Sound — 8
Audioslave is a little more funk and little less rock these days. On the band's latest release Revelations, there does seem to be a turn more towards a rhythm and blues genre, which is an interesting move given the musicians' collective histories in harder-edged bands like Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden. Of course, RATM had plenty of funkified moments, but it always maintained a very power-driven base. Revelations is not necessarily a disappointment, but an intensity is missing that fueled Audioslave's earlier hits like Cochise.
The newer sound should not scare off steadfast Audioslave fans, and when the CD is at it's funkiest, it actually hits it's peak. But while the musical talents of vocalist Chris Cornell, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk are very much present on the latest CD, the songwriting on many of the tracks still lack the same diversity of their collective former bands. While there are moments of genius on Revelations (take a listen to the guitar solo on Original Fire, which sounds like the instrument is laughing up a storm), there are still some unoriginal and monotonous points along the way.
The best song on Revelations is One And The Same, a funky track that is highlighted by Morello's wah pedal and recalls some of the most memorable riffs from back in the RATM days. What cannot be denied is the mesmerizing ability of Morello -- as usual. In this case, Morello begins with his trademark wah, but then pulls out a clean relatively distortion-free guitar solo that features brilliant runs. The beautiful contrast between the funky chorus/verse and the straightforward solo, along with just all-around good songwriting makes One And The Same instantly memorable.
A weak point in many Audioslave songs is the tendency to get repetitive. On Revelations, this problem area is most evident in the choruses. Even with clever rhythmic backing, when you hear the song title repeated incessantly it can get rather annoying. In songs like Sound Of A Gun and Jewel Of The Summertime, Cornell gets a little bit carried away with relaying the song titles and the tunes immediately become trite. If the band get as creative on the choruses as the solos, Audioslave could enter a whole new phase in their career.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics are often the reason why the songs start to falter on Revelations. While the verses might start off promisingly enough, the choruses tend to revert back to a monotonous pattern that is just hard to ignore.
An example of the trend is in the song Somedays, which begins with interesting lyrical images that have a political feel to them. Cornell sings, Where they make the oil and street; Is where you stand and where you sleep; Black and whites along the lights; Plain clothes and Miranda Rights. But the unique thoughts take a turn for the mundane in the chorus. Cornell goes on to sing, Somedays, somedays, somedays (Somedays); Just ain't so easy; Somedays, somedays, somedays (Somedays); somedays (Somedays); Just ain't so easy. There are just so many times you can hear the chorus before you forget all about any of the original lyrics in the verse.
To be fair, the CD does have some songs that do stray from the repetitive format and are successful in doing so. In Revelations, Cornell offers a plea to find out what someone knows about his life. He sings, I am haunted when I am sleeping; Try to give without receiving; It's in the apple bite; It's in the days and nights; In the afterlife we'll reap. The lyrics are quite strong on the title track, making the music that accompanies it even stronger.
Overall Impression — 8
Audioslave is a band full of tremendous ability, and listening to the new ideas that Tom Morello comes up with on the guitar is always a worthwhile experience. Whether the man is toggling between two pickups or using a wah pedal to tackle to enhance the rhythm-and-blues feel of Revelations, Morello always adds a creative shot in the arm. While that creativity can indeed be heard many times on the latest CD, the band's songwriting as a whole is not completely satisfying this time around.
The band still has a few very well-written tracks, and those are actually the ones where a purer funk sound -- without the metal twist -- is in motion. The main problem is that the band can get in a monotonous slump at times, and a talented group of musicians like Audioslave are capable of a lot more. While Revelations does have it's imperfections, it still is an amazing listen for Cornell's stronger-than-ever vocals and those instances of genius that Morello makes look so easy.