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Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine

1992

Rap and metal share a lot of things in common.  They're both fringe genres of music, shunned by the mainstream (at least rap was back in the day), and as a result they typically attract the outcasts of society, the F-the-world crowd.  And they're both usually confrontational or hostile in tone for the most part.  So what happens when you combine the two?  As you might expect, it's quite a combustible combination, as Rage Against the Machine's self-titled debut album showcases very well.  Rap-metal had technically been done before, but not ever like this.  There are a number of impressive key ingredients at work here, most apparent being Zack De La Rocha's fiery rapping style.  The dude was beyond pissed-off, spitting out leftist rants against modern-day American complacency, the military, social injustice, etc.  He delivers his message with such passion and urgency, it's hard not to get caught up in it all and start rioting in the streets (or in the pit).  But perhaps more impressive is the lock-step rhythm of the band, which use their instruments to replicate the sounds of rap and hip-hop (along with punk-rock, heavy-metal, etc).  Lead guitarist Tom Morello really revolutionized the instrument with his unique playing style, although that at times can be overshadowed by De La Rocha's cathartic delivery.  When the two are combined, the results are epically combustible ("Killing In The Name", "Freedom" for example).  Yes when Zack De La Rocha and company build up to a climax in a song, the payoff is always epic, creating the type of cathartic slamdancable mayhem that traditional heavy-metal could have no hope of replicating.  The energy and the intensity of these songs are palpable, cementing Rage Against the Machine's legacy as one of the most important and influential heavy bands of all-time.  Their debut stands out as their most impressive, cohesive, and urgent sounding album.  Simply put: it's their best.  A classic.

9.1

Evil Empire

Rage Against the Machine

1996

RATM's 2nd album came 4 years after the release of their classic self-titled debut, which was certainly a tough act to follow.  And while EE is not overall in the same league with their debut, it's a pretty damn strong album on its accord.  This album has a more abrasive, hip-hop influenced sound to it.  It's a bit more stripped-down, relying more on blunt force and aggression to get it's point across.  It's has a rawer sound and vibe to it, with more of a menacing hip-hop attitude and swagger as well.  There's nothing here as epic as the best tracks on their debut, and there's less variety to the songs here, but EE is a pretty badass album in its own right.

8.6

The Battle of Los Angeles

Rage Against the Machine

1999

You have to admire RATM quitting while they were ahead, as their final album finds the band really at the top of their game.  Granted, it would have been practically impossible for them to ever make an album as profound, epic, and ground-breaking as their debut, but BOLA is probably their most well-rounded, rock-centric album in their catalog.  Whereas Evil Empire was raw, confrontational, and somewhat bleak, BOLA sounds more accessible, catchy, less menacing, and dare I say more radio-friendly by comparison.  Mind you, this is RATM we're talking about, so it's still intelligent and edgy, but it sounds slightly less abraisive and pissed off relatively speaking.  It's a more mature record basically, it sounds smoother, and the band generally sounds more seasoned.  That said, Tom Morello is still experimenting here and provides some of his most creative and rad guitar solos of his career on BOLA, really showcasing why he was one of the most groundbreaking and innovative guitarists of his generation.  So overall, BOLA is a borderline great album, and a fantastic swan-song from one of the best and engaging bands of the 90s.

8.7

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