Audioslave: Sound Against the Machine or Ragegarden?

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The trials and tribulations of life in a rock band must be tough. So tough, in fact, that many of rock’s most-notable acts disband due to the rigors of playing smoky nightclubs, dodging groupies and life on the road in general.

However, good things sometimes result from band breakups. More often than not, band members find continued success in a post-breakup.

The Beatles disbanded in the early ’70s and Paul McCartney found further success with Wings. In the ’80s , when Paul Kantner left Jefferson Starship, the band had its biggest hit, under the name Starship, with “We Built This City.” Dave Grohl went from being the drummer for Nirvana to being the frontman for the Foo Fighters in the ’90s. More recently, the constantly evolving musical entity that is Queens of the Stone Age released one of the best albums of this summer.

Since rock’s latest trend (producing original retro-’70s rock) is getting old, a rebirth of the great post-band-break-up supergroup is in order. And with that said, rising from the ashes of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine, is Audioslave.

Consisting of former Soundgarden lead-singer Chris Cornell and former Rage Against the Machine-members Tom Morello (guitar), Tim Commerford (bass) and Brad Wilk (drums), the Cornell and Rage collaboration’s highly anticipated self-titled debut fuses together the distinctive sounds of the original bands.

Very few tracks sound strictly Soundgarden and even fewer give off a purely Rage Against the Machine vibe. Instead, the band forges a unique sound, combining the dynamics of Rage’s music and the loud explosiveness of Soundgarden’s earlier material.

Former Rage leader Zach de la Rocha’s rapid-fire spitting of politically poignant lyrics is replaced by Cornell’s melodic screechy tenor tones. The absence of Kim Thyail’s booming bass licks are beautifully replaced by the disc’s showcasing of Morello’s guitar prowess. Audioslave makes it seem like this is the band were supposed to be in to begin with.

Morello brings his trademark unique guitar craftsmanship to the band, creating guitar sounds that don’t seem possible, while Commerford and Wilk back him up with steady drums and a solid bass performance throughout the disc.

Despite how great the album is, the spotlight focuses on the coupling of Morello’s guitar genius with Cornell’s passionate vocals. One of the disc’s many highlights comes on the track “Hypnotoize,” where Cornell sings the chorus over Morello’s scratchy wah-wha (say what?) riffs. This combination of styles creates an earfeast for the rock starved.

“Show Me How to Live” and “Shadow of the Sun” perfectly mesh together the group’s talents and are almost superior to anything else any of the band members have done before. The disc ends on a softer, more mellow note with the slower songs “Getaway Car” and “The Last Remaining Light.” Both of these tracks highlight Cornell’s vocal range, taking the focus off the massive rock sounds and placing it on Cornell’s melodies.

In fact, if one flaw exists in this album it’s that it doesn’t rock nearly hard enough as it should — this is a good thing though, as it leaves room for improvement for the band’s sophomore effort.

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Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 13 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut.com and others and was the founder and former editor of the defunct music site Ear Candy.