Sound — 10
This wasn't the first Rage album I ever heard, having arrived on the bandwagon quite late with the Battle of Los Angeles, but I got this as soon as possible, after hearing "Killing In The Name". And I was absolutely blown away by the raw power when that intro riff to "Bombtrack" just explodes into an intense guitar line. It had so much intensity that was lacking on the Battle Of Los Angeles, and I had no idea what RATM were capable of. After buying all their albums, this is definitely the best in terms of sound and power. Tom Morello and Tim Commerford play extremely simple riffs, but these two are the only two in the world who can make easy riffs sound amazing. There is less exposure of Morello's ingenuity and originality in soloing on a guitar(solos like those in "Bulls On Parade" and "Wind Below" notably missing), but that does not subtract from the album. Sometimes those insane, non-guitar sounding solos can get slightly annoying, but really they are brilliant. "Wake Up" is really the only example of this type of solo on this album. Commerford has his career highlights elsewhere, because for most of the album he mimics Morello's guitar. I'd prefer to hear Commerford go his own way on these songs, like he did on Evil Empire, and his playing in Audioslave. Brad Wilk also would go on to have better albums with RATM, his drumming much improving and becoming a real part of the music, as opposed to being in the background. But even his simplest beats really add to these songs somehow. The sound of this album is incredible. You can tell these guys really love what they're doing, it shows up very well.
Lyrics — 8
Zack's lyrics are extremely blunt and to the point. They really are inspiring at times, for example "Settle For Nothing". However, soon they become pretty predictable, and reptitive. Again he would go on to write better things, but what the man writes is what he thinks and feels, and he deserves a huge amount of respect for that.
Overall Impression — 10
The highlights of this album(it's so hard to narrow it down) are "Bombtrack", "Killing In The Name", "Settle For Nothing", "Bullet In the Head", and "Freedom". What I love about this album is the atmosphere and tension the group can collectively make. The bridge in "Township Rebellion" is incredible. Zack whispers his lyrics, and palm muted riffs from both guitarists in the background, which slowly builds to an obnoxious explosion of flange effects and Zack screaming his lungs out. It really is emphatic. I would have preffered to hear a few darker songs on this, but overall this album is stunning. Morello really is a brilliant guitarist. RATM would go on to make more creative albums, but this is the pinnacle of their career.