Rage Against the Machine Reviews

The Battle of Los Angeles
Review by Patrick Donovan
The Age (Melbourne) 29th oct 1999

Since Rage released Evil Empire three yaers ago, bands such as Limp Bizkit and korn have borrowed their sound and become millionaires by cashing in on teen angst, using all the technology at their disposal to augment slabs of metal and innane pseudo-rapping. But none of them come close to capturing the primal spite and intensity of Rage Against the Machine. Musically and lyrically, Rage have come of age with their third album, perhaps the most sonically surreal to come from an organic rock band. It sounds as if the band used turntables, samples and all sorts of weird digital effects, but the only explanation offered by the liner notes is: "all sounds made by guitar, bass, drums and vocals." The soundscape is painted by guitarist Tom Morello, the master of the DigiTech Whammy pedal, which has a more advanced note-bending effect than a wah-wah pedal. On "Calm Like a Bomb", his playing has the same effect as a DJ warping vinyl sounds on a turntable. Sometimes, the distortions ring out like sirens, alerting the listener that all is not well in the world. Elsewhere, on songs such as "Sleep Now in the Fire", he churns out more blistering, pure guitar riffs than any guitarist today. Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi would be playing like this now if he had the equipment and the vision. Bassist Timmy C has learned a few tricks from Morello and on this album, takes the sound to a new dimension of funkiness by warping his bass. He sounds as if he's slowly drowning in quicksand on "calm Like a Bomb" and "Mic Check" with a deep, fat bassline reminiscent of Funkadelic or the Beastie Boy's "Paul's Boutique". Brad Wilk's thunderous and sometimes militant drumming helps create a groove as ferocious as it is funky. Zach de la Rocha continues to rant about the injustices of capitalism, but has diversified his vocal range and style, mixing up fast and slow rap styles. While the lyrics are essentially a call to arms for mexican peasants, this ain't gonna stop millions of middle class white kids buying this album.

Rating : 5/5

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