213 of 224 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2002
Someone once confessed their envy of Jimmy Page because he'd written *all* the good guitar riffs, leaving nothing for the rest of us. Well, Rage Against The Machine appears to have stumbled on Jimmy's secret stash of leftovers. But calling these riffs leftovers is doing them an injustice. Each is a behemoth of intensity and groove, while being surprisingly simple and eminently catchy. They form a solid foundation for each song, easily allowing the rest of the band to fall into lock-step formation when needed, but also allowing ample room for variation. And each song is made up of at least four or five of them, all as strong as the first, to create epic five-minute-plus "agit-pop" tunes.
When he's not anchoring the band with those regal riffs, Tom Morello is coaxing previously unheard of sounds from his Frankenstein guitar. "No samples, keyboards or synthesizers used in the making of this recording," claims the liner notes, and it's for Morello's offbeat work that this claim becomes necessary. Every fill and solo is unique, almost anti-guitar, in their sound. 'Bullet in the Head's solo begins with some echo-filled, mechanical sounding distortion. The solo on 'Know Your Enemy' could have been produced by a malfunctioning tape machine. 'Wake-Up' features a solo bathed in extreme echo and Frampton-style talk-boxing. Even his more conventional solos are enormous. 'Settle for Nothing' offers up some some languid jazz lines. 'Freedom' is a fine example of how tasty his playing can be when it's not trying to overwhelm you. And if you love Public Enemy-style sirens with your hip-hop, check out the variations Morello puts on that convention scattered throughout the album (most notably in his rhythm work on 'Fistful of Steel').
Bassist Timmy C gets several moments to shine as well. He slaps and pops the addictive intro to "Take the Power Back". Then, a lazy, loping 4-note theme serves as the delicate opening to "Settle for Nothing", before the heavens cave in ("Death is on my side... Suicide!"). On "Bullet in the Head", he provides a 7-note riff that's funky and confrontational (4-notes... 7-notes... See what I mean about simple and intense?).
Drummer Brad Wilk combines the skin-pounding intensity of a Dave Grohl, with the Caucasian funkiness of the Chili Peppers Chad Smith, and the hardcore speed of Faith No More's Mike Bordin. He is much more versatile than you'd think, sprightly riding the high-hat in one verse, crashing the cymbals in the next, and then shimmering through with a snare roll. Wilk's work on this album, to this day, is my favourite to air-drum to.
Frontman Zack de la Rocha may be focused (obsessed?) with social and racial injustice, so much so that those without his same political bent may feel excluded. But he's also aware enough of the power of a catchy rhyme to draw in those not in the choir, that he lays them out end to end through out the album ("Another funky radical bombtrack started as a sketch in my notebook / But now dope hooks make punks take another look" he raps on 'Bombtrack', essentially making this point for me). Zack raps with such passion and verve, and he has such a talent for succinct sloganeering, that he becomes the perfect frontman for this band of agitproppers. Witness his lyrics to 'Killing in the Name' (still my favourite track). The song starts with a distorted, almost Wagnerian, guitar overture. It settles into a quiet bass-guitar and cowbell section duet. And then the riff comes in. Finally, Zack begins to chant. And chant. And chant. He doesn't attempt to tell a story here, but instead just spouts slogan after slogan ("Now you do what they told ya", "F--- you I won't do what you tell me", etc.), repeating each over and over. It's the perfect song for a rowdy group of teenage boys to scream to. Which I suppose explains its enduring popularity.
I've owned this album since 1992, when I was 17 years old. That year, I saw the Rage boys live in concert twice, and could have gone back for more. If a CD could show wear, like an old LP could, then I would have worn this one out by 1993. It rarely left my stereo that first year. Now, usually when one's love affair with an album burns so brightly at the outset, it's liable to fade quickly. That's hasn't happened yet here. I can still play this one all the way through, two or three times a day, for a solid week. And it still makes me want to move, and yell, and scream, and think. Now *that* is staying power.
55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2005
Rage Against the Machine were definitely one of the best bands from the 1990s, and their debut remains their strongest effort. When RATM made it big in the early 90s, they were a breath of fresh air. They borrowed sounds and styles from other bands, like the MC5 and Led Zeppelin, but were also distinctly groundbreaking and original.
First and foremost, they were just such a killer band. Drummer Brad Wilk and bass player Timmy G were an exciting and dynamic rhythm section. Guitarist Tom Morello came up with some of rock's best riffs and solos in years. Singer Zack De La Rocha singing/rapping was intense and urgent, and his lyrics were intelligent and insightful, yet never simplistic or pretentious. The lyrics will make you think, will make you question your life and your values, and societal values and norms. The band sounds raw and intense, yet the production is clean and crisp, so it's easily assessable.
