Guns N’ Roses
Use Your Illusion II
The Band: Axl Rose- Vocals, piano, acoustic guitar
Slash- Lead/rhythm guitar, six string bass, backing vocals
Duff Mckagan- Bass, backing vocals
Izzy Stradlin- Rhythm/lead guitar, percussion
Matt Sorum- Drums, percussion
Dizzy- backing vocals, piano
Use Your Illusion II
released 1991 alongside its brother Use Your Illusion has just earned a special place in my heart. Earlier today I was rummaging through my collection of CD’s looking for something to review when I came across this album. It had been quite a while since I’d listened to it and the only songs I could really recall were Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
and Civil War
. I remembered that once I was rather fond of this album, which has become quite the understatement now. After listening to the album all the way through, it has become very dear to me. I really enjoyed it’s extremely hard rock feel. It doesn’t have many ballads as opposed to Use Your Illusion I, which is about half ballads. I think there are two ballads on this album, although there are several tracks with lighter intros. One of the main reasons I prefer this album to Use Your Illusion I is it has much more attitude. Take for example the track Get In The Ring
. It’s an extremely angst track to say the least. From what I can tell it mainly speaks out against the media for criticizing the band. There’s actually some sort of little spoken interlude closer to the end of the song that just made me laugh. It was one of the band members (Duff I think) just yelling at the media. That one thing alone makes this album better than Use Your Illusion I. What I really enjoyed most about this album was that the band managed the band managed to pertain the angst attitude of a punk band, while maintaining the skillful instrumentation of a 70’s rock band (like Led Zeppelin etc.). You see I’ve always found some flaw in both punk music and 70’s rock. I’ve always enjoyed the angst messages brought on by punk music, not too mention the frequent cursing, but I’ve never really enjoyed the simplicity of the instrumentals. I know they’re supposed to be simple and instrumentals don’t always have to be complicated, as it’s been pointed out to me several times on sputnik. I just prefer complex instrumentals. As for 70’s rock music I’ve never really had any problem with the vocals, I just prefer the angst punk vocals. Due to the fact that this album is crossbreed of the two different musical styles, as I previously mentioned it has become very dear to me. Although, I should probably mention not all
tracks have angry sounding vocals. There are some softer tracks like Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
more tender vocals.
The Overall Feel
As I touched on in the opening paragraph this album has an angry overall feel. This makes it good to listen to when preparing for sporting events, fights etc. It’s extremely bad as
s feel will get you pumped up to kick the crap out of someone.. provided you listen to the right tracks. There are a few softer ones, as well. You want to be doing any physical activities while listening to them. They won’t get you pumped up at all. They’re better to listen to when you’re doing something mellower. Hanging with some friends, sitting at home on the computer etc. The heavier are good to listen to when with friends, on computer etc, as well. They’re just better suited for more physical activities. Overall it’s a good listen anytime, some songs are just better suited for certain things. I think a lot of this albums angrier feel comes from the fact that other members of the band took over some of the lead vocal roles. Axl still had the majority of the vocal responsibilities, but other band members did their parts, as well. This created a more angst feel because of the other band members having deeper voices. The logic lower voices= angrier sound may be somewhat flawed, but it works for this album, somehow. There was also a lot more distorted guitar and some songs had faster pace than usual. This also helped contribute to the albums atmosphere.
This album had all around fabulous instrumentals. Shredding guitar, driving bass and solid technical drumming. The guitar was probably the thing I enjoyed most about the album. Regardless of the feel of the song the guitar was well written. Take for example the introductory track Civil War
, the guitar isn’t heavy or fast, but it’s still great. It’s just a beautiful acoustic riff, with some little solo-esque riffs going on and off over top. The faster guitar work was also outstanding. Slash was definitely on top of his game when they made this album. They could actually almost be considered metal, but not quite. There weren’t too many power chord orientated progressions, most were actual chords, or they just played riffs. I thought that was marvelous, because as many of you know I can tolerate simplicity, but prefer complex instrumentals. The soloing was, like all other guitar work wonderful. Most were of adequate length, had great tone, some wah used and extraordinarily well written. The bass, while heard to here was tremendously solid. Listen carefully to any track on the album and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. There were few occasions where the bass just played the root notes. Duff mostly played his own riffs. For the best example of some great bass playing listen to Locomotive
. Unfortunately this wasn’t a very bass orientated album, so it was difficult to hear for the most part and there were very few occasions in the album were you could actually hear the bass above the guitar. Just brief moments in intros bridges etc. I really would’ve liked to hear more bass, but it didn’t take too much away from the album. I must say I really enjoyed Mr. Sorum’s drumming in this album. He used a few too many simple beats than I usually like to see, but I’m picky. Most of you out there won’t mind at all. He was also very technically sound, making very few errors. There were lots of splendid little fills and rolls beats in here and I mean lots. If you listen closely almost every few seconds you can hear him playing some sort of roll beat. I also noticed he kept excellent time, but that is expected of him. Last but not least there was some piano. It was difficult hear for a lot of the album, but became more noticeable towards the end of tracks. It wasn’t very well written as far as piano goes, but it didn’t really have to be. It was more of a bonus instrument, like icing on the proverbial cake of this album.
As I previously mentioned other band members got a lot more involved with the vocals in this album, which was nice to see. Nothing against Axl, his vocals are great (or at least they were at this time), but hearing the rest of the band singing kept the album interesting and gave it a touch more diversity. While Axl probably has the best voice of the bunch all the voices I heard were at least adequate. I actually rather enjoyed the lowest voice I heard. It is difficult to tell which band member it was, but his vocals were good and clean. They really suited the parts of tracks that he sang, for example the intro to Civil War. The two other voices I heard were more high pitched, the most high pitched being Axl. They were most typically heard during choruses and verses, while the lower vocals were used more during intros and interludes. That’s really all there is to say about the vocals.
Pros: Instrumentally very solid
More band members singing more tracks
Cons: Lack of bass
Recommended Tracks: Civil War, Knockin’ On Heavens Door, Get In The Ring, Locomotive
Overall Rating: 4.5/5