After years of waiting, Axl Rose and co. finally will have new music for sale at Best Buy next month. But with bands like Nickelback and Hinder now ruling the rock world, will fans still have an appetite for consumption?
Credit: Scott Gries/Getty Images

Chinese Democracy

Guns N’ Roses have announced that they will release their new album, Chinese Democracy next month. And this time we’re sure that Axl Rose’s repeatedly delayed, decade-and-a-half-in-the-making creation is actually going to hit shelves, specifically those of Best Buy. On Oct. 22, the chain store and GN’R’s label, Geffen, announced that the CD will go on sale at Best Buy starting Nov. 23. On the same day as the announcement, GN’R released a new song, the album’s title track, to radio, the first time the band has done so since 1999’s ”Oh My God.” (EW’s Chris Willman posted his first impression of ”Chinese Democracy” on EW’s PopWatch blog, where you can do the same.)

Some are wondering if Chinese Democracy could be the most expensive rock record ever made, but GN’R manager Andy Gould talked to EW the day before the announcement and defended the collection’s lengthy gestation period. ”Great art sometimes takes time,” Gould said. ”When they asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, they didn’t say, ‘Can you do it in the fourth quarter?’ so they can make their numbers.” ”I haven’t heard the final mastering,” says current GN’R guitarist Ron ”Bumblefoot” Thal. ”I was supposed to meet up with them this week and listen. I’m a bit curious, you know? But truthfully, there’s some great songs. It’s a beautiful record.”

Maybe so, but how much will long-suffering fans actually care at this point? After all, the mercurial Rose is the only member left from the band’s heyday. And the last time GN’R released a substantial amount of original material — 1991’s two Use Your Illusion discs — the singer for rockers du jour Hinder was 9. Are GN’R fans still eager for new music, or has the endless talk about Democracy had more to do with Axl’s astonishing inability to get the thing out? ”I think they are still relevant,” says Hinder manager Kevin ”Chief” Zaruk. ”As crazy as Axl is, when he did [concerts] last year people still showed up like mad.” Of course, that doesn’t mean fans will shell out for a new CD recorded without Slash & co. ”You’re gonna get a solo album by the lead vocalist, calling it Guns N’ Roses,” says Allen Kovac, who manages Buckcherry and Mötley Crüe, among others. ”The audience isn’t stupid. Sting isn’t the Police, and Axl’s not Guns N’ Roses. But if he makes great music, people will buy it.”

New track ”Shackler’s Revenge” (which was included in Rock Band 2) met with a mixed reception. When, for example, Tampa station 98 Rock played the song, ”probably 80 percent [of the response] went, ‘If that’s what we’ve been waiting for, what the hell?”’ says program director James ”Double Down” Howard. ”And 20 percent was, ‘Eh, it’s pretty cool.’ But we never got, ‘Wow, that’s what I’ve been waiting for!”’

And then there’s the biggest wild card: Rose himself. Democracy‘s success could depend on how much the reclusive singer promotes his opus. ”If he does, I think it’s going to be huge,” says Zaruk. ”But Axl’s the type of guy that’s like, ‘I’m not doing radio, I’m not doing press. I’m doing nothing.’ Is Axl going to tour? Who knows?” Says Bumblefoot: ”We haven’t spoken about it yet. I can only assume that after you put out an album, you go and play all over the world. Then again, this is Guns N’ Roses, where the laws of physics do not apply.”

The laws of the marketplace, on the other hand, are very much in effect. An avalanche of rock CDs is hitting stores, including new ones from Metallica, AC/DC, Nickelback, Hinder, and David Cook. Competition for rock fans’ cash will be intense. Although maybe this riff-heavy fall will actually help. ”If there’s a time for Axl to release this, it’s probably now,” says Doug Podell, director of rock programming for stations including Detroit’s WRIF. ”These hard-rock acts are coming back strong, and in the era of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, Guns N’ Roses are going to fit in nicely. Who knew Axl knew what he was doing?”

(Additional reporting by Shirley Halperin and Simon Vozick-Levinson)

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