Rage Against the Machine is band that should appeal to all different types of people. There's definitely an element of rap/hip-hop, punk, as well as classic rock. This album never lets up. From the opening "Bombtrack" to the closing "Freedom," every song is intense, and has an infectious groove and catchy riff. It's really impossible to choose any standout, because really the entire CD is quite excellent.
Rage Against the Machine's other two albums "Evil Empire," "The Battle For Los Angeles," and the cover album "Renagades" are also quite good, but I'd start off with the classic debut. Easily their best album and one of the decade's best CDs.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2002
This is, and always will be, considered Rage Against the Machine's most important work. Rage's signature sound, featuring Tom Morello's belligerent, aggressive guitar riffs and turntable-esque noise, Tim Bob's funky bass, and Zack de la Rocha's vitriolic raps, is fully defined on this album. Their two subsequent albums, although excellent in their own right, do little to improve upon their debut's formula. Unlike most great bands, Rage was fully grown even in its infancy, and was signed after doing only 10 power-packed shows in Los Angeles. Although they presented fresh, worthy material, there was little room for improvement to the band's style, and very little experimentation would have been possible without fundamentally altering the band's sound. This album, therefore, not only has the advantage of being their first album, but it also has the most start to finish quality. Every tune is a highly explosive ball of energy, none of which is clearly superior to any of the others.
Rage Against the Machine also plays the most successful rock-rap fusion ever put on tape. In the current rap-metal feeding frenzy, most bands have opted to mimic Korn (the other band whose work is often referred to as the most representative rap-rock fusion), who rarely sounds anything like rap, although their massive beats are infused with a rap-inspired appreciation for the visceral primacy of rhythm and sound. Also, unlike bands like Limp Bizkit and Incubus, Rage Against the Machine do not cop-out by including a DJ. You may not believe it when you listen to it, but all of the turntable-esque noises that accompany Zack's raps are created by Tom Morello's deft manipulation of his instrument (this information is prominently displayed in all of their albums). Also, Zack almost always raps and very rarely sings, and his street-smart and politically aware lyrics come closer to convincing hip-hop subject matter than anything other bands have written. Other bands have missed the fact that rhymes, lyrics, and credibility are more fundamental to rap than its sonics (although rap's "beat" is arguably more important to its white audience - the primary demographic for rap-rock). Limp Bizkit have incorporated mainstream rap's overconfident swagger, and this may sell albums, but its flaky, commerical character makes its impact on rap-rock's legitimacy as a subgenre marginal compared to Rage's. Therefore, Rage have successfully fused what is essential about both rock and rap into a unique form that is worthy of the title "fusion," and their work is probably respected by musicians of both genres more equally than any other band who has attempted this risky enterprise. That Rage organized a tour with Wu-Tang for a brief period is suggestive of this (note: Durst's guest appearances on his albums were probably more indicative of the size of his band's pocket book than genuine artistic respect. And Korn's alliance with Ice Cube. . . let's not even go there).
Unfortunately, this incarnation of Rage only made 3 albums, due to Zack's departure from the band. Whether this was motivated by egoistic hubris, a desire to leave no trace of "sell-out" on his band's legacy (a label that was becoming more and more appropriate by the juxtaposition of the band's huge commercial success with its anti-capitalist and anti-establishment lyrics), or something quite else, we probably won't ever know. What we do know is that Mr. de la Rocha was upset about the fact that his lyrics (the band's most important element to him) will never have as much impact as the stylistic and formal achievements this band makes on this album. Unquestionably a classic album - 5 stars, and one of the finer albums of the 90's. Future bands who successfully fuse rap and rock elements will cite this band, and this album particularly, as a primary influence.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2005
I've always been confused by the statement "anger is a gift" (a statement that Zach mutters in the album ender, "Freedom"). And even though I still don't fully understand it, I do know that without anger, there would be now Rage Against the Machine. So, anger is most definitely a gift.
In many songs, RATM frontman Zach de la Rocha goes from mad to livid, and, over the course of this whole album, he goes from livid to insane. Zach rages throughout every minute of every one of these songs. He can't sing very well, but no rock-rapper can rap or yell as well as he. As Spin magazine says: "He (could) rap like Bob Dylan (could) sing: in a way that makes you hang onto every word." Some wonder why Audioslave is almost alternative, since Zach and Co. were so heavy. I think I know the answer: because, with a singer like Zach de la Rocha, Rage Against the Machine could afford to be heavy.
