The brightest always burn out the quickest. Audioslave lasted a mere five years but unleashed three albums in the same time most bands can only crank out one or two. It was a collaboration that bore sweet fruit. Ronnie James Dio used to say that when it came to collaborations, the first album was usually the best. That’s true of Audioslave.
Their first, self-titled album checks all the boxes: monster grooves, soaring vocals and wonky solos. Since it’s produced by Rick Rubin you know it’s gonna be loud. You can also count on a clear, big drum sound which Rubin achieves. At 14 tracks, the album is swollen, but despite its long runtime there is nary a dud.
There are some who, at the time at least, felt that Rage Against The Machine’s style of abnormally funky rap-metal could not be adapted to hard rock. They felt the fit between Chris Cornell and the Rage guys was forced and resulted in something that would only appeal to Soundgarden’s fans while alienating those of Rage. While there is a smidgen of truth to that assertion, Rage have proven time and again that they can pretty much do anything. No boundaries.
No tracks to skip, either, but some you may want to focus extra attention on. “Cochise” about the revered Indian warrior, has a groove that can crack concrete. Same with “Show Me How to Live” and “Gasoline”, heavier than the proverbial lead balloon, but infested with melodic vocals. Audioslave could even pull off slower material, though you’d be hesitant to call them “ballads”. “Like A Stone” is essential: precision, smoky rock crooning. The spare arrangement allows Chris’ vocals to make the impact, though the bass is certainly earth-moving. As if that wasn’t enough, Tom Morello’s solo combines his trademark noisy note-work with epic composition.
Despite the quality tracks before and after, the best may be the angry “Set It Off”. It slams. It’s closest to Rage’s anarchist tendencies. It’s just pissed off.
He was standing at the rock,
Gathering the flock,
And getting there with no directions,
And underneath the arch,
It turned into a march,
And there he found the spark to set this fucker off.
A 14 track album this good could earn a 2000 word analysis, but we’ll save that for an inevitable deluxe edition. There are lots of B-sides and bonus tracks from this album that need to be properly collected into a set, like the download-only “Give”, a rhythmic little extra. Suffice to say, Audioslave is an essential album for anybody who ever liked rock music. There is a purity to it. As the liner notes say, “all sounds made by guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.” Even the weird squonky shit, so be ready for your mind and soul to be blown. Sit back and absorb it a while, because there’s a lot here to assimilate into your blood.