he project that was Rage Against the Machine might never have provoked the revolution they desired but, particularly on their debut, made some definitive hard rock music. Audioslave sees the band with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell replacing the righteous and riotous Zach De La Rocha on vocals. The label “Super-Group” has been pinned on them somewhat mystifyingly; one in, one out is hardly a fusion of a sufficiently diverse amount of talent to warrant this title but after listening to the album it’s clear that the major issue should be with the use of the word “super” in reference to them.
The furious battle cry of “Save yourself” runs the chorus of opener “Cochise”. The fireworks of the video that prompted fears of a terrorist attack in L.A. are the perfect accompaniment to the roar of Cornell and the frenetic fretwork of the virtuoso Tom Morello. In truth, it’s a false dawn. An understated plucked guitar makes up the intro to “Hypnotize” and “Bring Em Back Alive”, in fact, this intro seems to be in every track, predictably followed by choppy power chords: a banality that is the anti-thesis of the band ¾ of Audioslave used to make up.
Comparisons to Rage Against the Machine may be slightly unfair but the strength of the link in terms of personnel means they are inescapable. While Tom Morello’s guitar used to sound like an impending revolution, his talents now seem comparable to any average American rock string thrasher. The production of Rick Rubin (veteran of Def Jam, involved with the production of Raising Hell and Licensed to Ill) is slick to the point of being over-polished. Personality is sacrificed in favour of featureless clamour. Admittedly, adrenaline rushes are intermittently present, but a great album cannot survive on occasionally making your hairs stand up on end.
Dolf De Datsun recently said of his band “We are a derivative rock band, of big dumb rock songs with very unsophisticated lyrics”. Such a lack of a pretension is refreshing and also something Audioslave could learn from. These songs are slabs of noise with blunt references to fire and crime. While they may hint at the existence of something deeper, these insinuations are never explored to sufficient extent to be anything approaching thought provoking.
Audioslave is in fact closer to Superunknown, the faceless Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath tribute from Cornell’s former band Soundgarden. Such extravagant fervour may once have appeared groundbreaking but now seems dated and tedious. Perhaps there is a chance for Audioslave to make something of genuine worth in the future but as a debut album this feels a rushed stopgap, merely an establishment of their existence hastened through fear of being forgotten. Given time they may have sufficient a period to delve deeper than the two-dimensional bluster on offer for 90% of this LP.
Lacking individuality, distinction and imagination this album is over-produced, overlong and over-indulgent. Sadly it seems the Rage has left more than just the name of this group, for the time being at least.
Reviewed by: Jon Monks
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01