It actually starts off fairly well with 2 mostly riff based songs that at least somewhat resemble the sleaze rock vibe of the old stuff - but it's all encased in this over produced wall of sound. The guitars are so digitally processed sounding, all I can think is Nine Inch Nails or Rob Zombie. Anyways, I can see why these couple songs "Chinese Democracy" and "Shackler's Revenge" are the first 2 tracks. These are the closest it gets to the "original sound." I have no idea what Axl means by "Chinese Democracy." I guess he was inspired by some movie I haven't seen or something...
As the next couple songs roll up, that's when the songs take an obviouse pop rock turn and the vocals come much more forward. This is when Axl's voice really starts sounding strange. Now let's talk about Axl's voice - it's always been rough and pretty strained sounding. It's not really a pleasant "singing" voice. I mean, his low "where do we go nooowwwooooww" thing is a joke we buy into because "Sweet Child o Mine" is just a great rock song. At best he's next to Brian Johnson or Janis Joplin in terms of vocal range. It works in a certain context. But here he's trying to do something more like Elton John or Freddy Mercury. And he can't, because that's either a heavy pitch correction effect on "Street of Dreams," or he's doing a duet with a 10 year old robot version of himself. This vocal effect permeates the entire CD by the way, so if you think Axl died and was reborn as a 10 year old robot choir boy, well, that's just not the case. If you wanna hear what "better" REALLY sounds like, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6-4rY15KRA If you wanna know what "Street of Dreams" REALLY sounds like, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oQuipK6ucI Can you say steel wool throat? Like I said, he can't fucking sing the stuff that is recorded here. Not without heavy studio effects.
After that, things just get really fuckin wierd and schizophrenic. I mean I can enjoy a well constructed epic tune. But we already got November Rain once. There are some great parts here and I ain't sayin Axl doesn't succeed on some levels. And clearly he's gifted musically. But jesus - get away from the fucking computer and sound effects and bring some Marshall stacks into the room! By the time we get to "Catcher in the Rye," everything is just so computered out and touchy feely I don't know if I'm listening to the new Radiohead or Coldplay.
"Scraped" pulls steps back and touches a little bit of the old gnr - but again, the vocals are so obviously treated by a computer it sounds like Axl is singing from the INSIDE of a washing machine. I mean christ, the lines and even some single WORDS are edited in and out. No wonder this shit took so long to make. Axl had to digitally re-construct every vocal part 100 times. I mean I'm just guessing that's where some of the alleged "13 million dollars" and 15 years went into the making of this. "Riad" is another case where the core of the music could pass as a killer gnr tune - but there's 30 layers of shitty effects and fake ass processed vocals mixed in with Axl's actual shitty "rat being strangled" sandpaper pipes. And Buckethead's Tom Morello video game squeal sounds do alot to contribute to the whole "let's leave the bar and play a corporate private party for a million bucks" feel. As for "Sorry," well all I can say is I'm sorry you recorded this Axl.
"This I love" is reaching real far into "actual singer" territory. Honestly, if Chris Cornell or some other actual singer sang this? It would probably be a pretty killer, intense, dark ballad. But again, Axl insists on using his digially enhanced voice insead so he can say "yeah that's me on there." Things end off with "Prostitute," a straight up pop song that coulda been on a Madonna or a Cher album. Insead it ended up on this album with robo Axl on vox.
To sum up, I'd have to say this is an incredible waste of talent and money. I mean online Wikepedia is saying this is the most expensive album EVER recorded. That's saying a lot when you really think about it. R.I.P. guns n roses.