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I'm going to be honest and ruthless here. 'Supergroups' rarely deliver anything super other than super levels of expectations and disappointment. The idea that you can cobble together members of great bands and expect something great to happen is a bit of a risky game, as it forgets the organic, vital chemistry of original groups that made them so appealing in the first place. It does work on occasion (Black Sabbath recruiting Ronnie Dio was quite a nice move), but Velvet Revolver was a massive disappointment; their debut was a showcase of hype nosediving into rock mediocrity.
Pairing up grunge screamer/crooner Chris Cornell and three quarters of Rage Against the Machine was a bit of a strange move to start with. The prospect of it was slightly intriguing though; how would the agit political rap-metal group sound with a singer instead of a rapper? Could they still be innovative, incendiary and exciting? And could Chris Cornell bring a bit of Soundgarden mystique to the table?
Short story, no they couldn't. Lead off single and album opener 'Cochise' is a decent enough start, with a mecahnical sounding intro that pricks the ears up, and then rocks away in fairly standard terms. Tom Morello plugs out a riff that isn't particularly exciting, but coaxes out some reasonably interesting sounds from his instrument in a Hendrix-esque way. Cornell provides his best Eddie Vedder/Robert Plant gritty scream and mellow middle 8. In all, it's OK so far. And so it remains throughout.
Brad Wilk sounds bored, and it is noticeable. The drum parts on 'Show Me How To Live' plod along, as they do on 'Gasoline' and pretty much all the others. There's little energy here which one would expect, considering how furious he sounded with RATM. And once noticed, it detracts significantly from the experience. Lazy drumming is a pet bugbear of mine, and this is as lazy as AC/DC's.
Cornell also moves between his mellow croon to his angry, explosive raw yell with regular predictability, and it all gets a bit tiring. The only thing saving this album from sounding the same all the way through is Morello's bizarre guitar wizardry, which sprinkles the songs with some truly innovative, otherworldly noises, and Tom Commerford's chunky bass playing which should have been pushed much further to the front of the mix.
Lyrically, it's not brilliant either. They're far too rambling to reprint here, but the lyrics to 'What You Are' read like the diary-entry rantings of an angry, recently-dumped teenager.
The trouble is, this record isn't totally inexorable. 'Hypnotize' rumbles along in a suitably hypnotic fashion, and is rather cool. 'Like a Stone' funks around in a mellow fashion and sounds like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on a good day, and there's just enough thump, grit and sprinklings of weirdness to keep the listener going. But a the end of it all it, it's a fairly deflating and disappointing experience. There are about four good songs in there, but it's rather a lot of effort to dig them out of all the half-baked mediocre bits. It just goes to remind that neither RATM nor Soundgarden should have split up, and sounded much more exciting as they were.
It's not terrible, it's certainly not 'super' as a supergroup should theoretically sound, it's just OK. And nothing more.
Star me up...........
When 'Cochise' was released as Audioslave's first single, it was met with that kind of anticipation when you expect something big to be coming. It was the culmination of a few months of band reformation as the vocalist from Soundgarden (Chris Cornell) and the instrumentalists from Rage Against The Machine (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk) joined up to make supergroup Audioslave. Much was expected, and their first, self entitled album was set to be epic. Its release prompted immediate success on the commercial market, sales soaring. The tracks soon started to become instantly recognisable, and this is all after a short time recording and mere months after their previous collaborations had fallen through. Audioslave had arrived!
A little doubt, though..........
Quite often, though, sales figures don't necessarily reflect an underlying quality, or even getting something right. The politics of Rage Against The Machine (RATM) and its aggressive rap were the key focal points, and Soundgarden had a dark and broody edge to its music. Here, we see Cornell amazing vocal power mixed with RATM's musical simplicity (guitar, bass and drums allowed only) to deliver full powered rock. The result is very good, but the diversity is then very hard to deliver.
