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Audioslave - Audioslave Print E-mail
Tuesday, 19 November 2002

format: CD
label: Epic Records
release year: 2002
performance: 9
sound 8
reviewed by: Bryan Dailey

ImageTake the thundering rhythm section of Rage Against the Machine, add the powerful, raspy post-grunge vocals of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and top it off with the guitar gymnastics of Rage’s Tom Morello and the result is Audioslave. Many a super group have come and gone, some with great success, others stinking up your speakers, but this self titled CD by Audioslave is hands down the best rock album of 2002. If you were a fan of either group, there is something for you on Audioslave yet the group has found a way to combine their sounds and still sound like a completely new group. This isn’t Chris Cornell singing “Killing In The Name Of” or Tom Morello adding guitar solos to “Black Hole Sun.”

Combining the best parts of two of the 90’s most successful and influential bands seems like a surefire success, but Audioslave is the super group that almost didn’t happen. Soundgarden disbanded in the late 90’s and Chris Cornell pursued a relatively successful, albeit short solo career. Rage Against the Machine’s frontman Zach de La Rocha left his band and soon thereafter, fans and critics began speculating that someone new might take his place. B Real of Cypress Hill was one of the names that was thrown around in the press, but it was Cornell that seemed to be the one that most thought would ultimately join the band. After finally joining the yet unnamed band, Cornell and the rest of Rage began jamming, but it was soon announced that Cornell had decided to not leave the group. It looked like the highly anticipated marriage of Rage and Soundgarden was annulled before the honeymoon even started. In a few weeks however, Cornell decided to re-join the band and Audioslave was born. You may have heard the ultra-heavy first single “Cochise” on the radio. Despite the vague lyrics, guitarist Tom Morello states in the band’s bio that the song tells the tale of American Indian Chief Cochise who declared war on the entire Southwest after several members of his family were captured, tortured and hung by the U.S. Calvary. This song is a musical interpretation of Cochise’s frustration, anger and fury. It’s not just dumb rock, its thinking man’s rock.

Not as overtly political as a Rage album, Audioslave is much more like a Soundgarden album lyrically, with ambiguous lyrics penned by Cornell, a lyricist who prefers a more subtle approach to telling a story or conveying an idea than former Rage lyricist Zach De La Rocha did.

Towards the end of Rage Against the Machine’s run, their sound was getting a little tired with rapper Zach De La Rocha’s vocal stylings. This sound was fresh and new on their self-titled 1990 debut album that kicked down more doors than Run DMC and Aerosmith, but after several albums and singles it was beginning to sound played out. This is the beauty of Audioslave. Even after ten complete spins in my CD player, I have not tired of hearing the heavy rhythms from Rage bassist Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk paired with Cornell’s vocals. Cornell’s choice of vocal melodies grows more and more interesting musically with each listen.

There are more soft, almost balladesque songs on Audioslave than you’d probably assume. None of the songs are wuss music, but Cornell isn’t afraid to get in touch with his sensitive side. On songs such as “What you are,” “Like and Stone” and “Shadow of the Sun” Cornell softly croons while Morello quietly strums his electric guitar during the song’s intros. In true Rage and Soundgarden fashion, they all rock hard and heavy, but it’s a different kind of heavy than you’ve heard from either band.

“I Am The Highway” finds Tom Morello experimenting with country music guitar parts, and “Getaway Car” is a soft bluesy tune, complete with very traditional guitar solo. For those of you not familiar with Tom Morello’s unusual guitar style, he makes some of the most bizarre noises on the guitar that you’ve ever heard, and to hear him play straight blues licks is quite a shocker. He’s no Clapton when it comes to the blues, but is quite good on this tune nonetheless despite being a little out of his usual element.

Recorded at Cello Studios (formerly Ocean Way) in Los Angeles and produced by Rick Rubin and the band, Audioslave is not a reference recording but does sound better than the average rock record. Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden have sold over 35 million albums worldwide and have worked with some of the best producers in pop/rock music such as Brendan O’Brien and Terry Date. Rick Rubin is just about the biggest name in the history rock music production so there was little doubt that this was going to be a tight sounding album. I’d venture to guess that Rick’s real job was to stay out of the way and let Audioslave do their thing, and give his feedback when asked for, but otherwise, let this team of multi-platinum rockers work their magic.

Never tired, always rocking and full of the best of both Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden, Audioslave stands up on it’s own and is the best rock album of the year.

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