Review Summary: Who controls the past now, who controls the future?
The Battle of Los Angeles is the third album from political rockers Rage Against The Machine, and to me it is the most underrated of all their works. Tensions within the band would ultimately lead to a break up, and this was an apparently sour note for the group to go out on for some (Renegades was a cover album). The album features all the staples of what makes a good RATM album, explosive riffs like a hand grenade, downright funky rhythms and some venemous raps spat by frontman Zack De La Rocha.
The unique thing about Rage Against The Machines sound is that it seems more influenced by hip-hop at times then the Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin throwbacks that the chops of guitarist Tom Morello might have you believe, he uses guitar effects to colour their sound wonderfully. It gives RATM a unique soul, as a guitarist he seems to get hated on for not being technical, but i'm a firm believer in the less is more approach to guitar playing and the important thing is the way he shades
their sound rather then how many fast notes he can play in a certain scale. It gives the group a vibrant, larger then life sound, which is aggressive and passionate and considering the themes of the lyrics this is a must.
Opening track Testify builds up from an effects laden guitar drone, to a riff that perhaps one of the best they have written. The lyric "Who controls the past now, who controls the future" sends chills down my spine. Everyone knows Guerilla Radio, perhaps the groups signature tune when Killing In The Name Of is on holiday the tremelo flavoured riff at the beginning is tasty. It is a thorough attack on capitalism, the liberal views of the group shining. Calm Like A Bomb is something different, the bass solo at the beginning is a peppery thing which bombs into the sliding riffs of the verse. "I am the native son, born of Zapata's guns". More passionate lyrics, in particular the end is incredible, "If there's a right to obey/then there's a right to kill".
Mic Check is awesome, the band actually seems to be having fun for once, the echo flavoured percussion and riffs are tasty. Sleep Now In The Fire was the other big song off the album, another riff rocker that attacks capitalism but there one has some swirling intensity in the verses, which builds up anticipation. Born Of A Broken Man is a favourite, featuring a melancholic, deeply sad riff at the beginning it is perhaps one of the most brutal and dark songs the band has ever made as Zack sings apparently sings about a man with metal illness. We walked across the street where, Jesus stripped bare, and raped the spirit he was supposed to nurture
is perhaps the most spinechilling moment lyrically on the album.
After this the album falters a bit, Born as Ghosts, Maria, Voice of the Voiceless and New Millennium Homes and Ashes in the Fall suffer the whole "more of the same" vibe most bands eventually fall into despite Ashes In The Fall having a really unique riff at the beginning. War Within A Breath is the last great song on the album, crushing riffs and agressive vocals spur it on.
Overall The Battle of Los Angeles is incredibly underrated, it is not the best album Rage Against The Machine put out (that would be their self titled) but this is really good stuff.