The tracks and my opinion
2. "Show Me How to Live"
4. "What You Are"
5. "Like a Stone"
6. "Set It Off"
7. "Shadow on the Sun"
8. "I Am the Highway"
11. "Bring Em Back Alive"
12. "Light My Way"
13. "Getaway Car"
14. "The Last Remaining Light"
'Cochise' heads up the album. As the first single, it made sense to pop it right at the top. The song is constructed very much like an introduction, and as their first single, it deserves to be the figurehead track of a new era, if you like. Morello's fretting is joined by Wilk's drumming before the awesome bass of Commerford heads it all off, giving us a brilliant instrumental intro that I find is one of my favourite intros to any track, ever (note I said 'one of' and haven't singled it out........). Cornell's instantly recognisable vocals then come in, and the rest of the track flows effortlessly, riding on the powerfully clever intro. Excellent start.
While I don't necessarily like going track to track during a review, I think it's important to showcase the second track as being complementary to 'Cochise'. Once more, I find the bass to be the key signal defining which track you're getting, and it's great that this leads the track in terms of tunage, as opposed to Morello's more obvious riffs or Cornell's escalating voice. But if 'Cochise' opened like a stormer, the gradual buildup and then explosion during 'Show Me How To Live' sums the construction up with one line, almost as if it's a nod to the first track, by saying 'you gave me life, now show me how to live'. Whether this is intentional or not, who knows, but I find it quite apt that the second track gains its life from the first, follows on the style and keeps up the adrenalin, as a listener.
So, why did I sound somewhat negative in terms of diversity? Does the album deliver the same level of sound and aggression all the way through? No, not all. But what the instantly recognisable sounds of RATM's instruments and Soundgarden's voice does is create a conundrum in terms of power focus and mixing things up. And at times, it does seem as if they're fighting against each other, which may have been a really early sign of the 'personal and musical differences' that reportedly caused their split in 2007.
As the album progresses, the aggression remains even in the quieter tracks, as if an explosion is going to happen at any moment. This isn't a reference to the title of the third track, 'Gasoline', by the way. Sure, there are attempts to slow things down and make it a bit more soothing, and tracks such as 'I Am The Highway' really do show that they are capable of slower excellence where their true qualities as musicians come through. This is my favourite track of the album, but located down at track 8, it follows a string of a few generic songs that, for me at least, didn't hold anything to prevent me wanting to press the forward button at times. Skipping from track 2 to track 8 on a regular basis doesn't hold well for a review of an album I do genuinely love, and it may just be a reflection of just how good I believe these peripheral tracks are, but it's a fluctuation for me that is obvious, and that it happens on a regular basis means the potential in the middle tracks is lost on me.
Yet this may be more of a personal boredom than anything else. I have wide and diverse musical taste, and I guess I should be ashamed of admitting I quite like the music of Glee, but somehow I feel proud of being able to appreciate the effects that Mahler has had on John Williams' scores for the films he has worked on; to understand the commercial appeal of some of the cheesier 80s music; to get the whole catchy thing that kids love about Justin Bieber; and also to see the difference between Audioslave's music and that which they left behind in their previous bands.
So, for tracks 3 to 7, I feel I should apologise. A prime example is 'Like A Stone', which has good variation in terms of Cornell's voice being soft and then heavier, Wilk taking the pace on this one with a steady drum beat that remains constant throughout, and is very nice to listen to. However, 'nice' isn't enough when you have excellence surrounding it, and I felt like there was some filler (albeit good filler) in amongst some real gems here. I guess it's normal to recognise differing levels of quality in a band's album tracks, but for me this stands out a little more than a lot of other albums I have listened to, and it sort of sticks out as being an album of very similar tracks all the way through, just with a few gems poking their heads up.
In fact, I would consider this debut album as a very experimental one, and one that tries to showcase their individual talents as much as showing they want to make a move away from former associations in order to create their own new sound. As a result, there are plenty of opportunities for the foursome to showcase their own skills. Commerford gets his intros, Wilk's drumming does a lot of pace control, Cornell's power is unmatchable and easily holds its own against three very talented and powerful instrumentalists, and any avid fan of Guitar Hero will recognise Morello's distinctive chords on the guitar.
