Review Summary: Rage Against the Machine's debut album is a flawless piece of work and shouldn't be missed out on.Rage Against the Machine is a very unique band. In my opinion, they flawlessly implemented rap vocals over their alternative/funk instrumentals and used it to their advantage. The anti-governmental Zach de la Rocha uses unjust policies and similar topics as lyrical themes. It’s a good change of pace from the typical love or hate filled lyrics that are commonly used nowadays. Guitar wizard Tom Morello uses many effects on the guitar to compliment the band and give it a unique sound. Tim Commerford drives the band with great bass riffs and serves as the band’s foundation. Brad Wilk is the drummer and uses a variety of alternative beats to give the band its funky groove. Each member of the band complements each other and work together to make exceptional music.
For most bands, the debut album doesn’t turn out as great as they’d want it to. This is definitely not the case for Rage Against the Machine since their debut album is a masterpiece of an album with virtually zero flaws throughout.
Now, each Rage Against the Machine album has a different sound or feel consistent in each song within the album. Evil Empire
has a funk/groove feel and The Battle of Los Angeles
focuses on Tom Morello and his guitar effects. Rage Against the Machine
is kind of a combination of the two and has a focus on heaviness and memorable riffs. That means more headbanging for you.
Time for the track-by-track analysis.
– The album begins with a great riff in both the guitar (muted) and bass which goes on for about 20 seconds, slowly grows in volume, and the main riff blasts through the speakers. The chorus in this track gets you pumped up because it features both Zach and backing vocals from Tim:
“Burn, burn, yes you’re gonna burn!
Burn, burn, yes you’re gonna burn!”
And so on. Bombtrack continues with its intensity until about three minutes in there’s a little build-up until guitar and bass are playing an edited version of the main riff and finally the chorus comes back and the song ends after that. Excellent kick-off to this incredible album. 9.7/10
Killing in the Name
– Rage Against the Machine’s most popular song. It starts with four power chords and the band stops except for the bass playing one of the most memorable riffs on the album. Soon after, Zach says “Killing in the Name of”
and another memorable riff is played by both the guitar and bass. The lyrics in this song are pretty repetitive, but that doesn’t really matter since this song is focused on the rhythm section for the most part. The end of the song has Zach screaming: “**** you I won’t do what you tell me!”
repeated over the main riff and finally the song ends with the riff played by the bass in the beginning of the song. Not much else to say since I’m sure everyone knows how this song goes. In my opinion, this song is too overplayed which prevents me from giving it a perfect score, but undeniably a superb song so I’ll give it a 9.6/10
Take the Power Back
– The song starts off soft with the focus being on Tim who is slapping. Soon the guitar joins the bass with the riff. The chorus is Zach repeating “We gotta take the power back!”
. After the second chorus, Tom Morello takes a solo which isn’t focused on effects at all and more on melody which is very nice. Shortly after that, Zach has a little “vocal solo” saying:
“The teacher stands in front of the class,
But the lesson plan he can't recall.
The student's eyes don't perceive the lies,
Bouning off every ****ing wall.
His composure is well kept,
I guess he fears playing the fool.
The complacent students sit and listen to some of that
Bull**** that he learned in school!”
Then the slap bass riff is played again and a third chorus follows. After this chorus is one of the prettiest (what!?) parts of the album. Yes, they actually play a very soft melodic section after the third chorus. Zach softly says “No more lies”
a few times, growing in volume each time, and finally the band begins the riffing again and the song comes to a close. Another great song. 9.3/10
Settle for Nothing
– Wow, definite change of pace from the rest of the album. This song has a very enigmatic and ominous sound right from the start and continues through the verses. Zach softly talks over the mysterious instrumentals until the chorus kicks in and the band plays a very heavy riff while Zach yells:
“Read my writing on the wall!
No one’s here to catch me when I fall!
Death is on my side!
A second verses is played following the first chorus, and the second chorus comes in which is much angrier than the first since Zach is screaming this time. After that, Tom Morello has a nice, melodic solo. The third chorus has Zach screaming:
“If we dont take action now
We settle for nothing later
Settle for nothing now
And well settle for nothing later”
The song ends with the mysterious groove from before. Excellent track and a nice change of pace which earns it a 9.1/10
Bullet in the Head
– The bass starts off this stellar track with a funky riff. This song just might have my favorite chorus on the album. The guitar and bass are playing an amazing and heavy riff while Zach (and Tim) go:
“Just victims of the in-house drive-by,
They say jump, you say how high.
Just victims of the in-house drive-by,
They say jump, you say how high.”
Right after the first chorus is a nice guitar solo which immediately leads into the second chorus. I can’t get over how great that riff is. After the third chorus, guitar and bass play a different riff from before repeatedly until the guitar drops out and bass continues the riff. Zach whispers over the bass riff, then the guitar enters mimicking the bass, then it starts getting louder and louder until Zach is screaming:
“A bullet in your head!
A bullet in your head!
A bullet in your head!
You got a bullet in your ****ing head!”
Then there’s a drum roll and the song ends on beat one. Stellar track and one of my favorites by Rage Against the Machine. This gets a solid 9.8/10
Know Your Enemy
– Another one of Rage’s most popular songs and for a damn good reason: it’s one of their best. It starts off with a guitar riff with an echo-type effect and the bass plays a funky riff below that until the band stops and Tom plays the main riff which is excellent. Then the verse starts and behind Zach’s rapping, guitar and bass are playing a great riff. Once Zach says “Know your enemy,”
the band stops except for Tom playing the main riff again. “Know your enemy!”
