After Zach left Rage Against the Machine most fans lost hope for the future production of a quality sound from any of the members of this group, since they worked so well as a cohesive group. Once the rumors of possible replacements started surfacing, from Cyprus Hill's B-Real, to DMX, to my grandmother, I honestly thought Chris Cornell sounded like the least likely applicant to replace the highly political, rap spitting de la Rocha, since their vocal styles were completely different. No one thought that the remain members of Rage; Tim Commerford, Tom Morello, and Brad Wilk, might want to take their talents and go in a rather different direction. They teamed up with the former Soundgarden front man, the third most powerful man of the grudge movement, and proceeded to attempt to exploit his voice over their music. This surprising marriage of influential 90s rock produced one of the most hyped bands of the millennium; which, in turn, produced one of the most hyped album of the new millennium, Audioslave.
Attempting to blend two very different styles, Cornell's voice, and Rage's music is an extremely difficult task to accomplish from the very beginning, since they are both pulling from their previous projects to produce this quasi-unique sound. Once you get past the first track on this album, which is also Audioslave's first single, "Cochise", this album actually sounds like a completely new album by a completely new band. "Cochise" sounds like something a rather creative listener of Rage and Soundgarden might create with their computer. There doesn't appear to be a really good blend of instrumental music and vocals on this track, and, in my opinion, should not have been this band's first single if they are actually trying to distinguish themselves from their two previous bands. The guitar and bass riffs sound as if they could have been lifted directly from The Battle of Los Angeles, and Cornell sounds like he is trying to force his vocals on someone else's band. On the plus side this is my only problem with this album.
The music starts to come together as a whole as the album progresses. Our generation's greatest guitarist, Tom Morello proves that he hasn't lost anything in the hiatus between albums. He continues to prove that the amount of sounds that he can make with a guitar are almost infinite, and he also manages to blend with Corenell's powerful voice to actually make this album work. After bypassing the first track, the album really starts to pick up in cohesiveness. This album also showcases the instrumental member's ability to slow their music down, instead of always playing powerful, in your face, heavy music. Many of the tracks on this album are much slower, and more developed musically, catering to both Morello's virtuosity, as well as Cornell's voice.
It is reported that all the members wrote the songs together, and that might explain the lack of a political influence, after all this isn't Rage, (I mentioned that right?) and a new, apparently more spiritual influence on the lyrics. Leaving behind the politics Audioslave tackles a slightly more Soundgardenesqe array of topics using things like metaphors. For example, perhaps the best track on the album, "What You Are," talks about being free, on a more spiritual level, as opposed to on a penitentiary level, "Cause now I'm free from what you are/ Now I'm free from what you need/ Now I'm free from what you are." This chorus can perhaps best summarize this album, as well as this band; free from their previous ties and producing a new sound, all their own.
Upon the breakup of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Cummerford said that, "We'll keep, it loud, keep it funky, and most definitely rock on..." I don't know if they informed Mr. Cornell that he would be apart of this, but Audioslave manages to hold this vow true, and, at the same time, find their own, unique sound. Hypothetically, if this band wasn't a "super group", and they weren't all previous established musicians, they probably wouldn't have had Rick Rubin producing, but, this album would still carry the power that it does, and still be the heaviest rocking album of the year.
Jason Cipriano is an Assistant Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.