There seems to be a recurring ‘supergroup’ theme in recent RAMzine Classic articles. As always, the albums that are analysed are done so because they are shining examples to the rest of the music world on how to create music of the highest quality. This is certainly the case with this week’s classic: Audioslave’s self-titled album.
This was a band that have every right not to work. Comprised of Rage Against The Machine band-mates Tom Morello (guitar), Tim Commerford (bass) and Brad Wilk (drums), as well as Soundgarden front-man Chris Cornell. There were serious questions asked of the band, mainly because Cornell was seen almost as a replacement for Rage front-man Zach de la Rocha. However, this was a completely new band. They also had a completely new sound.
Opening with Cochise, the album quickly shows its colours. The main riff in this song is simply awesome, and is one of the best guitar riffs of modern times. Cornell’s signature vocal style really complements the groovy, aggressive music, and Morello’s guitar playing is much more standard than it was in RATM; he still has his unique guitar sound, but is more content finding a melody within the guitar lines to complement the music. Commerford’s bass and Wilk’s powering drums really drive the song along, and it is no wonder this song was such a success when released as a single.
Next up is Show Me How To Live, a song which has a real classic rock influence, yet remains so funky. Cornell’s ability to hold a clean vocal note is so impressive, and during the quieter verse his vocals really fly over the top of the music. Once the chorus hits, the power of his voice comes out over the wall of sound created by the guitar, bass and drums. The guitar solo is more similar to Morello’s work in RATM, the sounds are so unique, yet they flow and create a really interesting sonic palate.
Following on from this is Gasoline, and also the second best riff on the album. This song is wonderfully heavy, and shows the band’s classic metal influences. Wilk’s drums in this song bring out the riff perfectly, and Commerford’s bass is so audible it may as well be a downtuned second guitar. The delayed guitar effects in the verse is classic Tom Morello, yet the sense of melody is always present. The massive chorus is such a sing-a-long, with the heavy riff back in the song. This is a real surprise, and shows Audioslave off as a band that take themselves very seriously.
Coming next is What You Are – a classic radio friendly rock anthem, with a really catchy chorus. The simple melody in the chorus is just fantastic, and Audioslave’s sense of dynamics between the different song sections is akin to The Beatles; quieter verses and big crescendos towards choruses. It is a proven way of writing successful songs and this is no different.
Next is the first ballad on the album; Like A Stone, a song that really shows off Cornell’s unique vocal stylings. The song is kept so tight by Wilk’s fire-cracker drums, and the simple guitar notes fill the space perfectly. However, the chorus is where the real highlight of the song occurs, and it is simply to do with the way Chris Cornell holds notes. His vocal style is so clean it sometimes sounds like it is a separate instrument. He truly is one of the greatest singers of modern times, and this song is truly one of his crowning glories.
Following on from this is Set It Off which goes back to the album’s heavy standard set earlier on. The main riff sounds like the greatest riff Black Sabbath never wrote, and sets up the song perfectly. Essentially, this song is a call to arms to the listeners to just go crazy and have a good time. It’s heavy music with the glam metal ethos to just lose your mind to.
Next in line is Shadow on the Sun, which is a song that goes through many different dynamics and tones. Beginning with clean guitar and a pure vocal melody, it is an unexpected start. The drum groove in the verse is simply wonderful and it is just toe-tapping. The best drum grooves make the listener tap their feet or nod their head instantly. When the chorus kicks in, Commerford hits his bass distortion pedal and it kicks the song into hyperdrive – the tempo remains the same, but it becomes so much heavier.
Next is I Am The Highway – another perfect ballad. The guitar pattern and the vocals intertwine just perfectly, and the song’s subject of going out on your own in the world to make your own way is very personal to me. This song has been a constant in my life for the past 11 years, and fills me with sheer joy every time it is played. The simple construction of the song is utterly perfect, and the sound created is beautiful. Simply beautiful.
Following on is Exploder, a song which contains a brilliant drum groove and a fantastic chorus, two key components to a successful song. The melody of the chorus over the swinging guitar riff almost bounce off each other and the “da-da da-da-da” melody just gets stuck in the listener’s head. This is a real underrated album track and it really needs to be heard more.
Up next is Hypnotize, a tune which just exudes funk and blues all over the place. The layered vocals across the chorus part really creates a fantastic effect, and the song is a slight departure from others on the album. Some of the guitar parts give the song an almost disco effect, which is an interesting take for sure. Morello’s guitar solo is very percussive here and gives the song in interesting extra dimension.
Following this is Bring Em Back Alive which is led by a squeaky-clean guitar part. The song then evolves into a real groovy number, which comes out of the clean part with a really heavy drum beat and rolling bass pattern. Another unexpected highlight, this album just keeps getting stronger and stronger.
Next up is Light My Way, a song which has another classic Audioslave riff. The wah effects on the guitar as the verse kicks in are simply brilliant in their simplicity. This is a band on top of their game, proving a point to the music press: they’re proving that it’s easy to write simple, catchy rock music, with a real unique edge.
Next is Getaway Car, a startlingly pure song, with a calming influence. The shuffle feel from the drums carry the song along beautifully and Cornell’s full vocal range is on show here. His voice really is impressive; he could take on any singer from any generation of rock music.
Closing the album is The Last Remaining Light, a song which is pretty much the perfect album closer. With the haunting organ sounds and Cornell’s off-key vocals, the variety shown in this song sums up the entire album; heavy sounds with sheer melody and a desire to stay unique.
In closing, this album is simply an absolute statement that music can remain pure if you get the right people together. “Audioslave” is heavy, melodic, haunting, virtuous and completely amazing in its simplicity. It’s a shame they split up too soon. Here’s hoping they reunite in the future and get ready to ‘Set It Off’ with the rest of us.