Last thoughts while listening
My last thoughts as the last few bars of 'The Last Remaining Light' play out is one of a surety that a good deal of these tracks some similar to each other. Lyrically, they're somewhat confusing, but I never expect to be able to read between the lines, nor do I feel it's an important element to music on a lot of occasions. Musically, there's an eclectic mix of style here as if it's very much an experiment still in progress. Perhaps four or five of the 14 tracks are very similar in terms of construction, and of the rest, Cornell's voice is so distinctive that listening to the whole album can often end up being a backing thing as the differences don't come through as much as if his voice was more middle of the road.
Let's get the rant out of the way:
A word that has been used to describe this album is 'predictable'. In a way, I would agree, as there was no real surprise to the level of music that presents itself on the album. They all play very safely within their comfort zones, with challenges being issued between band members as opposed to any of them seeming to want to push themselves on. So, as I said earlier, sales figures don't necessarily reflect quality, and while there is a certain amount of quality on show here, the majority of what you get is more about the hype and where they have come from than what's actually on offer here. Had these four guys not been part of where they were before, the sales wouldn't have been quite so boosting. The same may be said of the Foo Fighters, with Dave Grohl past in Nirvana no doubt being a launchpad for their success. The rest, though, is all their own, and I love their music. Audioslave for me represents an angrier style of music that is performed by a group of guys thrown together as opposed to naturally coming together, and I find this is reflected in the music. Someone once said to be that 'an angry chef makes angry food' and I think this is true in most walks of life. There is caution in abundance here, and a nervous debut album where all four members are playing to their own strengths for safety's sake. This reduces the impact of it, for me, but also displays, with tracks such as 'Cochise', 'Show Me How To Live' and 'I Am The Highway' that the potential for something huge was there from the start.
To sum it all up.............
Audioslave - Audioslave is easily available for less than £5, and is well worth owning. I know I have been critical here, but perhaps I was one of the many that just expected a bit more aggression in the construction of the music and the album, and not just aggression in its performance. I enjoy listening to it, and would still highly recommend getting it. Their later work is also impressive, and displays some of the confidence and improvements that needed to be highlighted, but it also highlights early rifts that formed and telegraphs their eventual split. It's a very interesting back catalogue to own, with this debut perhaps being the most raw and interesting of the lot. Recommended.
With (pre-Audioslave) Rage Against The Machine, guitarist Tom Morello was once quoted in an interview to the Alternative Press as being only interested in writing great songs which, "should destroy cops and set fire to the suburbs". After the departure of vocalist Zach de la Rocha, and the forming of supergroup Audioslave with hard rock vocalist Chris Cornell, perhaps he then wanted to write grate songs which, "should rock rocking-chairs and send people to sleep".
As with the Rage Against The Machines records, only the guitar, bass, drum and vocals make up the sounds in Audioslave's self-titled debut. The hard-rock riffing remains, but whilst Tom Morello does strum some chords, these are not so noteworthy as the guitar intros, in which (opener and first single) 'Cochise' and 'I Am The Highway' start off with sounds similar to an helicopter and an organ respectively. But those for 'Set It Off', 'Hypnotize' and 'Light My Way' do not hit the same heights and are perhaps a trick too far - the latter two are perhaps the weakest tracks for me, and it's not as if the album wasn't already long enough (just over an hour).
Chris Cornell is at his best when belting out notes - such power allows him to bypass the nasally head voice - but sometimes when singing not so loud he can sound whiny. Still, many of the songs require a vocal performance, and Chris Cornell gives just that.
The album tracks are as good as the singles, but I would not rate any of these as being that great. It is a consistent album, but a struggle to pick a favourite song. Throughout, there is the loud/quiet dynamics at work but rarely is there a change in tempo in the music, and the band barely break a sweat for pace. Wilk said that RATM's songwriting process was "a battle creatively" - perhaps that brought only the best bits to a song, whereas with Audioslave, maybe by being "more collaborative" this allowed for the weaker moments to filter through.
An album that's over-produced, and where's the cowbell? A supergroup, but not a super-album.
You would expect the fusion of Rage Against the Machine's instrumentalists, a bunch of political rap-rock agotators led by Tom Morello's innovative guitar player, with Soundgarden's old vocalist Chris Cornell, an exceptionally regarded grunge rock warbler, to produce something really unusual.
