Sound — 8
As with many "superbands," Audioslave shows early and often in "Out Of Exile" how easy it is to create a solid rock song. When you're Chris Cornell, however, it helps to have behind you arguably the most discliplined and explosive backup band since Led Zeppelin's. Morello and Co. take to their crafts with such organic energy. While "Out Of Exile" on the whole seems to lack the sincerity of their debut effort, it's hard not to find something good (a riff, a bass line, etc) about each song. Still, I have suspicions that Cornell is having a hard time jelling with his bandmates. Soundgarden succeeded because of its free-flowing sound, while RATM was much more staccato. Cornell is an alpha-musician, and he gives his best efforts when he's in control of the song, which is rarely the case on "Out Of Exile." I'd love to see this band have a jam session, to see who drives the songwriting.
Lyrics — 6
Early into this album, it's clear that Cornell just can't sing anymore. It's obvious he's trying (and perhaps a little too much at times), but his voice sounds beaten and parched, even compared to the last album. It's really quite sad. In his heyday, Cornell gave any rock singer ever a run for his money. While he still has the wind, especially with higher notes, his sprawling screech has been slowed considerably. I've been watching the band's Live in Cuba DVD, recorded not long after "Out Of Exile," and Cornell looks like he's in pain onstage. He's unnecessarily uneven with his vocal rhythms, he omits key phrases and his screams sound like he's fighting strep throat. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt with that performance, with the hope that he simply saves himself for when he cares, but Cornell's sharp descent as a singer over even the last two years is stunning.
Overall Impression — 8
Shortcomings aside, "Out Of Exile" is a needed next step for Audioslave. They churned out what Rage and Soundgarden fans wanted to hear with their self-titled album - a verification that everyone involved could still rock. With their sophomore effort, they show greater range as a band, if not the same consistency. They seem to sleepwalk through the album's first half, relying on tired and recycled grooves and lyrics. Only the self-titled second track stands out. But after "Heaven's Dead," we see a lot more of the ferocity that needs to define this band. "The Worm" is creative, if choppy, and demonstrates yet again how Cornell can defy convention in delivering his lyrics. The last four songs are clearly the best. "Yesterday To Tomorrow" has one of the most awesome choruses I've ever heard, and Cornell exploits his vocal limitations for the better in "Dandelion." We see his bluesy side work magic on "#1 Zero," which should have been a single, and "The Curse" is satisfying, if a bit trite. I've heard the band is already working on their third album, and I'll be very curious to see if the members of this band can finally discard their musical predecessors and form a unique sound. If so, watch out.