Guns N’ Roses
Waiting for the release of these records has been an experience akin to, say, Mr. Earhart waiting for Amelia to get home for dinner.
It’s been more than four years since the Gunners’ only real album, Appetite for Destruction (1988’s GN’R Lies was largely re-releases). Appetite offered a taste of the band’s buzz-saw rock, but the two Use Your Illusion albums serve up a 16-course feast.
Hard rock’s reigning guitar god, Slash, kicks right in on “Right Next Door to Hell,” the first song on Illusion I, slicing your cerebellum like some crazed, knife-wielding attacker. There’s no letting up after that.
Axl Rose’s lead yowl wraps itself like a snake around some of the other vein-poppers, such as “Dead Horse” from Illusion I or “You Could Be Mine” from Illusion II, squeezing out every last drop of life.
Still, the band never forgets to stitch in threads of melody, treading that thin line between head-banger harshness and metal-lite slickness. Though known for its sonic crunch, the band isn’t above tossing in a harmonica riff (“Bad Obsession”), a banjo intro (“Breakdown”) or a piano solo (“Locomotive”). Illusion II, probably the quieter of the albums, even closes with a psycho-rap number, “My World.”
The mind-numbing roar of most of the music suits the anger and alienation in Rose’s lyrics. His is a cruel world of deceitful women and devious friends, where you chase away problems by turning up the volume.
That indignation marks the ballads, yet they’re never bitter. Each disc has a somber tune as its centerpiece—”November Rain” on Illusion I and “Estranged” on Illusion II—and both show a thoughtful side of Rose and company, as does the albums’ best cut, the militantly pacifist “Civil War” (released on the Nobody’s Child Romanian orphan benefit album).
There’s really only one big shortcoming with these albums: Taken together, the dual Illusions last 2½ hours. As good as the band is, a project this long loses the momentum that one tight 90-minute double-album might have had. (Geffen)