Growing up, Guns N Roses and Metallica were huge around the time I was first really getting into music. Here it is about 20 years later, and both bands recently released new albums. I rented both from the library after avoiding hearing any new songs until now. Rather than just download them, I wanted to get the full experience. I wrote about each song while listening to them, so you're getting my first impressions track by track.
Guns N Roses- Chinese Democracy
We all know this album took around 10 years to finish, so here it is... The opening track "Chinese Democracy" sounds like AXL's doing a duet w/ himself. There's both screachy AXL and singing AXL, and there's a bunch of guitar solos, none of which very interesting. The next track, "Shackler's Revenge" has a pretty terrible Nine Inch Nails vibe. The chorus at least seems to have a hook to it, so I could imagine this being on the radio. Luckily I don't listen to the radio. "Better" is almost similar to later era GNR, but ultimately falls flat. "Streets on Dreams" is a piano heavy mid paced song, but it sure as hell is no "November Rain," which I think is what they were going for. The next track "If the World" has a funk meets industrial meets Spanish guitar thing going on... Pretty bad, yea! "There was a Time" is the longest track on the CD, and one of the most boring. "Catcher in the Rye" is another mid paced piano/synthesizer rocker. A little more interesting, but still not holding my interest. "Riad N' The Bedouins" is an attempt/failure at a straight forward rock song. "Sorry" is AXL once again attacking his critics, but I mean honestly, can you blame them. "IRS" is only a little bit more interesting, but maybe just because it was shorter than the previous songs. It seems like they were trying to make "Madagascar" the epic of the album. It's mid paced, and has samples of speeches and movie quotes. They even have the same sample they used before "Civil War" on "Use Your Illusion II." The fake violin sounds aren't helping either. "This I Love" is definitely the slow ballad of the album, but falls massively short of a "power ballad" or even a "monster ballad. "Prostitute" ends the album pretty much the same as the rest of the songs, nothing too interesting here. Overall, the only really listenable tracks are "Chinese Democracy, Skackler's Revenge and Madagascar;" but I probably wouldn't listen to even those again.
The cover art is pretty boring, but the inside layout is way more interesting. Basically live shots w/ halftoned images in the background behind the lyrics. They should have gotten the designer who did the inside to do the outside. The credits and thank yous in the back take up 5 pages, but I guess that makes sense when you start recording an album 10 years ago. If this album came out when it logically should have, I may have not been as critical. Overall however, it lacks the punch and attitude that made me like GNR in the first place though. This is pretty disgraceful, and I'd listen to Velvet Revolver any day over this... Make another "Appetite for Destruction," not "Use Your Illusion" III!
Metallica- Death Magnetic
When I popped this into my computer, the song lengths in iTunes got me hopeful. Seems Metallica has abandoned making radio-length crappy songs. "That Was Just Your Life" kicks off pretty good, but loses some momentum when the vocals come in. The drumming is pretty boring, but at least has better tone than on the last album. "The End Of The Line" has some shadows of more "Black Album"-era Metallica. So far, this is better than I was expecting. "Broken, Beat & Scarred" is kinda heavy, but again falls flat in the vocal department. "The Day That Never Comes" reminds me of some of the slower ballads on the Black Album, but the lead guitar tone just seems off for some reason. It does speed up towards the end, but the lyrics are pretty crappy. "All Nightmare Long" starts off real good with a 2 minute instrumental part, but again gets boring when the vocals kick in. "Cyanide" is a little more aggressive than the previous tracks. The next song is called "The Unforgiven III" as if "The Unforgiven" and "The Unforgiven II" weren't enough. Obviously my expectations were pretty low for this one, and they were met. "The Judas Kiss" actually isn't too bad, and kinda has an "Enter Sandman" vibe. The intro to "Suicide & Redemption" is pretty cool w/ the bass playing, but is ultimately ruined by some pretty bad guitar. I do like the idea of an instrumental track, but this needs to be a lot faster to hold my interest. It seems weird that "My Apocalypse" ends the album, since it's the shortest track, but one of the better songs. It's cool that they tried to tap in their old style of song writing for this, but I think it's still too tame sounding. The song lengths pretty much guarantee that nothing will be played on the radio, but the songs lack the fury of their older days.
The layout of the cover is pretty interesting. the whole book has a die-cut in the middle of a coffin, so visually it looks like you're going deeper into the ground with each page. Occasionally the die-cut hole is used in each page's layout, but most times not. The holes do however cut into the lyrics, which I would think would be more important than the imagery. Overall I'd say this is probably the best record they've done since the Black Album, but I still would rather hear them recapture the magic of "Master of Puppets" and "Ride the Lightning."
OK, after wasting a little over an hour of my precious time (that was sarcasm), I'd say that both albums suck. I would take the Metallica album over the Guns N Roses album by far, but Metallica has more good albums than GNR do anyway. Metallica have made an improvement on what they'd been doing recently by far, which maybe you can credit it to (professional turd polisher) Rick Rubin. Guns N Roses took over 10 years to write, record and release a terrible album. This is why most old bands that still tour just stick to a greatest hits set list.