Audioslave

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Audioslave

(Epic)

Considering the Van Hagar-sized disaster that could've occurred here, this monsters-of-alt-rock hybrid acquits itself surprisingly well. It's no Back in Black, but neither does Audioslave resume the wheel spinning that stalled both Soundgarden, and to a lesser extent, Rage Against the Machine in their sunset years. This "debut" is surprisingly nimble, but mostly it's exactly what everyone expected: Chris Cornell blowing out his trachea over a familiar "Killing in the Name" liquid grind. This is a good thing, particularly on the blistering "Gasoline" and opening war cry "Cochise"; as bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk steamroll everything in their path, Cornell's leather-lined lungs bring the pain. Mr. Black Hole Sun is still preoccupied with his tornado-chasing superego (what does "I am a forest" even mean?), but in Tom Morello he may have found an even better foil than SG destroyer Kim Thayil. The Harvard-educated guitarist can still set it off with the best of them (see, er, "Set It Off"), but on "Like a Stone" and "I Am the Highway," he reaches a new level of introspection, unleashing sheets of sound much closer to Radiohead than Rage. In swapping pro-Marxist rants for Jesus Christ poses, Audioslave gives commercial hard rock a much-needed kick in the ass. If only their name didn't sound vaguely connected to S&M.

***

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