The riff continues until a second verse is played. Now after the second verse, instead of a chorus the band goes into the bridge which has… what!? Singing! But that’s not Zach singing. That’s the singer of Tool – Maynard James Keenan. It’s a very dark sounding bridge. Finally, Maynard sings: “Time has come to pay!!!”
with his signature voice and Tom plays the main riff yet again. “Know your enemy!”
screams Zach as Tom takes a solo which is both melodic and effects-driven. Soon after, the band stops and the bass is left playing the verses riff. The band continues that riff until Zach repeats: “All of which are American dreams”
and the band drops out and Zach repeats the line four more times and the song ends. Probably my second or third favorite Rage Against the Machine song (it’s pretty much tied up with Guerrilla Radio) earning it a 9.9/10
. What’s my favorite?
you might ask…
– This song is perfection beginning to end. Starts off with an awesome riff in the guitar, reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. After a while of repeating that riff, the band drops out and the bass is left playing the main riff. Then the guitar joins in and the band is jamming out. Then the verse kicks in and the riff behind the verses is definitely one of my favorites on the album. It just gets you so pumped up! After the verse, the band continues playing the riff from earlier and Tom plays an awesome arpeggio before the second verse begins. Once the second verse ends, Tom takes a little effects-driven guitar solo for a bit and the band has one of those riff-break kind of sections which is purely amazing. Then they play the riff over and over again until, you guessed it, a build-up section and after that, Zach is yelling, “I think I heard a shot!”
Then there’s a little soft interlude section that goes on for a little bit and grows in volume as Zach screams, “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”
which is the climax of the piece. Then the bass is continuing a riff until the song comes to a close with Zach saying, “How long? Not long, because what you reap is what you sow!”
and a power chord to finish it off. Stellar piece of music which grants this song a perfect 10/10
Fistful of Steel
– What song could hold the honorable position of following Wake Up? Fistful of Steel. Starts off with some cool guitar effects until Tom plays the main riff and the rest of the band joins in soon after. The verse has a bass playing a very laid-back, cool riff and Tom just using guitar effects to create a spacey atmosphere. Then the chorus comes in with the main riff and Zach saying:
“With a fistful of steel.
('Cause I know the power of the question)
With a fistful of steel.
With a fistful of steel.
(And I won't stop ‘cause I know the power of the question)”
Another verse and chorus follow and a guitar solo takes place after the second chorus with the focus on effects. After the guitar solo, Tom repeats a cool riff while Zach says,
“And if the vibe was suicide
Then you would push the button.
But if you’re bowing down
Then let me do the cutting!”
Then the cool riff continues for a bit and suddenly the groove stops and Tom repeats the riff and Zach whispers over it. Then Zach repeats the previous lines and the riffing continues. Near the end, Tom solos over the riff and the song comes to a close. To be honest, this song is probably my least favorite on the album, but that by no means make it a bad song. In fact, this song gets the lowest score on the album, a 9/10
, which is still a superb score. Two more songs left.
– This is a very unique track on the album. It begins with five power chords, Tom playing a few squeaky guitar chords and the first verse. The thing about the verses is that there is absolutely no melody and the focus is on the cowbell. Tom is playing the squeaky guitar chords and Tim is just repeating the same note over and over. Then the chorus comes in with an exceptional riff being played repeatedly for a while until it the riff leads into a major chord (awesome) repeated just like the very beginning, and leads into the second verse. Then the second chorus comes in with Zach repeating:
“Why stand on a silent platform?
Fight the war, **** the norm!”
Then there’s a very nice harmonized guitar solo and a third chorus is played and leads into a different riff on guitar and bass. Then the riff changes mood to a darker tone and Zach says,
“Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross.
When ignorance reigns, life is lost.”
Then Zach starts screaming those lines and the fourth chorus comes in but with a different melody being played in the guitar this time. Then comes the amazing end of the song – my favorite ending to any Rage song actually – with the repeated major chords. The most unique song on the album and in my opinion, one of the best. 9.5/10
– The last track on this so far perfect album. Thankfully, Freedom does not disappoint. It begins with an “ugh!” and a great riff being played in the guitar and bass. Then the verse begins with an interesting riff in the guitar. Then the main riff is played again and Zach saying “yeah” and “come on” over it. Then a second verse comes in which leads to a halt in the band, and then they come in playing a hyped up version of the main riff numerous times. After playing the riff four times, Tom harmonizes the riff with a third above. Very, very nice. Then Tom plays an octave above what he was playing and Brad does a fill that leads into a laid-back guitar solo. Once the guitar solo finishes, the band plays a different riff for a little while and then goes into another verse. After that comes another halt in the band and the same hyped up riff. Then after the fourth time, Tom harmonizes with the fifth this time. Soon after, a build-up takes place and finally, the climax of the piece takes place with Zach screaming at the top of his lungs:
What a great climax! The climax leads into the end of the song which is some feedback from the guitar and other random noises. An epic end to this perfect album. 9.4/10
(Literally all of them are recommended, but if I had to narrow it down to a few…)
- Wake Up
- Know Your Enemy
- Bullet in the Head
- Killing in the Name
Agh, now I feel bad for leaving out the other tracks! Every single track on this album is phenomenal and you would be a fool to miss out on them. Well, this is quite possibly tied in first place as my favorite album of all time (with Colors by Between the Buried and Me). Every single song on this album is a stand-out track and there is no point in the album where you get bored since each song brings something new to the table. It’s pretty much a combination of the funky feel of Evil Empire
and the effects-heavy feel of The Battle of Los Angeles
but takes it to another level. Don’t get me wrong, Evil Empire
and The Battle of Los Angeles
are phenomenal, near-perfect albums, but this album is pure perfection and should not be missed out on.