Audioslave
Audioslave
9 48396-2 on Sony

The irony isn't lost on me. They sang, "No matter how hard you try, you can't stop us now". I didn't have to try; they came apart all by themselves. Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha had that widely publicized fight with Tom Morello, and there were allegations of alcoholism and drug use. It was quite a spectacle, for a while. It's hard for me to not imagine that the rest of the band grew tired of de la Rocha's white-hot political drive, and Morello was just the first to give in.

On the other hand, by all accounts Chris Cornell ended his long commitment to Soundgargen amicably. After a lackluster solo album, he rekindled his interest in making music. Cornell got together with the displaced instrumentalists from Rage to form Audioslave.

Cornell's vocal style is so readily identifiable it's impossible not to compare Audioslave's self-titled debut release to Cornell's previous work with Soundgarden. And it compares very favorably. Chris is in excellent form, and exhibits great control over his raspy tone. Contrasting soothing control, as in the bridge of "Light My Way", with rough, hard-rock acapella ad lib at the end of "Show Me How To Live", I think it's one of his best recorded performances.

The music is well-written like most Soundgarden material, with an aggressive rhythm track and a punching but not necessarily melodic bassline, and diminished chord progressions. Some of the effects on the guitar are a touch scathing, but the tone tends more towards Cornell and Soundgarden than Rage Against The Machine. "Cochise", the first single from the release, could have come off the B-side of a Soundgarden single from the Badmotorfinger days. The band rips through powerful songs like "Show Me How To Live" and works smashing chorus crescendos in "What You Are", which must be about pestulent, demanding, draining relationships.

Producted by Rick Rubin, the sound is well-layered, distinct, and focused. Interestingly, Soundgarden always produced their own albums (sometimes with less famous outside help) and never worked with Rubin—while Rage had Rubin at the board for their last two records.

I'm more inclined to declare allegiance towards Soundgarden than identify with Rage, and this record leaves me very pleased. The performance is outstanding, and the tracks are well-balanced. Rage fans might expect something more assertive and alternative, and they might be disappointed.