Audioslave: when hard rock stood out again

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In September 2002, the radios started broadcasting Cochise, the first single from Audioslave’s upcoming debut album. The band was born only the year before, after Zach de La Rocha abandoned Rage Against the Machine (one of the most influential group in the 90s), leaving the rest of the band confused. They needed a new project, and Chris Cornell (the lead singer of another great band of the previous decade, Soundgarden) succeeded to give them one.

Cornell convinced Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk to follow him in the exploration of a sound with a strong hard rock footprint, with no particular limits to stylistic choices: the project is appreciated especially by Morello, who can finally work also on less politicized songs, compared to what he was doing with Zach de le Rocha. That was what brought the band to the long run decline, due to the lyrics and some of their attitudes.

Audioslave, the self-titled album, shows right away the intentions of the supergroup and manages to disprove the skepticism of critics, who attacked the band for months: the producer Rick Rubin manages to enhance the capabilities of each of the components and to make the character of the songs homogeneous and solid. The main sources of inspiration are Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, as songs like Cochise, Show Me How To Live, Set It Off, Gasoline e Shadow Of The Sun suggest, in their storm of guitars and pounding rhythmic section.

Chris Cornell’s scathing voice matches perfectly with Morello’s overflowing riffs, and Morello is inspired as never before, letting himself go to glimpses of devastating rock, apparently more free to express himself than in Rage Against the Machine. The new combination also manages to produce melodic, strong songs like Getaway Car, I Am the Highway and Like a Stone.

Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine are a reminder in the background, and none of the components want to make any particular reference to them, mostly in order to not feel bound to their own glorious past. Audioslave are undoubtedly another thing, a different story that reconnects to the great rock tradition of the 70s, bringing it into this dazzling debut, where the only real protagonist is only the music. To be consumed, however, at very high volume.

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Luca Divelti writes stories of music, cinema and TV on Rock’n’Blog and Auralcrave. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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