Saturday, March 21, 2009

March 21: Rage Against The Machine, "Rage Against The Machine"

Artist: Rage Against The Machine
Album: Rage Against The Machine
Year: 1992
Label: Epic

Truly great records, the ones that will stand the test of time, are able to be identified my hearing a few seconds from any point on the album. The music, lyrics, and general mood are so strong and significant that there is simply no way that anyone can mistake it for anything else. When the most important albums of the 1990's are discussed, for some reason, the album that many people (including myself) see as THE most important, is often left out of the discussion. In terms of influence, originality, and outright brilliance, none have it in higher amount than the 1992 debut from Rage Against The Machine.

Rage Against The Machine marks the first time that metal and rap were fused perfectly together. In many ways, when the band called it quits eight years later, it was clear that the genre died with them. From the opening moment of the album, it is obvious that Rage Against The Machine is a rock powerhouse, the likes of which have never been seen. In the early stages of the record, it is obvious that the first word of their name perfectly describes the mood of the album. Forceful, fierce, and unrelenting, Rage Against The Machine redefined everything that it meant to be "hardcore." Truth be told, since its release, the song "Killing In The Name" has become nothing short of a "battle cry" for those across the world who feel disenfranchised. Some will argue that there has never been a more simple, yet completely universal rallying call for rebellion than the line, "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!"

The driving force behind the band is undoubtedly the guitar work of a true innovator, Harvard graduate, Tom Morello. On each of their records, the band made a point to state that "all sounds created by live instruments." This is essential as the ways that Morello plays sound as if they must be computer generated. While he can make some of the most unconventional sounds ever, he also has a serious talent for writing some of the most recognizable, crushing riffs in history. This is to take nothing away from the rhythm section of bassist Tom Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk. The pair help to create what may very well be the most get-up-out-of-your-seat intense music that the world has ever seen. The music, when not at full attack, seems to circle around, creating a menacing, tension-filled feeling. The band has a brilliant grasp on when the tension has reached its peak, and slams back into the song full throttle.

If Bob Dylan were born two decades later (and with Mexican heritage), he would be RATM frontman Zach De La Rocha. de La Rocha (who is the son of a Mexican political artist), has a gift for writing some of the most intelligent, insightful, and brutally honest lyrics. One could argue that he single-handedly brought the plight of the Mexican Zapatista's to the forefront of American politics. However, his lyrics are not only for those South of the US border. As their name infers, the lyrics on Rage Against The Machine, are just that; an ear-splitting yell to the "powers that be." Not one to take the path of passive resistance, de La Rocha screams his warnings, "...we don't need the key, we'll break in!" and "How long? Not long...'cause what you reap, is what you sow!" Taking full aim at the myriad of "problems" that he sees, Zach preaches, "Yes I know my enemies, They are the teachers who taught me to fight me...Compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission, ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite...All of which are American dreams!"

From time to time, a band comes along that are so utterly awe-inspiring, it becomes hard to remember what the world was like before they existed. These bands demand to be heard, and make some of the most significant records of all time. Rage Against The Machine is an album like no other, and forever altered the musical landscape. Though many have tried, since their debut record exploded into the world, no other band has been able to come remotely close to the combined talent, originality,and intensity of Rage Against The Machine's debut record.

Standout tracks: "Killing In The Name," "Bullet In The Head," and "Wake Up."

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