I'll admit it — I wasn't a believer before tonight. Until my ears were physically christened with the opening notes to the title track of Chinese Democracy soaring through my thoroughly overwhelmed computer speakers as it streamed off of the Guns N' Roses MySpace page, I did not believe that Axl Rose would wade through the insanity of his genius and bring us what has become the Holy Grail of rock music.
But what once seemed like an untouchable, unattainable vision in the head of a madman — destined never to be realized – has now thankfully become reality. And those fans who have yearned for years to once again gain access to the ingeniously conceptual and chaotically invigorating world of rock and roll that only Rose can create will not be disappointed.
Chinese Democracy is the ultimate rock and roll album. It announces GNR's reemergence in the world of metal with a sonic explosion that cuts through the status quo like a razor blade, beautifully sharp and piercingly deadly. Axl combines the raw ferocity of Appetite for Destruction with the soaring and dramatic compositional approach the band took on their Use Your Illusions albums, combining those formidable forces in a shell of layered, electronic sound that is thick and powerful. Electronic beats and melodies pour over Axl's ballads like the lofting "Streets of Dreams" and rage over rockers like the buzzsaw guitar-laced jam "Better," creating an affluence of sound that assaults and consumes its audience completely.
Every note and every vocal coursing through this record are placed perfectly into the overall mosaic that only an artist like Axl can create. Each track is strong in its own intrinsic way, drawing on the various influences that swirl through his consciousness, giving the listener a unique sensory experience as they journey through the landscape of the record as it unfolds.
Fans of GNR's earlier work will cite harder tracks like the distortion drenched rocker "Shackler's Revenge" or the pulse-pounding "Riad N' The Bedouins" as the strongest songs on the record.
Those who enjoy Axl's melodic tendencies will no doubt be drawn to the album's prime examples of his ever-present ability to write a sentimental hook, like "Catcher in the Rye" or the hauntingly melodic "Sorry."
For most, the glaring spectacle of this album is undoubtedly Axl's innovation: his introduction of hip hop and electronic beats and sounds, metallic industrial crunch in the vein of Ministry, and thunderously layered guitars, all crashing together in a violent and perfect harmony throughout the record show that, for all his eccentricities and insistence on perfectionism, Axl showed no restraint in fully realizing a thoroughly bombastic and beautiful musical concept. Those who criticized him must now give thanks for those very aspects of his mentality that drew their ire, for they are the integral ingredients that define and differentiate Chinese Democracy from anything that preceded it.
Over the time in which Axl was in his self-induced exile, it is now obvious that rather than an act of instability or social rejection this was an act of musical evolution. Gone are the days when he shared the GNR spotlight with any one musician. This new incarnation of the band is more reminiscent of a metal version of Arthur Lee's Love or Don Van Vilet's Beefheart. Axl is at the helm of this ship and it his personal journey into new realms of sonic madness, totally foriegn to rock and roll, that make Chinese Democracy nothing short of incredible. It is a record so conceptually powerful in its ideas, so innovative in its sounds, that it will single-handedly elevate the standard against which all rock music is subsequently measured.