The Sound and the Rage
PLAYBACK - Juaniyo Arcellana () - June 15, 2003 - 12:00am
Those who declared that rock is dead shortly after the disbandment of the Replacements, or other such seminal groups of the last decade, did not have an inkling that Audioslave would one day exhume that tired musical form and dust it off to be once again spanking new.

Born out of the remnants of similarly crucial bands of the 1990s Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden, Audioslave breathes new life to standard metal, combining the best aspects of those two aforementioned bands from which they came.

The great expectations surrounding the debut of one rightfully regarded as a supergroup have put the pressure on Audioslave, which is actually comprised mainly of Rage Against the Machine minus frontman Zack dela Rocha. In his place is Chris Cornell, former vocalist of Soundgarden.

What happens when the political, visionary post-punk thrash metal of RatM meets the atmospheric, brooding guitar-driven grunge of Soundgarden? And is it possible to achieve some kind of middle ground, halfway between Seattle and Armageddon?

Audioslave delivers the goods, as well they should. Anyone with half an ear tuned to the radio would have heard the song Like a Stone, a potential anthem that serves more than a hint of what this band can do.

It comes across as an unusual ballad with the trademark lyricism of Cornell, driven along by the rhythm work of bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk. Like a Stone is accented by the electronica-like guitar effects of Tom Morello, whose experimentations with his axe continue long after the demise of RatM.

Or can RatM really rest in peace, noting how only Dela Rocha is missing, and Cornell more than holds the fort to suffuse the new band’s sound with his grungy presence?

The refrain of Like a Stone refuses to leave the memory: "In your house I long to be/ Room by room patiently/ I’ll wait for you there/ Like a stone..."

It is an unassuming enough love song, but one that could easily be a favorite in videoke joints and similar dives across the country, putting Cornell’s formidable vocal range at risk of parody if not farce.

There’s more from where that came from, as evident in another song from the CD getting airplay, Cochise, which has a compelling drum shuffle by Wilk reminiscent of the metal classics, and the rest of the ensemble moving across the aural landscape with sufficient energy and loathing.

could well be dedicated to a friend nearing the deep end, and when the lyrics plead, "Take it out on me...," we get the portrait of one willing to help another carry the cross, and so make the load a little lighter.

The band also has a predilection for the driving motif, which really is nothing new, the car being one of rock’s more enduring symbols. Gasoline, I Am the Highway and Getaway Car are all replete with the motoring image, and in this respect Audioslave indeed comes out sounding like a well-oiled machine.

seems like your reliable hard rocking number, while I Am the Highway is a wistful midtempo ballad that again has Cornell pulling out the stops and makes us recall the days of Free as well Dave Coverdale.

In Bring ’Em Back Alive, Morello lets loose anew with his patented distortions and emblematic trickles of reverb, bristling with an originality uncharacteristic of many of today’s acts.

Whereas Morello also set the tone for RatM releases as a worthy counterpoint to Dela Rocha’s excesses in aid of political correctness, here his wildly ambient style is reined in by Soundgarden-like lyricism.

Commerford too would be hard to ignore on bass, roaming the lower registers like a benevolent stalker.

That Audioslave has been heralded as a supergroup may not necessarily mean that the band’s days are numbered, but consequently the music may be too good to last.

We all know what happened to Blind Faith, Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Youg, the Traveling Wilburys. As such, we’d be lucky and blessed if we get to hear another CD by Audioslave after their eponymous debut.

We’re happy to hear one band seize the moment, and prove yet again that rock is neither dead nor smells funny, but continues with the faith, much like that armless harmonica player near Sta. Cruz church, playing on till the arrival of doomsday, enlightenment, or enough spare change for a plate of pancit and pan de sal. The armless playing on like a stone.

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