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Audioslave Self-Titled

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Thursday, December 12, 2002 @ 4:58 PM


(Eric/Interscope)

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It's tough to figure out whether this sounds more like Rage Against The Machine with Chris Cornell on vocals or Soundgarden with Tom Morello on guitar. Actually the best way to describe the union of these two great bands into one mighty supergroup would be Temple Of The Dog, because like the tribute album to late Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) of the same name, the debut album by Audioslave combines hard rock bombast with moody, introspective mid-tempo numbers.

Within the first three seconds of the opening rager, "Cochise," you know you're in for a treat. Morello's guitar sounds like an revving engine at the starting gate as drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford swell around him like ebbing tides of imminent destruction. When the riff kicks in and the band puts the pedal to the metal it's nothing short of glorious, sounding exactly like the combination you'd expect from these rock Gods huge, heavy, hard and heabangin'. This vibe continues through rockers like "Set It Off," "Gasoline," and "Light My Way," all of which featuring absolutely crushing riffs and are the kind of stuff fans prayed these fellows would churn out together.

As always, Cornell sings like no man alive, hitting unfathomable highs, screaming like a punk rock banshee and generally sounding like Robert Plant's wicked stepchild on acid. The guy is a fuckin' walking, talking human throat muscle and it's a joy to hear him backed by such a powerhouse band.

But it ain't all power and glory here, folks. Morello and the boys put the brakes on throughout the proceedings and explore territory previously uncharted when Zack De La Rocha was on the mic. Gone are the rap tunes and in their place are the kinda of alterna-folky-rock tunes that Soundgarden (see Temple reference again too) stumbled into late in their career. "What You Are" is the kind of tune you might hear on a recent Pearl Jam album, delicate and sullen but beautiful and raw. "Like A Stone" is in a similar vein albeit with funkier bass, while "Shadow Of The Sun" could be right off Superunknown.

"Show Me How To Live" combines all of these elements into one, with it's grooving Stone Gossard-y sounding verses and teeth rattling chorus. It's the kind of number that makes you realize what a treasure Cornell is on the vocal front and reminds you how great some of the early Seattle music really was, falling right in between Alice, Temple, Love Bone and so on. On the other hand, "Exploder" takes their sound to an entirely different place. Mixing a Zepplin-esque Middle Eastern guitar loop with some hip hoppin' drums and keyboard samples, the song sounds closer to what Cornell was going for with his eclectic solo album but more successfully blends the different elements.

Lyrically, this is a very inward effort, typical of Cornell. But that ain't a slam. The man is a poet and generally works from the inside out, unraveling emotional poems for the listener to find meaning in (or not). Rather than going for the teen angst anthems of Cobain, or the character-driven sketches of Mr. Vedder, Cornell word paints vague tales of soul strugglin' and self-recognition, occasionally drawing parallels to historical or political figures (such as Indian warrior Cochise). It might get a little heady if it weren't ground by Morello's blistering, space-man guitar and the sturdy Rage rhythm section.

In the end, this record is one of the few "supergroup" projects that lives up to the hype and is every bit as good as fans of either artist could possibly expect. Despite the generic name and fireworks-laden video, this album is pure heart and soul and waaaaay beyond the filler-driven crap most hard rock acts are putting out these days. Let's just hope the egos stay in check and the band stays together. If so, there could be a lot of great music coming out of this camp. If this album is any indication, Audioslave may indeed by the next, best thing.

* * * * 1/2


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