Sound — 10
How do you explain an band that has incited riots, caused many spine and neck injuries, pissed off both the people and the government, and inspired many people to radically change their political beliefs? It's hard, but one band managed to do it on a massive scale: Rage Against the Machine. Many people are quick to label this band as a rap band, but if you haven't heard them play, then you shouldn't be talking. There is no genre that Rage can be placed in. The crunchy, unshakable riffs of Tom Morello, the tumbling drums of Brad Wilk, the rocky bass lines of Tim Commerford and the pissed-off, militant crazy-ass rapping of Zack de la Rocha make this album something of which you have never heard before. It's a truly unique sound, when you mix rap and hard rock/heavy metal. It's a sound that Rage Against the Machine has defined themselves with. First time you see the album artwork, you're puzzled. After a bit of research, you see that the artwork makes sense. The guy is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, setting himself on fire in protest of the president's new administration, oppressing the Buddhist religion. In a split second, you know that the artwork actually means something, because this whole album is about protesting against unjust governments and policies, exactly what Thch Quảng Đức is doing on the front of the album.
Lyrics — 10
Let me get this out of the way first: I absolutely hate rap, with every fiber of my being. But then again, his album isn't rap. Sure, Zack de la Rocha is rhyming and delivering aggressive lines, but it's in a completely different spectrum. Zack isn't rapping about getting laid at a nightclub, doing drive-bys late at night, etc. He's rapping about the corrupt government. He's rapping about the completely defunct educational system in the United States. He's rapping about imperialism. That's what makes Zack's rapping SO much more different than any other rap I've ever heard. Of course, a rapper must be articulate with what he is saying, and Zack does not make a single mistake. He is fluid and smooth with his lyrics, as he weaves in and out of the mammoth riffs laid down by the rest of the band. The lyrics are quite interesting to read and understand what they mean, too. Zack's one of the best people I know at creating metaphors. As Zack says in the opening lines of Take the Power Back, 'Yeah, the movement's in motion with mass militant poetry... ' and that's what it is, massive militant poetry. Every song has some sort of line in it that sticks in your head, and it usually makes you want to go outside and start a mass riot. That's what makes this band so great.
Overall Impression — 10
I'll lay this down, song by song: 01.Bombtrack: a somewhat quiet intro riff, and then the rest of the band drops in as hugely as possible. Zack does the lyrics over a bendy riff and the chorus is one hell of a sound explosion. 02.Killing In The Name: everyone knows this song, thanks to the last 16 of 'Fuck you I won't do what you tell me!' But really, this song is one of the most intense I've ever heard in my life. It's got some of the greatest breakdowns, and the riff after the breakdown doesn't hold any punches either. 03.Take The Power Back: I'm in high school and this song is about the corrupt educational system in the U.S, so obviously this song strikes a nerve with every pissed-off student in the grand ol' States. A lot of funky bass work by Tim and some sharp, piercing riffs by Tom. Brad does an excellent job on here as well. And who could forget the breakdown: "No more lies, no more lies..." 04.Settle For Nothing: quietest song on the album. Nice cymbal work by Brad, and some really creepy volume swells by Tom. Zack lays down the lyrics over some almost ambient noises by Tom. This song is my least favorite on the album, because the chorus is pretty weird, but it's still an awesome song. 05.Bullet In The Head: the definite highlight of this song is Timmy C., because of his kickass bass riffs. In most other bands, the bass is just used to lay down some deep sounds for the rest of the bands, but Rage doesn't stick to tradition. Tim's bass magnetizes you to this song, and the first time I heard Tom's solo to this song I almost shit myself. There's no words for it. Zack's just as solid as ever, as well as Brad. 06.Know Your Enemy: a great, simple intro riff with the killswitch being used in abundance. "Yeah we're coming in with another bombtrack!" Zack proclaims in the beginning, and you see he's goddamn right. Tom punches in with a very metal-like riff and the verse riff is absolutely brilliant. It ascends as Zack delivers his pissed-off militant rapping. "What? The land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy!" Almost every line in this song could be used as the slogan for a revolution. It's also got some vocals from Maynard James Keenan from Tool in the bridge. 07.Wake Up: this song was featured in the end credits of The Matrix, which automatically makes that movie badass, because this song fits perfectly. Some people say Tom 'stole' the riff from Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, just because the same chord is used. And guess what, another breakdown which makes you want to start a revolution, pronto. 08.Fistful of Steel: 0ne of the more unconvential intro riffs on the album with Tom doing who-the-hell-knows-what with his guitar, then drops into a slow, rough riff. The whole band is great on here, just like with every other song. 09.Township Rebellion: this drops in immediately with a handful of power chords, launches you through the verse and shoves you into the chorus where the monster resides. 'Why stand on a silent platform? Fight the war, fuck the norm!' This is probably the greatest chorus riff on the album, played on the 6th and 5th strings in Drop-D, and it takes no prisoners. The verse has another awesome bass line and some pretty quick rapping by Zack. Brad's drums stand out on here too, with some cowbell use on the verse. Tom's solo is the most traditional album here too. 10.Freedom: what an end to what an album. The riff explodes and rolls on, destroying everything in its way before stopping temporarily for a different riff and for Zack to deliver some rhymes, then drops back in. After 'Anger is a gift', we get to the solo and another rocking riff. There is absolutely you can get through this song without headbanging. Hell, there's no way you can get through this album without headbanging after the first couple seconds! There are only 2 other studio albums that get remotely close to this album, and they're both by Rage Against the Machine. Since this album was the first of it's genre, there is nothing to compare it to that I know of. For me, I think this album is flawless, but the only thing I didn't like at first was the rapping. Like I've said, I'm not a fan of rap, but after listening to the songs, I've begun to appreciate it. After a while, you realize that there is no other way to deliver the lyrics because of the blazing fast speed of most of the riffs. There are very few things that take a while to realize about this album. The first things that are apprarent, though, are that Rage Against the Machine as a band has quite successfully encompassed territory which no other band had even dared to take a step on, and this album is a solid slab of rock, metal and rap history, worthy of standing up with the big-time albums of each 3 genres. Rage Against the Machine has done what no other band has dared to even try, so even if you don't like the album, you still have to commend them, because you can't lie: in the end, you've been thoroughly rocked, and you still want to hear it again.