Rage Against the Machine is an American rap metal band formed in 1991. The band consisted of Zack de la Rocha (vocalist), Tim Commerford (bassist/back-up vocalist), Tom Morello (guitarist), and Brad Wilk (drummer).
The band would find mainstream success with their debut album Rage Against the Machine, which subsequently went triple-platinum – the album was driven by the heavy, vocally simplistically ‘Killing in the Name’, which received widespread radio play in the USA.
Driven by leftist political views, the cover featured Malcolm Browne’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc burning himself to death protesting the persecution of buddhists by the Southern Vietnamese government.
“I wanted to think of something metaphorically that would describe my frustrations toward America, toward this capitalist system and how it has enslaved and exploited and created a very unjust situation for a lot of people” – Zack de la Rocha
This album is one of the only albums I’ve heard that successfully manages to meld rap and rock together in a way that makes you forget the genres really shouldn’t be able to be mixed. The thing that manages to tie them together is the fact the band has such good synergy and chemistry, and above all, supreme talent.
Morello is an innovator, and despite all the heavy criticism (heck, I was one of said criticizers), he does things with his guitar that people should not be able to do. You name it, he can do it – complex and catchy riffs, controlled feedback, electronic noises, fantastic use of the whammy effect, and so much more. What’s more, he doesn’t throw these in just because he can, he manages to fit them within the structure of the songs. In a field of many trying guitarists, Morello went above and beyond with his innovation, notably in the opening track, ‘Bombtrack’:
De la Rocha as well, though definitely the most gifted vocalist to grace the stages of the world, has fantastic skills and imbues all the songs with a fierceness that represents passion – but he does not go completely over the top with constant screaming. He touches upon many topics throughout the album, ranging from the life of Malcolm X to the South African apartheid, and though he may not spout deep philosophy-based political knowledge during the album, he offers insight into some issues that people may not have heard about. His anger and political ideologies show best in the closing moments on the closer ‘Freedom’, which I believe is the best track on the album:
Commerford and Wilk provide a great backing partnership to the album, and Wilk in particular puts the driving force behind de la Rocha’s vocals and Morello’s guitar – the drums are really what add the head-rocking feeling to the entire album, and his control on the kit is very good. The bass-pedal use is what really strikes me, and though I usually don’t like double bass-pedal driven rock music, here it keeps the songs in line and is not overused – and of course, the cowbells ring throughout the whole album, something you don’t hear very often in music. Commerford has some technical skill also, and often adds funk and hip-hop influence to his playing. However, he is obviously not the focus of the songs and often follows Morello’s playing.
The song ‘Bullet in the Head’ really shows the bands talent in all, perfectly displaying Morello’s skill with Commerford and Wilk backing, and of course de la Rocha’s vocals:
If you want to get charged up, this is the album you listen to.
This article was written by Mo Hafeez
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