After Rage Against The Machine’s 2000 disbandment, specifically Zack de la Rocha’s creative differences, the remaining three members (guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk) searched for a new vocalist to work with. Eventually what ended up happening was the formation of a band under the new name Audioslave with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. Cornell acted as a fresh addition to what was essentially a less edgy Rage sound. While Audioslave couldn’t quite trump the original Rage lineup and their body of work, they introduced many outsiders to the hooking sound that the controversial other band couldn’t make accessible to the radio-friendly crowd.
“Audioslave” was released at the very end of the year 2002. Rather than generating a politically charged audio assault, Audioslave wrote very personal sounding songs with a greater amount of traditional hard rock influence (as well as a heap of gentler, more relaxed songs). While remnants of Rage Against the Machine were still present (Tom Morello cannot ever truly escape his definitive experimental guitar skills), Audioslave meant to be taken as an entirely different act altogether.
Kicking off the start of a new band is “Cochise,” which may very well be the song to let the world know what Audioslave is all about. The track is a hard-rocking, bass-heavy animal with some awesome vocals to boot. Tom Morello experiments with varied guitar effects, making the overall riff sound like a cross between Rage and Led Zeppelin. Next is the equally heavy “Show Me How To Live.” Nearly as good as the previous track, this instead draws small similarities to the “Undertow”-era of Tool (mostly just the verses) and, to me, Primus during “The Brown Album” era. Good guitar and bass work and the newly acquired vocal style make the song a very enjoyable listen.
The first of the more heartfelt songs is “What You Are.” This is one of my favorites, if not my favorite. During the quietly melodic verse, the vocals remain collected. As more and more tension grows in the lyrics, the heavy chorus explodes in and Cornell is now yelling out the lyrics as if a huge burden has been lifted. These alternating dynamics work incredibly and the lyrics and music hit all the right notes with the listener.
“Like A Stone,” one of the album’s more popular releases, is dark in tone and exploratory in terms of musicianship. The tremolo pedal (which I just so happen to own) is Tom Morello’s best friend on the track, as it is frequently used in the verses providing a haunting ambience for the listener. Just like “What You Are,” “Stone” has a more explosive chorus than its contrarily calm verses. Not quite as good as it could have been, the song does have one of the most memorable Audioslave guitar solos.
Even more so than the two previously mentioned tracks, “Shadow On The Sun” taps into lighter and more emotional sounds. Clean guitar riffs occupy a good amount of the song along with a chill bass line and simple drumming. The chorus is not nearly as blasting as the other two songs, but still becomes much heavier than the verse. A very good track that ranks somewhere in between “What You Are” and “Like A Stone.” Next is yet another slow rocker called “I Am The Highway.” These tracks keep progressively getting softer and softer; this one utilizes acoustic guitars in both the verses AND the choruses. The track sounds very much like a “long-winding-road” song if anyone can make sense of that statement. Overall, a decent listen and one of the better slow jam efforts.
Three interesting hard rock tunes that come a little later are “Exploder”, “Hypnotize” and “Light My Way.” “Exploder” moves at a deliberate tempo and its main riff is reminiscent of the very early Rage Against the Machine song “Bombtrack.” However, “Hypnotize” is remarkably fast paced considering all of the previous tracks. As the name suggests, the song moves along with a hypnotizing sort of feel, including a hip-hop style bass line and droning, dissonant guitar sounds. “Light My Way” reminds me a lot of simple Soundgarden tracks (you know, ones that didn’t have weird time signatures). There is a steady groove incorporated in the main riff and is tuned in drop-D, giving off the impression of old Rage and Soundgarden.
Audioslave’s self-titled debut, packed with 14 total tracks, proves to be a winner. The album is a more-than-acceptable first attempt that is at least trying not to ride off the success of Rage Against The Machine. If you haven’t been introduced to Rage yet, you’ll most likely be interested in the unique feel that Audioslave provides. It is a small downgrade from the original band, but a SMALL downgrade ain’t necessarily a bad thing when talking about as innovative and as unique a band as Rage Against the Machine.