November 23, 2008

Album review: Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy

The wait is finally over – Chinese Democracy, against all odds and delays, has finally arrived. Over a decade in the making, the hype surrounding this album is unfathomable. A lot of time and money has been spent getting this on the market, but does it live up to the hype?

We expect Guns N’ Roses to be rock and roll. That’s what made the band larger than life when Appetite for Destruction was thrust upon the world with a lead fist. Things have changed since the era of [arguably] the greatest rock and roll album ever made, however. Axl Rose is now the sole remaining original member of Guns N’ Roses. At his side are hired guns, if you will. And this changes the band’s sound. Even though Rose has rights to the name, some other name for this group of musicians would be more proper.

Chinese Democracy is impressive, yes, but it’s probably not going to be what you expect. It’s not the same band of old, and the album doesn’t pack as much of a rockin’ punch as the old material does, but disregard that and take this for what it is – good music. Rose’s voice sounds just about as good as it ever has and the guitars are impressive. It’s somewhat unsettling that several guitarists contributed, though. You probably won’t be able to tell who plays on what songs by ear, but some are easy to determine (“Shackler’s Revenge” absolutely stinks of Buckethead). In addition to a handful of guitarists, there is also piano, synthesizers, and even orchestral arrangements. And desperate-for-a-job Sebastian Bach lends backing vocals on “Sorry.”

With so much time spent getting the music to the world, the results are thankfully promising. Guns N’ Roses isn’t four guys in a garage recording some demos. The production is done well and there’s a lot going on in these songs. You’ll hear rock, industrial, and even some blues. Chinese Democracy really doesn’t live up to the hype, but it is definitely beautiful and powerful, and is a great offering regardless of the names in the liner notes.

September 9, 2008

Album review: Brian "Head" Welch - Save Me From Myself

It's 2008, and by now just about everyone in tune with the rock world has heard of Brian "Head" Welch's change of lifestyle nearly three years ago. Welch left his hit band Korn behind because of personal reasons and was able to kick a drug addiction with the help of God and Christianity. He decided to continue with music of his own (with well-traveled Josh Freese on drums). Not quite succumbing to stereotypical Christian style, his songs have intensities ranging from spirituality to anger. They are actually edgier and darker than those of Korn. God had told him to let out his aggression, and that's precisely what he has done in his first solo attempt, Save Me from Myself. His autobiography of the same title is worth reading bearing in mind it came to fruition first and this album is a soundtrack of sorts, much like Nikki Sixx's Heroin Diaries. Reading the book and then listening to the music will provide a better understanding of the album's messages.

Save Me from Myself isn't preachy, though. It's a collection of stories and messages with regards to Welch's interactions with others and personal thoughts and habits. This might be an album that takes a few spins to truly appreciate, but even not having read the book it easily remains enjoyable. The layers of programming make a thorough sound and mesh well with the guitars, obviously Welch's bread and butter. Songs such as "Flush," "Re-Bel," and "Save Me from Myself" center on negativities like drugs, alcoholism, and depression. Songs such as "Die Religion Die," "Adonai," and "Washed by Blood" center on religion and Christianity. The lyrical composition is anything but lacking - it's arguably the strongest aspect, and rightfully so considering the genuine essence. There really isn't anything unimpressive, other than the vocals perhaps being slightly better than tolerable.

Brian "Head" Welch wasn't joking when he said he expected to inspire people.