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Audioslave

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★★★★½
(963 Reviews)

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  • It’s 1992 all over again. Ten years ago, Nirvana graced the charts, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell screamed with passion and intensity on radios across the country, and Rage Against The Machine blew away listeners with its hard-rocking, complex, chaotic sounds. Today, it seems, history is repeating itself. Nirvana has a new hit CD, Cornell is still screaming his head off, and Rage is still rocking hard. Only this time there’s a twist. Soundgarden is no more, and singer Zack de la Rocha has parted ways with Rage. This combination of circumstances is what allowed Audioslave to come to be. Featuring Cornell on vocals, Audioslave creates a sonic onslaught aimed directly at the listener with their debut self-titled album. Ex-Rage members Tom Morello (guitar), Tim Commerford (bass), and Brad Wilk (drums) provide huge chunks of hard rock riffage for Cornell to cry, moan, and wail over. Morello, as always, is especially brilliant on the album, creating noises with his guitar that would make Jimi Hendrix turn green with envy. As a whole, Audioslave leans much more towards hard rock than the hip-hop and funk-laden grooves of Rage Against the Machine. The album is loud, powerful, and hits hard. Cornell sings here with conviction unheard since his Soundgarden days. The album begins with what sounds like a helicopter along with a steady, hard drumbeat. That “helicopter” is Morello’s guitar, which soon explodes into the hard-rocking sonic frenzy known as “Cochise.” The song, which is pure headbanging fun, is a tribute to a great Native American chief. Morello explains, “Cochise was the last great American Indian chief to die free and absolutely unconquered. When several members of his family were captured, tortured, and hung by the U.S. Cavalry, Cochise declared war on the entire Southwest and went on an unholy rampage, a warpath to end all warpaths. He and his warriors drove out thousands of settlers. Cochise the Avenger, fearless and resolute, attacked everything in his path with an unbridled fury. This song kinda sounds like that.” Other headbangers on the album include “Set it Off,” which is simply rock mayhem, and “Bring `Em Back Alive,” reminiscent of Black Album-era Metallica, minus Kirk Hammet’s mindless guitar wanking. There’s more to the album than pure headbanging, though. One of the great things about the record is its use of dynamics. On several tracks, notably “Exploder,” the verses are delicate and intricate, and all of the sudden the choruses just, well, explode out of nowhere with raw bombast, allowing the songs to simultaneously portray both dark, mellow moods, and more aggressive emotions. Besides “Cochise,” the real gem on this album is “Like a Stone.” The song features extremely refined guitar work from Morello, which perfectly blends retro and modern styles in order to create a mood that gradually shifts from dreary to hopeful. The only track on the album that really misses is “What You Are,” which features absurdly loud guitars in the chorus that drown out the vocals and sound too melodious, which doesn’t quite fit with their heavily distorted sound. The songs on the album don’t seem to flow as well as they could, but “What You Are” aside, they are all very good songs, with deceptively complex arrangements and a variety of emotions expressed. So if you want an album that flows like a river, telling a musical story as it goes, Audioslave may not be for you. But if you want an album that is sure to satisfy any headbanger’s craving for pure, unadulterated, bombastic hard rock, look no further than this album.

    Posted on January 7, 2010