Axl Rose never really had any real cultural significance, imo - he wasn't PC and grabbed a few headlines - but didn't everyone?
GNR were a comedy metal-lite band from the 80s who chimed in well with the Reagan era of big hair/big tits/big noise
...but when grunge came through around 91 and people like Cobain got deep into the mindsets of nerdy students worldwide, then bands like GNR suddenly looked like real dinosaurs
I think the album will probably sell ok-ish - there will always be a big fanbase in motorcycle clubs around Texas and the Midlands and unreconstructed balding RAWK enthusiasts everywhere but I seriously doubt anyone else will give a flying turd
Do you actually remember when the band debuted? Your analysis is way off track.
GnR hit it big because they were an antidote to the big hair metal bands of the 1980s. Here were these (relatively) grungy looking guys wearing T-shirts of punk bands like TSOL. They brought mainstream metal back from the brink of comedy.
True, the grunge movement out-did GnR in terms of remaking the hard rock aesthetic. Nirvana's Nevermind debuted at the same time as GnR's Use Your Illusions I and II, and all three went on to be massive sellers although Nevermind was more of a slow burn while the Illusions went straight to the top.
GnR didn't fade because of grunge (they'd already expanded their sound from straight-up hard rock... think November Rain). They fell apart, as big ego bands often do.
I halfway agree with you in that I don't think Axl Rose individually had any more pop culture significance than any other frontman of a platinum-selling band.
As for the audience this new album will find, 13 years is a long time to stay dormant for a band that was only big for 6-7 years during its first run. Their old fans have grown up...they might be curious but will they bother shelling out the cash? Is there a hit single in there to draw a new generation of fans? I'll have to give a track or two a listen, but I'm doutbful.