Actually, they don't. Much of the album is more conventional rock metal than they have come up with in their previous incarnations. The thing is, it's incredibly incredibly good at the same time! All the songs come across as powerful, passionate tracks but carry great melodies, with remarkably little if any material that feels like filler.
Particular highlights include 'Cochise', a barnstorming opening track with chattering guitars and a meaty riff and 'I am the Highway', a slower paced track with a road-trip romance feel to it.
The whole album hangs together exceptionally well as a body of work and I'd recommend it to anyone, especially people who liked the idea of RATM and Soundgarden but found the music a touch too weird to fully enjoy.
Its pretty normal that when one great band dies another one or two usually rise from the ashes. With Audioslave though it took the demise of two great bands, Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine, for the band to be created. When Zack De La Rocha left Rage Against the Machine due to creative differences it left the rest of the band without a lead singer. Over the few months after Zacks departure the band worked with a few different lead singers before a producer suggested they try Chris Cornell. Now a solo artist having disbanded Soundgarden.
The rest as they say is now history and the formation of the new band saw them write some 21 tracks in just 19 days. Of course it wasnt all plain sailing for them and in 2002 whilst recording this album the band actually split up for a short time. It was 2 years after Rage Against The Machine had gone that Audioslave really burst onto the music scene with some pretty heavy rock tracks. The political agenda of Rage Against The Machine had seemingly gone and in its place a slightly more placid album lyrically.
It almost seemed suiting though that Audioslave filled the voids left by the demise of Soundgarden and RATM. They took their place alongside the likes of System Of A Down and Queens Of The Stone Age to become one of the best rock bands around at the moment. The album has really blended the two bands together and seen the unmistakeable musical stylings of RATM crossed with very early Soundgarden material to make a very pleasing musical combination.
The great thing about this debut from the newly formed Audioslave is the fact the entire sound is derived from the guitars, drums and bass. There wasnt a synthesiser, keyboard or a samples board anywhere to be seen. The guitars really lead the tracks, with the bass especially emphasising the new, louder sound the band are going for. The drums back the bass up fantastically and it provides a very solid grounding for the lead guitars and vocals to really build upon. In fact at times the guitar solos really stole the album for me and became part of my instant love affair with Audioslave.
When the band started out Chris Cornell wanted to make sure people realised he wasnt just taking over from Zack as RATMs new vocalist. For this reason the band moved away from the political lyrics but also from the Hip hop influenced rock that RATM seemed to be producing towards the end. What you are left with is a very astute, solid vocal performance that really hits the higher, faster tracks but also suits the slower, mellower ones as well. His vocals along with the lead guitar give Audioslave a bit of direction and I think it really helps to make this album as good as it is.
From the first time I heard Cochise I knew that Audioslave would be the band to take the place of the departed RATM. The track has quite a typical RATM intro to it but as soon as the vocals kick in the flashback is ended. The song is quite reminiscent of RATM but features a much more melodic twist. Something that Cornell seems to have brought to the three remaining members of RATM that seems to have changed the direction they were heading.
Along with Chochise I was also hooked on the much slower, melodic sound of Shadow On The Sun. It has a much mellower start to it with Cornells powerful vocals kicking it off before the real backing to the track kicks in. This in contrast with Cochise shows just how diverse Audioslave are and that they can equally do the more classical rock as well as the more modern heavy stuff. As I liked both the previous incarnations I found it hard to dislike any of the tracks, but with 14 in total Im sure some people will be able to find a few flaws on here.
Overall the self titled debut album from Audioslave really did what they set out to do. They made a name for themselves and in the process managed to prove there would be live after both Soundgarden and RATM. This album is a must for Rock fans, but if youre into your dance music or R N B then Id seriously recommend giving it a wide birth. There certainly will be a lot more to come from Cornell, Morello, Commerford and Wilk of that you can be certain.
