Review Summary: RATM once again thrills with another masterpiece of crazed guitar work and anti-political madness.
Ever since discovering Rage's self titled debut, I've been hooked on the infectious, chaotic guitar work of Tom Morello; the angry, f**k the government rants of Zack de la Rocha and the superb rhythm section of bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk. Evil Empire
was a bit of a slump after everyone got slammed in the face on the self titled by such tunes as "Killing in the Name", "Bombtrack" and "Know Your Enemy". The work of Tom Morello was simply amazing and his inventive solos were as unorthodox and original as anything released at the time. Granted, Evil Empire
did have some amazing tracks like "Bulls On Parade" and "Vietnow", but it seemed to lack some of the consistency that the self titled had. In late 1999, they then released The Battle of Los Angeles
...and what a release it was...
As soon as the lead track,"Testify", hits the speakers, the tension begins to build. A gradual crescendo on the snare by Wilk, which then explodes into a heavy, jump-like-you've-never-jumped-before riff. Then, de la Rocha comes in with his rapping. The riff appears again during the chorus with Zack screaming "TESTIFY, It's right outside your door". Following that is a solo inundated with the wah-wah pedal and finally another energetic chorus. By the end, the true power of RATM has really hit you in between the eyes. Guerilla Radio features more outstanding guitar work and rapping by Zack. "Lights Out! Guerilla Radio! Turn that sh*t up", screams Zack during the chorus, which is very mosh-worthy and gets you jumping like no other. The solo sounds like Tom is playing a harmonica. The song ends on a heavy note. The next four songs are classic Rage. "Calm Like a Bomb" and "Mic Check" both have very original guitar work and excellent lyrics from Zack. "Sleep Now In the Fire" and "Born of a Broken Man" are both very heavy and will get you moving. The latter's main riff is headbanginglicious. Tracks 7 through 11 are not as spectacular as the opening few, with not as many noteworthy moments. "Maria", however, is an excellent example of just how imaginative Tom Morello can be with the guitar. Finally, 'War Within a Breath" closes out the album. Possibly the heaviest song on the album (either this or "Born of a Broken Man"), another one of Rage's "jump as high as you can" riffs saturate this song. When I listen to it, I can't help but start to headbang furiously. It just has an effect on you like no other. Contagious rhythms and shout-along vocals are what Rage is all about. For the majority of this album, they capture and pound out that formula to near perfection.
Tom Morello adds about as many outlandish effects to this album as he possibly can, to great effect. "Mic Check", "Calm Like a Bomb" and "Maria" all have a ton of insane variations to what a guitar normally sounds like. The wizardry of Morello comes out on every song and will get you wondering "What the hell is he doing", nearly all the time (in a good way of course). The screeches and moans his guitar puts out are nothing short of mindblowing at times. Spectacular creativity is what Tom Morello is about and it is out in full form on this album.
Zack delivers his usual performance, with his "The higher power is garbage" mentality. Lyrics are mostly focused on his hate towards the American government, nothing new, but it is a joy to hear him unleash so much anger like this. Especially when MANY people felt the same way about the administration. Add that to the vigor of his delivery, which can, admittedly, get tedious after awhile, and you have one hell of a vocal performance. How he manages to spit out some of the lines at the speed he does is beyond me.
As always, the pair is backed up by the tight rhythm tandem of Wilk and Commerford. Wilk is a very underrated drummer and certainly gets the job done in a timely and precise manner. Once again, Commerford's bass is always clearly audible and adds that extra heaviness to the sound that many bands nowadays lack. He also adds some interesting lines as well. Overall, he is one of my favourite bassists and his funky style really adds one more punch to the Rage sound.
As a whole album, The Battle of Los Angeles
is a worthy addition to the Rage catalogue and is a must if your a fan of music that'll make you raise your fist in the air and JUMP THE HELL UP. Only a couple of tracks really prevent this album from being a 5. Highly recommended moshing material. A 4.5 is definitely deserved on this one.