anywhere about halfway through the song. The album's long-gestating production holds it back in places as well, with many songs having layer upon layer of guitars, strings, and synths, that distract from the main core of the songs. These are only small flaws, however, and no one song on here can be considered filler. The sound of the band itself is, as expected, vastly different from the old line-up. Gone is the sloppy, bluesy playing of Slash, replaced with hard, metallic shred guitar. This is however backed up by old-school bluesy rhythm player Richard Fortus, who helps blend in more familiar sounds among the new ones. Throughout the album are slight industrial tinges as well, brought on by Rose's love of bands like Nine Inch Nails back in the late '90s. The sound of Guns N' Roses may be different, but it's a fresh direction for the band.
Lyrics — 9
Axl's voice is in top form here, with him displaying a range of highs, lows, growls and snarls. On "Madagascar", he sounds like weathered and gravely, like a man resigned to his fate. On "Chinese Democracy" and "Better", he shifts to a version of his classic piercing shriek that's lower and meaner, and you can almost hear the swagger in it. But, the overproduction hits the vocals, as well. On many songs there are often 2, 3 and even 4 Axls singing at the same time, muddling up the sound and making the album feel more insular, than if Tommy Stinson or Ron Thal provided an extra vocal dimension. The lyrics deal with several themes, from love and loss, standing up for your beliefs, pirates with itchy trigger fingers, and Rose's struggle to put together an album in the face of much opposition. 'll venture a personal opinion and say that "Catcher in the Rye" has the strongest lyrics, dealing with Mark David Chapman's murder of John Lennon, and the book itself. They are very poetic, and some of the strongest words Rose has ever written. Chinese Democracy's lyrics are classic Axl, with him railing against his enemies, and occasionally, sharing with us his more emotional moments.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, the album is not as cohesive as it should be. Many of the songs were written years apart from each other, so they do not mix together as an album as well as Guns' previous work. Though the album could flow better, the songs themselves are strong, and I believe that this truly can be called a Guns N' Roses album. Even though the players may be different, Axl's old-school swagger and anger still remains, and meshes well with the more modern music. All this having been said, it is up to you to judge the music. Not Rose's public persona, the length of time it took to make, or how much it cost, but the music.