Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CD Review: Rage Against the Machine

1) Bombtrack
2) Killing In the Name
3) Take the Power Back
4) Settle for Nothing
5) Bullet In the Head
6) Know Your Enemy
7) Wake Up
8) Fistful of Steel
9) Township Rebellion
10) Freedom
Ah, yes, the unmistakable sounds of Rage. In 1992, metal, funk, punk, and rap collided and gave us this, the band's self-titled debut. Good thing these radicals have reunited to cause more trouble, because their old stuff, though political, hasn't become too dated.
It helps that Rage's style remains distinct, with Brad Wilk's metal drums, Tim Commerford's jazz fusion bass, Tom Morello's Zeppelin-like guitar riffs and bizarre effects, and Zack de la Rocha screaming for rebellion like a rapping Abbie Hoffman. The disc kicks off with a quiet bass and guitar riff, a drum crescendo, and a grunt before launching into "Bombtrack". The album is full of other great musical moments, like that one everyone knows, "Killing In the Name", with words that are more so mantras than lyrics.
Then we get a fine example of Commerford's jazzy bass style and quirky Morello effects and feedback with "Take the Power Back", an anthem in the grand tradition of "Power to the People" and "Anarchy in the U.K.". Things get a bit grungy in "Settle for Nothing" and take a turn towards metal in "Know Your Enemy", with a great Morello riff of an intro. "Township Rebellion" is an instrumental adventure with Latin percussion, buzzing bass, and high-pitched guitar squeals before another riff that would fit in on a Zeppelin record.
Those are the best parts of this disc - when the band ventures away from its signature style. Other tracks, "Bullet In the Head", "Fistful of Steel", are more of the same and threaten to age Rage's unique sound. "Freedom" starts off with yet another Jimmy Page riff, but has enough surprises - tempo changes, clicking percussion, a brief silence - to end the album on a high note.
To be fair, Rage is all about the lyrics, so it's O.K. that they don't cover too much musical ground on their debut. Their goal, after all, is to get everyone else to hate the establishment as much as they do. The original sounds and master musicianship that make this disc worth your listen is, by comparison, an afterthought.
**** out of five


  1. Where do I begin Ben? Haha. Well, I agree with you that the lyrics are amazing, but the music is just as important now, if not more. The music draws people in; it's extremely hard to ignore. "Bullet in the Head" still remains one of Rage's strongest tracks;there is absolutely no threat to their music aging. In fact, the exact opposite. Rage's music is more significant now then ever before, considering the "right wing purgatory, we've slipped into since Rage broke up" as Morello stated in an interview. He also stated that Rage's music feels like it was made for the present. On a final note, "Freedom" ends in distortion not silence.

  2. Ha, yeah, correction for those confused by the structure of that sentence: "Freedom" ends with the band trashing their instruments a la The Who.

  3. Right on! Great metaphor for a state of chaos in the world.

  4. Btw, in terms of musicality, Rage ups the ante on their next two albums, Evil Empire and Battle of Los Angeles, especially Tom.


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