Sunday Plus (The Sunday Star). December 12, 1999. Page 20 - Music.
Battle of Los Angeles Reviewed by Daryl Goh. Raging for world domination.
REALITY really bites. Bold attempts to surpass Rage Against The Machine's position in the rap-rock genre have failed time and again. Hoopla-magnets and fashion victims Limp Bizkit and Korn can carry on pretending. But these upstarts can never match the overpowering intensity, fearless evolution, and lyrically lynching sounds from fiery Zack de la Rocha and soul mates.
Mexican Zapatista rebels and Che Guevera have been championed by this proactive band and it made quite a showing at the Free Tibet gigs too. Here's a band that every alternative front should align themselves with, from Permatang Pauh to New Mexico.
Railing against hegemony and sparking revolution is part of Rage Against The Machine's empowering mission. "You'll never silence tha voice of tha voiceless," screams de la Rocha as he grinds and pounds a fistful of fury into the ground.
It's a timely signal that RATM has return to the frontlines and the bubbling blood-vessels from its engine room are ready to burst.
The fierce polemics are in position, the battle lines have been drawn, evil empires will crumble and nobody survives when RATM goes out to war. RATM is on the cusp of a massive revival and it has helped its own cause with possibly the year's most scorching and penetrating record in The Battle Of Los Angeles, the band's third full-length release.
Since the blistering No Shelter (from the Godzilla soundtrack), expectations have been running high for RATM to deliver the album of its career. And The Battle Of Los Angeles succeeds on all accounts in underlining the band's edgy and explosive pedigree.
The band's eponymous debut fanned flames of restless rage with a host of thorny issues and sheer studied perfection combined to great rap-rock effect. However, the darker follow-up, Evil Empire, failed narrowly to ignite the same level of intensity.
But this Battle of Los Angeles album does suggest that RATM is poised to take that big leap forward. The album is executed with tremendous verve and derives strength from RATM's delirious torrent of robust new grooves and creative curve balls. The delirious material easily fetches acclaim and commercial appeal with compulsive and cohesive edges working like a treat.
No hurdle's to high as RATM shifts through the gears with spiralling tension and emotional release setting the forceful tone. The sniping narratives and lashing riffs sound truly stunning on singles Guerilla Radio and Calm Like A Bomb, both tracks involving some of guitarist Tom Morello's best fretwork heard since Bombtrack and Bullet In Your Head.
Out come the wah wah tricks, muscular blues workouts and eardrum stinging feedback as Morello flexes those riff-hungry fingers on Sleep Now In The Fire, while nasty and groovy effects on Born As Ghosts and Ashes In The Fall go on to floor listeners.
The guitarman's on a rampage and you can tell that point blank anger and innovation are a lethal combination, pushing this album beyond its limits. Frontman de la Rocha hovers and targets social injustice and choose political decay as choice weighty issues to ruffle a few feathers in the establishment. Campaigners for freedom of speech do need a firebrand like this around.
From RATM's crunching chords and naked aggression, there's also a wicked stab at Operation Desert Storm on Testify, time to rail against police (the pigs!) brutality on Mic Check, and to throw some brotherly support behind journalist-cum-convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal on Voice of the Voiceless.
Even the inlay is a useful weapon for RATM as the band lists a stash of pro-active causes and websites for everybody to learn about. As far as compact testaments of boldness and artistic depth go, RATM is pure class and it deserves to edge itself closer to world domination. This one gets my vote as this year's best rock album.
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