Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine

Epic Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/30/2002

This 1992 debut must be some kind of watershed in rock history, giving the world its first glimpse of this positively powerful musical force. Armed with incendiary left-wing political vitriol, funky rhythms, and groundbreaking guitar pyrotechnics, Rage Against The Machine set out not just as a rock band, but also as the embodiment of a message with an ambitious mission to change the world. Yes, singer Zach de la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, drummer Brad Wilk, and bassist Tim Commerford are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore (as if you didn't already guess that by the band's name!).

Seems like they came crashing onto the scene at the right time, during a period in the early 90's when anger and pessimism became the dominant themes in rock music. They are intensely left-wing, if not communist, and all of their songs deal with political issues such as the evils of racism, capitalism, imperialism of the west, environmental causes, media propaganda, and just about anything that they feel is worth protesting. Just look at that burning Buddhist monk!

The music is very impressive all the way through...they're one of those rare bands that has an unmistakably unique sound, and that's pretty hard to achieve these days. Rap metal may have been born via Aerosmith and Run DMC's collaboration or with the early hit singles of the Beastie Boys, but as far as I know, Rage Against The Machine was the first band to make that exclusively their style, and I think most people would agree that nobody has done it better. Just imagine a really solid rhythm section that shows more than a slight nod to funk, screamed rapped vocals, and a wildly inventive guitar slinger (often singled out as the only guitarist to come out of the 90's that's worth mentioning as having been innovative) who plays pseudo 70's hard rock/metal riffs, and solos that sound more like computer generated effects than like an actual guitar!

The wildly unorthodox solos/effects (if you could even call them that) are completely fascinating little beeping noises and squeaky scales that even manage to be melodic. And Morello continuously pumps them out effortlessly, each surprisingly distinct from one another. You have to hear it to believe it, and I think most people have, because Rage is a pretty popular band. Seems like nobody seems to know how he does his trick, and wisely nobody has even attempted to copy him yet.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I just can't stop gushing over guitar players with a unique style that actually does something interesting. Even his more conventional sounding clangy 70's Led Zep/Sabbath inspired thunderous riffs are amazingly catchy...I basically think that Tom Morello's brilliant guitar playing is the one indispensible feature of this band...without him the music would be decidedly average. The bassist and drummer are definitely no slouches however, doing a lot of different things on their own and blending in superbly with the guitar parts.

There's very little I could complain about with the music. As great as the album is (destined to be a hard rock classic) with its rousing anthems of protest against all things cruel and unjust, there simply isn't enough diversity to reach that upper echelon. Their style is well developed, but they stick to the same formula on each song. As a result, there are a few parts here and there where the riffs are too similar to other ones, and some of the choruses are a bit bland. Zach's yelled raps rarely show even a hint of melodicism, or even volume change, but I guess that's why it's called rapping and not singing, eh?

I've never liked rap, but when the band's music is this good I can make an exception. But, just like the vocals, the band as a whole seems to only know one gear, and that's in your face, full out. I don't mean that the music is fast, because it's all mid-tempo with a heavy groove. I guess they think that the only way to convince teenagers to rise up and revolt against the established system is to play explosive, hard hitting music that never lets up, whipping susceptible minds into an adrenalized frenzy to unite against the right! Whatever. That's all fine and dandy when trying to convey a sense of urgency and danger, especially when done as well as these guys do it, but it means that the music isn't particularly layered and becomes a bit too predictable.

Don't let that dissuade you though...it's still a marvelous album that has had a huge impact on rock in the decade since its release. How can you go wrong with the marvelous tracks "Bombtrack", "Know Your Enemy", and particularly the hit club favourite "Killing In The Name Of" with its infectious chorus of "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" repeated ad nauseam ever louder until it explodes! Hmmm, I wonder how many of those drunk frat boys and airhead bitches that go crazy dancing to any of these songs even realize what the lyrics are about...

Regardless of whether or not you agree with their stance on various issues, they deliver their message with a conviction and ferocity that's impossible to ignore...their intensity and passion for what they believe in should impress just about anyone. I personally don't agree with just about everything they stand for, but I certainly acknowledge that they consistently write highly intelligent lyrics that at least make people think about some of the more serious things going on in the world, and not just cars, beer, and pussy. There are very few bands that do that, and they seem to genuinely promote activism to make the world a better place from their point of view. Although they are now known as Audioslave (with ex-Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell as their new vocalist), the message promoted by Rage Against The Machine is still as relevant today as it was at the time of its release, and that's a quality that you simply have to respect, if nothing else.

Or, is it all a calculated ploy to gain a large following through their controversial media attention-friendly image in order to exploit the huge number of naturally rebellious youth that will gravitate towards them by cashing in on the resulting record sales? Despite their feigned disgust of corporate greed, they were on a major label ya know...

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+


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© 2002 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.