Guitarist Tom Morello, a true virtuoso, sounds equally as pissed. This album captures Tom in his prime; he shreds his fret board with preciseness, intensity, and (what sounds like) much ease. His chunky riffs, tasty solos, and all around crazy sounds show that there's almost nothing he can't do with his instrument.
But sounding mad is pointless, unless you have something to be peeved about. The lyrics are very inspired, yet thought provoking and uplifting-encouraging the listener to take political action. Zach makes Rage Against the Machine much more than just a loud rock band. Also thanks to Zach's words, 13 years after this album's release, it's still as powerful and relevant as it ever was. Make no mistake, Rage are activists; their words are often blatantly anti-American. But they mean well: they aren't against everything having to do with America. The songs are mainly about war, corruption in America, capitalism/poverty, racism, and censorship.
This group was one of the first--if not THE first--bands of the 1990's with the guts to take on the government. But Rage's self-titled debut is both lyrically and musically revolutionary. Run-DMC and Aerosmith may have been the group that gave birth to rap-rock, but Rage (and Biohazard) are equally as responsible for creating rap-metal/rapcore. But this group, unlike most nu-metal, also combines funk into their intense rap-rock mesh.
"Bombtrack" opens with Tom lightly picking at his fret board, then a smattering of drums kicks in, and the song jumps in volume. Tom changes his playing to stop-start riffs, Zach lets out a grunt ("Uh!"), then his patented (now famous) rapping begins (and runs throughout the whole song, except for the end when he lets out a yell.)
-Best lyric: "See through the news and views that twist reality."
"Killing in the Name" is incredible. It features a galloping beat and the thumping choruses are super catchy. If you've only heard this song on the radio, you're missing out on the best part, because this song is most well known for the end: after a careening guitar solo, Zach lets out an repeating/ascending, spittle-flecked exclamation of "F--- you, I won't do what you tell me!" This one must be a concert favorite (with Zach getting noticeably more upset before becoming almost uncontrolled); I know it's a personal favorite.
-Best lyric: "Some of those that wear forces...are the same that burn crosses."
Tracks three and four feature something that's very rarely found on an RATM record: melody. The former, "Take the Power Back," has a slow, drawn out beginning, until Zach yells "Bring that s--- in!" This song has beeping guitars, more rapping, and another good guitar solo. So where does the melody come in? Well, it comes down around the 4:25 mark, with light drum tapping and distant guitar strumming. The song ends, however, with another grunt, and a shout-chant of "Take it back, ya'll!"
-Best lyric: "Motha f--- Uncle Sam!"
"Know Your Enemy" features a cameo by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan. The beeping, occasionally twangy sounding guitars kick into high gear with fast, propulsive riffing. Maynard lets out a Tool-esque yell of: "The time...has...come...to pay!" Following one of the choruses, there's another genius guitar solo. This one, which was completely unexpected, has several parts to it and lasts over 25 seconds. Another famous ending is included, part of which is a capella (Zach yelling: "All of which are American dreams!")
-Best lyric: "Word is born. Fight the war, f--- the norm!"
"Wake Up" is another personal favorite. Its rapping is so swift and catchy, it's probably the best song on here that showcases Zach's ability. This isn't a song you're going to see on an Eminem record, however. Even though, throughout most of the rap, Tom's making hip-hop sound effects, this song does have some instrument feedback and the choruses are instrumental. Plus, it ends with eight long, visceral yells of "Wake up!," and another short but sweet solo.
-Best lyric: "You know they murdered X, and tried to blame it on Islam."
"Freedom" is dedicated to Mumia Abu Jamal. The beginning has another grunt, making it sound like a punch in the gut. Even though Tom, Tim, and Brad make the instruments "swing like a wrecking ball," this song was clearly written for Zach's vocals and lyrics to run wild. I enjoy how this song's choruses build, then pause, Zach has a spoken word part, then the song explodes again.
-Best lyric: "Anger is a gift."
Rage Against the Machine were the first group to introduce me to heavy rock. Thus, even though I have branched out to many different (and usually much heavier) metal bands, this band will always have a place in my heart. It brings back a lot of nostalgia when I listen to this album, and I think most other people will have similar results.
