Guns N’ Roses: A Metal Journey Gone Wrong?

Metaphorical band journeys can be tricky to understand sometimes. Bands like the Manic Street Preachers didn’t set out to be a pop-focused rock band, and it’s easy to forget that The Clash started life as a pretty out and out punk band before they embraced a more diverse range of styles. One band that has had a fascinating journey in the music world, encompassing inspired ideas and bizarre twists, and leaving the debate wide open as to whether they can ever be claimed as a metal band comes in the form of Guns N’ Roses.

Songs like “Welcome to the Jungle” hinted that the band possessed all of the metal undertones and the attributes needed to make them a great metal band, but the follow-up music to Appetite for Destruction never truly stamped their claim to such a label. Indeed, while some critics claim that Appetite for Destruction is one of the top heavy metal albums ever created, there is no doubt that even the heaviest metal-inspired album from G N’ R isn’t quite the same as a Metallica, Black Sabbath or Pantera album as it seems to have a more diverse set of influences on it.

All about Axl?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Guns N’ Roses association with metal doesn’t just focus on the individuals in the band not making themselves metal icons, but the fact that they never quite had that something about them as a collective that made them superstars of the metal scene rather than the mainstream rock scene. You can perhaps see this most clearly in the fact that the band members haven’t stayed the same over time; the band instead effectively became the Axl Rose show.

By the time the album Chinese Democracy was released in 2008, Axl had almost become the band, with a series of musicians forming the rest of the group. This change in personnel led to Axl himself having to admit that the album had gone away from the band’s metal roots to become a far more experimental affair, something that probably wouldn’t have happened had he actually managed to keep the original band together.

By ditching the band, essentially getting rid of characters like Slash, who gave the band some serious metal credentials, Axl allowed himself to be seen as a sell-out rather than a metal icon. Indeed, while Ozzy Osbourne might have sold out his life to MTV to truly cash in on his status, his outlandish exploits helped him to secure his status as an icon of metal.

A branding issue?

The brand image of the band has been tarnished partly due to the impression that they have attempted to milk their success for all its worth. Cashing in on the band’s status is fair enough, and there have been some perfectly reasonable attempts to do just that, such as allowing a range of gambling sites to use Guns N’ Roses music and imagery in an online slot game available at casinos that can be compared on Oddschecker. This sort of link-up is just allowing fans the chance to enjoy the best tracks possible while enjoying their favorite pastime. Indeed, by associating themselves with the world of chance and gambling, the band actually probably enhanced their metal credentials by being more Motorheadesque (Ace of Spades, anyone?).

On the flip side, though, there have been other commercial decisions that have been downright cringeworthy, creating a Spinal Tap feel to a band who could have been icons of metal, or at least rock.

Perhaps the most bizarre of all of the brand image issues in question was the hiring of Buckethead to the band. All aspiring musicians are prepared to do certain things to make it big, but some of the exploits he was famous for are so hideous that the band lost any of the rawness and edge that made them feel truly original when they first appeared.
This failure to stick with what made them such a special band, and one that had serious metal credentials, is a clear lesson to all those out there wanting to keep it real and in part helps to explain why the reunited band failed to really keep in touch with their fans and cash in on huge tickets sales.

Like with any divisive characters and bands who peak too early in their career, the tale of Guns N’ Roses almost makes itself a sad story if it weren’t for the fact that the band don’t really have any truly likable characters in their ranks. With this in mind, the band provides a great example of how not to behave if you make it in the world of metal, where fans appreciate the music, the riffs and the heaviness but aren’t interested in a sideshow that forgets the music and the fans.

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