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Audioslave - Topic

Out of Exile Play

Given that most supergroups last little longer than a single album, it was easy to assume that Audioslave -- the pairing of Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell and the instrumental trio at the core of Rage Against the Machine -- was a one-off venture. That suspicion was given weight by their eponymous 2002 debut, which sounded as if Cornell wrote melodies and lyrics to tracks RATM wrote after the departure of Zack de la Rocha, but any lingering doubts about Audioslave being a genuine rock band are vanished by their 2005 second album, Out of Exile. Unlike the first record, Out of Exile sounds like the product of a genuine band, where all four members of the band contribute equally to achieve a distinctive, unified personality. It's still possible to hear elements of both Rage and Soundgarden here, but the two parts fuse relatively seamlessly, and there's a confidence to the band that stands in direct contrast to the halting, clumsy attack on the debut. A large part of the success of Out of Exile is due to the songs, which may be credited to the entire group but are clearly under the direction of Cornell, sounding much closer to his past work than anything in Rage's catalog. Even the simple riff-driven rockers are tightly constructed songs with melodies and dramatic tension -- they lead somewhere instead of running in circles -- while the ballads have a moody grace and there's the occasional left-field surprise like the sunny, sweet psych-pop gem "Dandelion"; it's the strongest set of songs Cornell has written in a decade. Which is not to say that Out of Exile is without excesses, but they're almost all from guitarist Tom Morello; his playing can still seem laborious, particularly when he clutters single-string riffs with too many notes (the otherwise fine opener, "Your Time Has Come," suffers from this), and his elastic stomp box excursions verge on self-parody on occasion. Still, these are isolated moments on an album that's otherwise lean, hard, strong, and memorable, a record that finds Audioslave coming into its own as a real rock band. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Audioslave Play

It's subtle, but telling, that the cover of Audioslave's eponymous debut is designed by Storm Thorgerson, the artist behind Pink Floyd's greatest album sleeves. Thorgerson, along with Roger Dean, epitomized the look of the '70s, the era of supergroups, which is precisely what Audioslave is -- a meeting of Rage Against the Machine, minus Zack de la Rocha, with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. Though both bands were leading lights of alt-metal in the '90s, the two came from totally separate vantage points: Rage Against the Machine was fearlessly modern, addressing contemporary politics over Tom Morello's hip-hop-influenced guitar, while Soundgarden dredged up '70s metal fueled with the spirit of punk. That these two vantage points don't quite fit shouldn't be a surprise -- there is little common ground between the two, apart that they're refugees from brainy post-metal bands. Of the two camps, Chris Cornell exerts the strongest influence, pushing the Rage Against the Machine boys toward catchier hooks and introspective material. Occasionally, the group winds up with songs that play to the strengths of both camps, like the storming lead single "Cochise." For Cornell fans, it's a relief to hear him unleash like this, given the reserve of his brooding solo debut, but this is hardly a one-man show. The Rage band, led by the intricate stylings of guitarist Tom Morello, gets their chance to shine, including on numbers that are subtler and shadier than the average Rage tune. Which brings up the primary fault on the album: Perhaps Morello, and perhaps the rest of RATM, are technically more gifted than, say, Soundgarden, but they never sound as majestic, as powerful, or as cinematic as what Cornell's songs need. His muted yet varied solo album proved that he needed muscle, but here it's all muscle, no texture or color. Consequently, many of the songs sound like they're just on the verge of achieving liftoff, never quite reaching their potential. There are moments, usually arriving in the first half, where Audioslave suddenly, inexplicably clicks, sounding like a band, not a marketer's grand scheme. Still, these moments are few and far between and it's hard to get through this album as a whole. By the end, it's clear that this pairing was a clever idea, but not an inspired one. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Revelations Play

Given the short distance separating Audioslave's second album, Out of Exile, in 2005 and their third, Revelations, in 2006, it's easy to assume that the Rage Against the Machine/Soundgarden supergroup has finally turned into an actual working band -- either that or the group is working hard to get to the end of their contract so they can go their separate ways (a suspicion stoked by the flurry of Chris Cornell-centric press surrounding its release, including the announcement that he's recording a solo album and will be singing the theme song for the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, on his own). Whether or not either theory is proven true over time doesn't change the fact that Revelations builds upon Out of Exile, sounding even more like the work of a genuine band than its predecessor. In light of this record, Out of Exile feels driven by Cornell, which itself was a shift away from the Rage-driven debut. Here, the two are integrated fully into a distinctive sound, one that's tight and focused, one that's aggressive but not overly heavy. Also, Audioslave has become increasingly rhythm-driven instead of riff-driven; even on the slower songs and heavy rockers, the pulse and pull of the rhythm defines the song more than the riff. Given this emphasis on rhythm, it's not a surprise that Audioslave displays an overt funk and soul influence here, ranging from the hard funk of "One and the Same" to the Motown homage of "Original Fire." This not only makes Revelations sound like the result of a working band, one that likes to jam together, but it also gives it a lighter feel in its tone, a feeling that Cornell runs with on his lyrics and singing, which are considerably less tortured and brooding than before. All this doesn't necessarily make Revelations a fun album -- making music is serious work for Audioslave and they expect the same from their audience -- but it does make for their most colorful, diverse, and consistent record yet. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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