GUNS N' ROSES — Chinese Democracy (review)

GUNS N' ROSES — Chinese Democracy album cover Album · 2008 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
UMUR
"Chinese Democracy" is the 6th full-length studio album by US glam/alternative rock/metal act Guns N' Roses. The album was released in November 2008 by Geffen. "Chinese Democracy" was recorded in the period 1998–2007 and it´s the first album featuring original material since "Use Your Illusion I" and "Use Your Illusion II" from 1991. The band did release "The Spaghetti Incident?" in 1993 but it´s a cover tunes album. Allthough not universally highly praised by neither critics nor fans, "Chinese Democracy" has sold fairly well by today´s standards and has been certified Platinum by the RIAA and has sold over one million copies in Europe.

I fail to think of another hard rock/metal album this talked about and this hyped. To understand this (most of you of course already know) you have to understand how big Guns N' Roses were in the late eighties/early nineties. They were simply THE hard rock/glam metal act of that period and sold millions of millions of albums. They were idolized like few. The succeess took a toll on their egos though and internal fighting and lack of work ethics because of a massive drug and alcohol abuse among the members, resulted in all members, but lead vocalist Axl Rose, leaving the band in 1996. So the incarnation of the band that recorded "Chinese Democracy" is basically Axl Rose plus various session members who have been involved with the band in the years 1998 - 2007.

So what do we get after 15 years of waiting for a new release? Well...first of all you get 14 tracks distributed over 71:26 minutes of playing time, so you get quantity. That´s a check. The music on the album is unmistakably the sound of Guns N' Roses allthough quite a few alternative rock/metal elements have sneaked into the sound (tracks like "Catcher in the Rye" and "Scraped" remind me quite a bit about a less metallic Avenged Sevenfold). Axl Rose has a distinct voice though and that, more than anything else, ensures that you´ll always identify the music on the album as the sound of Guns N' Roses. The material is not as sleazy or filthy hard rocking as the early material by the band but if you think about it they had already left some of the sleaze behind on the "Use Your Illusion" albums, so it´s really not that surprising. The main focus is more on epic orchestrated rockers rather than attitude filled hard rocking tracks and if you´re looking for a hard rocking album you´ve for the most part come to the wrong place. That´s not all bad though as the vocal melodies are generally pretty strong and memorable and Axl Rose delivers the goods. His performance here is actually his most diverse yet. Just take a listen to his vocal performance on "If the World". A bit odd sounding at first, but it´s nice to hear that he´s not afraid to try out new things.

Overall the album sticks in too many directions and the sterile sound production, the use of synths which at times give the tracks a new wave elements that softens the sound (don´t take the rock out of a rock band), the fact that there are few really hard rocking tracks on the album and the too long playing time results in "Chinese Democracy" not exactly being a triumphant return. I won´t join the choir that says that the album is terrible, because I partially enjoyed listening to the album and found it much more interesting than I had expected, but I won´t call it excellent either. A 2.5 - 3 star rating is fair.
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more than 2 years ago
I really, really like that album, I was only waiting for it for about five years... so it wasn't so bad for me.
I understand why people don't like it, but if this was Axl Rose's solo album I'd review it and give it five stars.

more than 2 years ago
Compared to you guys, I am an old intolerant fart... I have no interest in even checking this album out whatsoever because it's not "Appetite for Destruction".
UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
It´s definitely better than it´s rumoured to be. I miss some hard rocking riffing like in the good old days, but they´ve progressed and you just gotta deal with that.
Stephen wrote:
more than 2 years ago
hey Jonas -quite surprised you wrote this one up. 3 stars from your point of view is a fair rating I guess, to be honest, this is the type of album people will love or hate. For classic fans, this is a blasphemy, for open minded fans, I think it's a great effort by the band.

I tend to fall to the latter side, probably will give it 4 stars, haven't write one yet, and not because I'm a big fan of GNR but I do think it's really a great grower album, packed with diversity, acrobatic approach, non-linear writing style, full of risk and a proof that Axl is genius when it comes to writing. Been a while since I listen to this, but glad you also enjoy it.

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