To conclude, this is still a wonderful and powerful album, even after all this time. You'd be hard pressed to find an album that is more revolutionary, influential, original, genuinely intense, inspired, and inspirational. Remember, it's fine to enjoy this just for its music, since the musicianship is superb; but keep in mind there's more to this disc than what initially meets the ear. I'm not saying there's truth to all of Zach's lyrics, but I encourage you to read and think about them; then you can decide if they're true or not.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2000
Rage's self-titled debut is one of the most signifigant metal albums at the 90's beacause of it's crossover potential. Metal bands like Faith No More had rap elements in their music but this album is the final mixture of rap and heavy metal. But that is not the only reason why this album is bloody great. Tom Morellos unique guitar-playing and Zack De La Rochas angry punk-influenced rapping is the thing that makes Rage sound so fantastic. Band's sense of dynamics is also amazing, thanks to Brad Wilk and Timmy C. This record swings and rocks and sometimes blows up to my face letting me wanting to hear and see this band live.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2002
The flawless combination of Zack de la Rocha's raging, politically-charged hip hop lyrics, Tom Morello's ingenious guitar techniques and riffs, and the backup of Timmy C. on bass and Brad Wilks on drums, is one that should never be underestimated. Each and every track on this album is a perfect combination of these elements, there are no fillers whatsoever. It seems nearly impossible to describe a similar band, although I like to think of Rage as an angry Chuck D. meets a modern Led Zeplin. Zack's amazing rhymes will incourage every listener to educate themselves about political issues and social injustices in the world. This is a rare trait in rock music today; the majority of lyrics consisting of the rantings and ravings of
high, high school drop-outs, of course well thought out lyrics are to be expected from a band whose guitarist is a Harvard grad and the son of a United Nations delegate. I strongly recommend this album to fans of rap and rock alike, everyone can get something out of Rage's music. I also recommend picking up a copy of Rage's other albums including 'Evil Empire', 'Live & Rare', and some of their newer albums.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2006
Whoever it was in the review that said that rage sounds like everything else is clearly retarded. These guys defied almost every musical convention that was set when this album was released. They created a genre of music. This album is on par or better than Led Zepplin IV, The Wall, or Back in Black, etc. Rage is one of the best acts in rock history. This is the CD that made me love rock music again. If you dont like the rap at first just listen to it.It grows on you and you realize that it makes absolute musical sense. This album is truely perfect. I have been listening to it for the past year almost every day and it still amazes me. If you consider yourself a fan of rock or a fan of music. Buy this album.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2000
This is probably the best cd I own (and I own many cd's) It just doesn't get old. I have listened to it a million times and each time I notice something I didn't before. It's better than Evil Empire and Battle Of L.A put together.( Then again I hated Battle) Tom Morello(Rage's guitarist) is without a doubt the best guitarist of the 90's and he's the main reason I picked up guitar. People compare them to bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit and that's embarrassing so if you read something somewhere that puts RATM and Korn, LB, etc.. in the same category and you think "well I hate Korn" so you think they must sound similiar since they're grouped together ,it doesn't matter, get this cd anyway. Rage sounds nothing like the bands mentioned. Rage started "rap-core", these other bands just brought a bad name to it. Rock on
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2005
Rage Against the Machine's self-titled, debut album was the definitive rock album of the 1990s and, more than any other album from its time, has influenced the mainstream rock genre as it flows through the airwaves today. Although Rage's influence on the evolution of rock music has generally been overlooked and understated by critics, if one were to analyze the current state of rock music, he/she would be hard pressed to argue that it could still be what it is today without Rage.
Rage spawned the rap/rock revolution (for better or worse), infused rock music with intelligent social and political commentary at a time when the genre was severely lacking it, and helped rock music evolve to its current state. Listen to the entire album once, all the way through, and you will see why. An amazing band, with amazing musicianship, lyricism, and insight, Rage should go down in history as one of the most influential rock bands of its generation, although it seems as though the scope of its influence may always be overshadowed by other deserving bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Regardless, what's most important is that the music will always be there for us to enjoy, and the music can never lie.
Trust me and the others who have taken the time to express their opinions on this album -- if you are a true fan of rock music, you owe it to yourself to own this album.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2004
RATM has the right as american citizens to express their opinion about whatever the crap they want. Like you and I, they and we have the right to replace our government as a people if we as a people feel that in any situation our govt. has become corrupt or otherwise insufficient. Just because they sing and talk about some of the things that strike a nerve in you, that is no reason for you to lash out and attack a group of musicians who are simply expressing their right to voice their opinion about our government, or whatever political opinion they have. how would you feel about someone making judgement on your right to express your opinion, because I just have, and it is my constitutional right to do so. So in the future, just keep your criticisims and judgements to your self, and think about exactly what you're saying, and how it actually applies to the topic/situation you're discussing. Because you are more or less doing, in a very inadiquate way minus the jammin' music and eloquent verse of one Zach de la Rocha and Co., what ratm have done to establish themselves as front runners in the alternative music scene.