The first thing that hit me about this album is how far from the old Guns N' Roses it actually is. Yes, there is a solid, clear line that divides the band we all knew and the band they are now, but to me that's just the way of progress. Had the old band been working on this then we may have simply just had a much more polished-up Use Your Illusion-era album on our hands.
But this is truly something else, vastly layered with vocal tracks, synths, strings, orchestras and guitars, this is so far from the raw Guns N' Roses recordings it's hard to associate them with who they once were. Yet the link is there, in the most obvious form; Axl Rose. On this album he proves he can still sing like he used to, shrieking highs and growling lows all intermix throughout. He also proves he's not lost the knack for writing some profound lyrics, he has a gift of making whatever it is he thinks into deep, meaningful lyrics and then wringing them out of his voicebox that they give you a double-whammy of passion and Rock N' Roll ostentatiousness.
As I said in the title, you need to be open with this album, the guitars no longer take centre stage like they used to, and for another thing they're a damn sight dirtier-sounding, heavily distorted and interspersed with technical, finger-blistering squaling lead breaks, laid-back Slash-blues this certainly isn't.
Don't get me wrong, I love Slash and co. and would give anything for an old lineup reunion, but were this their album too it'd be a very different beast. Some songs on this album have six guitars at once, as opposed to maybe three layers we got with old Guns N' Roses.
As different and obscure as this album is, I've barely listened to anything else since I got my hands on it (from an official stream), it will take a few listens to get under your skin, but once it's there it won't let go easily. There are a few gripes with the album; for one, it's very very VERY close to fulfilling all the hype and propaganda from the last few years. but not close enough, but, again, go in with an open mind, forget the delays and enjoy the album for what it is right now.
Other gripes include certain parts of sings where they sound a little too busy, layered too much and not really sing-along-able. Also the intro to 'Scraped' - yeurgh.
By no means the perfect Rock N' Roll album, but it's mighty, mighty close, Axl has delivered a great piece of music. Highlights inclue opening track 'Chinese Democracy', 'Better', 'This I Love' and 'I.R.S.' The ending song 'Prostitute' winds the album up brilliantly, the outro made me go all goose fleshy as it puts a can on the last decade of press abuse towards Axl and wraps up his brainchild of work.
Hopefully this new appraoch will enlighten a new generation of people about how good a band Guns N' Roses are and were, and open their eyes to the genius of Axl Rose. Old fans should perhaps give it a preview listen before making their minds up, but I doubt many will say no.