Sound — 10
The self-titled debut album, which was released by Rage in '94, was - I believe - their best album to date. The sound on this album is very original, this comes down to three main reasons: the lyrics, the lead guitar, and the bass. The lyrics will be covered later but the two others are crucial to the Rage sound. The most important is the bass line,which normally follows the guitar, playing note riffs. The bass adds gallons of power to the sound which has then provided us with the rage style. Even when the bass differs from the guitar the bass lines are hardly droning, driving sounds; they spruce up the sound - for example in the verse of "Take the Power Back", and the chilling bass line in "Settle for Nothing". Tim Crommerford (Bassist) and Tom Morello (Guitarist) have developed a very original sound when working together on the main riffs and this is shown in their debut. As a compliment to this cracking riffs the solos are simply stupendous - not the biggest shred solos ever (but check "Know Your Enemy") but complex and, as with most of Rage's sounds, immensely original. The subtle but brilliant solo in "Settle for Nothing", the dentist drill solo in "Killing In The Name", the ridiculously random solo in "Wake Up", the harmonized solo in "Township rebellion", the selector switch solo in "Bullet In The Head" ... you get the picture. However, these original solos are necessary, as with only one guitarist there is limited scope for melodies outside of the riff to embellish the song in a different way and change the flavour like a middle eight would, and just nailing riffs onto each other would get a bit tedious. This would be the same with the solos had they not sounded so strikingly original - pentatonic, dry sounding solos would have got very boring had they only got a bass riff behind them.
The drums, although not very complex did provide a good basis to lay the guitars on top but sometimes you did wish for more in that department. Overall the sound is unconventional, pretty daring and very full given the fact that there is only one guitar and bass to support it. The drums worked well with the music but could have produced some fancier fills etc. and another guitar may have provided more power but that would have given us a completely different band. Overall, a fabulous collection of music.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are - to Rage themselves at least - the key part in all the songs. It is quite obvious from the very beginning that Zack de la Rocha (vocalist) is making a stand. He is doing this in the rawest way possible - rapping. Normally rapping is very relaxed and droning and it is for this reason I dislike it - there is no enthusiasm and little emotion. With Zack this is different - he shouts, he screams and he whispers through gritted teeth. This adds a whole new perspective to rapping. In addition to this, the fusion between rapping and metal, taken from bands like Anthrax and some RUN DMC, gives a fresh edge to rapping that is often neglected. And this, as I keep mentioning, is another factor in RATM's sound. However, there are downsides to the lyrics. There are some people who dislike rapping in whatever form and in their minds this will seriously detract from the excellent music going on beneath the vocals. In addition, the impossibility for Zack to abstain from swearing due to his internal necessity to express his emotions on the political issues that he is trying to impregnate into this musical society. This will in turn decrease once more, the musical society that listens to his music. Yet I doubt RATM would have it any other way and after listening to the album just once you are likely to understand that Rage are one of those bands that will not compromise to suit a commercial target market.
Overall Impression — 10
This album is one of the best rock metal albums ever. Not only for the awesome, original music but for the lyrics and the way in which music was first made and used - to tell a story. This album suits anyone who likes the music and can accept Zacks rapping over the top - which is easier than is sounds even if you don't like rap. Also people that play guitar drawn to this album for the music or the skills. This album is a must for my collection and if people ask about my music collection, I make a note of name dropping this beauty. This album also contains the song that - I think - typifies Rage: "Killing in the Name". The verse repeats Zack's political stand point, the solo is killer, the (bass/guitar) riff is all powerful, the change in the tempo - from the superb intro to the verse and from the verse to chorus - shows the way they will contort a song to change the mood where they feel appropriate. The one line in that song that is repeated in abundance would also be the line I chose to typify Rage; "F**k you, I won't do what you tell me" - being yelled over pounding guitars and drums after an explosive crescendo of instruments and vocals shows that rage are non-comformist and utterly brilliant - and this album proves that. (Beddo)