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Why is it that everything that Chris Cornell [previous Soundgarden front man] gets involved in, is so superb? TO START: COCHISE launches the record with a rhythmic percussive pick-roll, evolving into an instrumental build-up, gently rolling you into a fine track that sets the pace for the rest of the record. And the album keeps it?s unwritten-promise to you, remaining consistently good to the finish. HIGHLIGHT: The slow "waow-waow" [I think I just made that word up] guitar lead on LIKE A STONE is brilliant. In true Soundgarden tradition, it takes a few listens before you actually realize how good this record really is. What at first seem like un-striking tracks ferment in the dusty little recess of your mind [is that from a poem somewhere?], until at some point you are struck by how excellent these songs really are. This is usually the mark of a true quality album; one you don?t tire of after a week or two. Like all good albums, various tracks will get inside your brain several times a day, just to remind you what you're missing out on hearing at that moment I confess that someone bought me this as gift...you know who you are...cheers! If you are even a little into any of the numerous intra-genres of Rock music in this world, you will like this record. If you don't, then you are musically flawed... BOTTOM LINE: Quality
Another band who have barely been reviewed on this site....it is criminal! Anyone reading this remember Soundgarden? I certainly do, and this is where the lead singer of Soundgarden, Chris Cornell is now focusing his attention. Audioslave are a collaboration between Cornell, and the musical members of also defunct Rage Against The Machine who are Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford. The original plan was that Cornell would just replace Zac De La Rocha as RATM vocalist, but he thought that they were too political, and if they carried on with the same name, they would have to carry on with the same music, and he was not happy with that. Considering that Soundgarden were always more metal than grunge, and RATM had a harder edge to their music, it is no surprise that the debut album from the newly formed band is firmly in the metal genre, but the funk element is still there. 'Cochise'opens the album with energy and pace. Cornell's gravelly voice sounds like a more tuneful version of AC/DC's Bryan Johnson. As with the other songs on the album, it is written by Cornell. It is the kind of song which I can imagine is even more powerful when it is played live. The vocals and guitar riffs give the music a real 80's feel, and this sets it apart from the funk metal (if there is such a genre of music) that we are hearing at the moment. The politics are a welcome exclusion, as this is where RATM went wrong a lot of the time. 'Show Me How To Live' is another song in much the same vein, but if ever there was a song which could rival the Black Sabbath sound, then this is it. Here, I think Cornell's vocals are at their finest, and whilst this is all about the music, I have to say that he sounds as horny as he looks, and there are not many singers that I could say that about. I apologise, I digress, but ladies, take a look at Chris Cornell, he is certainly a very fine specimen, and he can certainly belt out a song or two..or thr
ee! 'Gasoline' starts off with gentle drums, and then the energy rises when the guitars kick in. The song tells the story of an arsonist. The vocals are mellower than on the preceeding tracks until the chorus, and then the Sabbath vibe is evident, as is the effort Cornell is putting in to make his voice perform in this manner. On the album, this is song which reminds me most of Soundgarden material, which has pushed me to hunt out some of their old stuff which I have not listened to for a while. This would be a brilliant single. 'What You Are' is an easy song to listen to. The first third of the song allows Cornell to showcase his real vocal talent without pushing his voice too far, and then the chorus kicks in, and if I close my eyes, this could be Robert Plant singing, but then the verse returns to the sweeter, more pallatable vocal which the song started with. The contrasts work very well, and the verses allow you to catch your breath and prepare yourself for the onslaught of the edgy chorus, which really gets the adrenalin flowing. 'Like a Stone' was released as a single, and is a ballad, Audioslave style. It really works, and it is a song I connected with straight away. Lyrically, it is the best song on the album. It is a love song full of regret, and it is not too ambitious, and that is why it is such a cracking track. It is simple, but memorable, and full of emotion. It has to be said that the talent of Morello is another reason why this track is a winner, as his guitar riffs add to the feel of the song, and I find myself hanging on every word. 'Set It Off' is another Sabbath influenced track, whether the band admit it or not. The song oozes attitude right from the opening note, and the lyrics are littered with swearing, which when I came to think about it has been a real rarity on this album, but I have to say that the swearing does not detract from the song, or the rest of the lyrics. The d
