Out of Exile
As the final song in Out of Exile marches its way through the speakers, you receive a strong sense of déjà vu, almost as though it was the ending song played as the credits of a movie roll across the screen. It was a movie you have experinced many mixed emotions with, but in the end it was incredibly satisfying.
Thus is the story so far with Audioslave, the Soundgarden + Rage Against the Machine incarnation, and the trend continues with their sophmore effort, Out of Exile. After a steller first effort, which has been overly and unfairly critisized, I came into Out of Exile with expectations sky high. Unlike many fans, I was not around in the hey-day of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine and have since been turned on to their music through Audioslave, and not the reverse. Therefore, I have the intriuging ability to examin Audioslave based not on what they have done in their segragated pasts, but only against their potiential in the future.
With that being said, Out of Exile is good album, no, a great album. At first I was a little disapointed. I had dove headlong into their self-titled debut without a single seed of anticipation and loved every minute of it. This album, however, I had been anticipating for months and was expecting, and demanding, an instant classic. What I found, at least a first listen, was an unoriginal, strictly formualic, and somewhat disapointing sequal to what was a fantastic first effort. The songs all seemed to be lacking that certain freshness that the first had so eagerly accepted. The first single, “Be Yourself,” was generic, formualic, and about as predictable as any other radio friendly song that dominates the rock charts nowadays. Many of the songs were also disapointingly simple, a surprising move by Chris Cornell, who has been known for his deep, if inaccessable lyrics. “Doesn’t Remind Me,” is in a fact nothing more than a list of things Cornell likes because, they don’t remind him of anything. And, at first listen, nearly all the more Rage-esq rockers such as “Drown Me Slowly,” and “Man or Animal,” sounded terribly mechanical. But after being able to listen through the album muliple times, I can safely say that this an exceptional 50 minutes of music.
Like all good rock and roll, this album requires time to set in. As the initial disapointment faded to tolerance and then to acceptance, I came to realize just how strong of a set this is. The most noticable difference from the first was just in it’s overaul feel. Out of Exile has a much tighter structure to it, making for a smooth and beautiful flow. The band still follows the strict Verse-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Solo-Conclusion formula, but every song is worked to perfection. The voice of Chris Cornell is matched only by the outrageous guitar playing of Tom Morrello and there are times when it almost seems as if the two are trying to out-do each other. It is, however, on the occasions when they truly merge together, that a glimpse of the future is seem, and it is a bright future indeed. When the complete marriage of Cornell and Morello, Voice and Instrument, is attained the result is an absolutely stunning display of what music should sound like.
The band’s amplified unity and confidence in each other is also readily apparent throughout the album, and every one of the twelve songs could be a new single. Out of Exile has managed to expose the softer and even blissful nature of the band that was only touched on in their debut. Songs such as Dandelion, an obvious and inspirational ode to Cornell’s newly born daughter convey this newfound sense of peace and optimism. Not to disapoint fans of their more Rage-esq tunes, this album rocks just as hard as the first. Highlighted by such headbangers as “Your Time has Come,” “The Worm,” and the title track, “Out of Exile,” Audioslave has still managed to channel their rage, despite its ever loosening hold on them. Cornell’s continued dabblings in blues are present as well in the mournful melodies “Heavens Dead,” and “#1 Zero.” The true strengh of the album, however, lies in its almost 80s like power ballads, which are reminisent of the great bands of the past. Its difficult to put into words the magnificence and power of the tracks “Yesterday to Tommorrow,” and “The Curse,” their cool beauty is just something that you’ll have to hear for yourself.
Yet dispite the overall maturity of the band and the undeniable greatness of this album, I still feel like there is so much more to come from Audioslave. Chris Cornell has been quoted to say that he wants to turn out albums on a rapid yearly basis, like the some of the great bands of old. But to reach the upper echelon of the immortal bands of the past, Audioslave needs to take that step into the unknown. The need to break the formula – tried and true though it is – has never been more dire, and to have already been so great, Audioslave has barely begun to tap into their vast potential.
People complain that Audioslave lacks a certain unplacable something, that they are nothing more than a wild experiment in the soundscape of rock. The truth is there are times when they sound like Soundgarden, times when they sound like Rage, and even times when they sound like U2 or Zeppelin, but in the their second effort, Audioslave finally just sounds like Audioslave. Chris Cornell has cemented his status as one rock and roll’s great vocalists, and Tom Morello’s guitar playing will take you out of this world. And even if they never break the mold, even if they continue to put out albums like Out of Exile that only touch on greatness, I will thrilled. For Audioslave has arrived and is hear to stay, this may not be Soundgarden, and this may not be Rage, but this is damn good rock and roll from four of the best in the business.