rums are fierce on this track. I love to watch the drummer when I see a band play live, as I think that they are the pivotal member of the band, and this song is the perfect example of that. 'Shadow On The Sun' is an amazing song. It is less rock and more melody which I love. The lyrics really hit home and make you think about life and how you live it. They really are that powerful. The guitar solo gives strength and depth to this already storming track, and I am sure that if the band keep putting out songs like this then they will be around for a long time, however I feel that the rumours of creative and management differences may mean that we do not even see another album which is a great shame. 'I Am The Highway' lets you sit back and relax for five and a half minutes. I know I should stop comparing vocals, but I think it helps to give you a feel for the song. Here Cornell has moments when he sounds like the brilliant Eddie Veder from Pearl Jam, but for the most part he sounds unique, and his vocals are powerful and moving. I love the chorus to this song. 'I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway. I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky'. The songs soothes you and the mood sweeps over you, and everytime I hear this song I am filled with a great sense of wellbeing. Without doubt, the standout track on the album. 'Exploder' is back to the up tempo rock that has been the overiding theme of the album. The lyrics are ok, but is the ex RATM musicians that take centre stage with this song, especially Tom Morello's astounding guitar playing. All that said, in comparison to the rest of the tracks on the album, this is decidingly average overall. There just is not enough to make it stand out amongst the competition, and as it is heading towards the end of the album, I am sure very few people will have this as a favourite. The first thing that strikes me about 'Hypnotize' is that Cornell
39;s vocals sound very strange, as if he is trying to put on a false voice, and I do not like it at all. Musically, it is brilliant. It is really upbeat, and has a real funky overtone, and the vocals take a back seat, which adds to the strength of the song, and it is not often that I would say a song benefits from the lack of vocal prowess we have become accustomed to when listening to Chris Cornell, but it does not hurt to let others shine once in a while. 'Bring Em Back Alive' is about disease from what I can gather, and I suspect it may be about the AIDS virus. The lyrics are very dark, as is the general feel of the song. The build up from verse to chorus is filled with tension and you can feel Cornell letting out his emotions through every word he sings. He sounds in pain at times when he is screaming the chorus, but I think this is his way of expressing the feeling behind the words, and it is certainly a powerful medium which makes the listener take notice. 'Light My Way' does not let up the mood of the album. The guitar riffs are bold and in your face for the most part, but there are sections of the song which are mellower, so the appeal is wide ranging, and that I think will be the key to the success of the band. They will take along many of their original fans, and collect many more along the way, but I think the key to the success will be playing live, as these songs were made to be played to big crowds who can really appreciate the brilliance of this collection of musicians. The album really starts to wind down with 'Getaway Car'. It is a song that I think is perfect to waste time to, just to have playing and do nothing but absorb the lyrics, and feel the music sweep over you. For the most part, I would not say I am a rock fan, and this is probably why the mellower, slower tempo songs like this appeal to me, but I have to say that I could be tempted to explore more band in this genre. Any ideas? Please lea
ve them in the comments field. My husband is pointing at the latest Alkaline Trio release, but I remain to be convinced where they are concerned! 'The Last Remaining Light' brings the album to a chilled out end. It is a pretty dark track, but it is perfect to bring a curtain down on the music of Audioslave's debut release. The guitars again are brilliant, and add to the magic of the atmosphere created by the music as a whole. The difference in styles from the two bands have made for a brilliant fusion of rock/funk/metal, and I urge you to experience it at least once. You never know, it may be right up your street, and there is still enough Soundgarden and RATM there to satisfy the original fans. This is a really impressive debut album, but then considering the musical experience that is behind it, I really should not have expected anything less. It will not reach the masses in the same way their previous material has, but give them time, I am sure they will impact the music scene in a massive way. Cornell has proven that he can br brilliant, but he needs a band to front, as his solo material sank without a trace as it just was not powerful or attractive enough, and with the added force of producer Rick Rubin, Audioslave have created a sound which will last.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Show Me How To Live
4 What You Are
5 Like A Stone
6 Set It Off
7 Shadow On The Sun
8 I Am The Highway
11 Bring Em Back Alive
12 Light My Way
13 Getaway Car
14 The Last Remaining Light