Review Summary: Someone drop the mic.
Standing by your own moral integrity and calling a day on something as big as Rage Against the Machine is an impressive testament, which speaks volumes for the type of person Zack de la Rocha is. Sure, loads of artists have done it before, but it’s rare you come across one that maintains a stubborn stance on the matter: no, means no. And the thing is, I fully back Zack’s hardnosed decision to avoid a full comeback with RATM; he feels he’s said all he can with the band, and anything made now would be embarrassingly contrived. Just look at At the Drive-In and Refused, bands which during their break-up sighted they would never come back again – they’d had their say – yet, here we are today and both acts have come back, and in dire, lackluster fashion. The revival of classic acts is a reoccurring theme in recent years: an age of nostalgia. Regardless, it’s something that only enriches and stands to make Zack look better; it encompasses the sincerity and effort that came from Zack’s contributions in Rage and how much the topics he wrote about meant to him. So, when the creative fire dulled, he knew it was time to call it a day. The same cannot be said for the remaining members of RATM though.
Despite Zack’s absence from the group, it’s common knowledge the rest of the band went off to do their own side-projects, as well as tapping into further success as Audioslave. Yet, during all this success, the same question has endured, with the same answer being given on whether RATM will return. So, I surmise that by 2016, given the world’s terrible political troubles, Morello and co. had had enough of waiting on a reunion and wanted to rekindle a sound that would work as a platform to get these contemporary issues out into the world; that band is Prophets of Rage. Containing RATM’s sonic prowess and the vocal backup from three iconic rappers: Public Enemy’s DJ Lord and Chuck D, as well as Cypress Hill’s B-Real. Upon the announcement of the group, I was mildly curious about the project, given my love and respect for every member partaking in this venture, however, the results were a terrible, terrible disappointment. Firstly, my initial [cynical] thought of the band name raised warning flags: sounding like a lazy counterfeit which simultaneously backhanded me on the notion this was all a ruse to cash in on previous successes. Of course, a name can’t tell you what it will sound like, only the music can deliver the full gravity of the product and, oh boy, did last year’s EP brush me the wrong way. Every ounce of The Party is Over
was an artificial botch job, confirming my first thoughts on the dodgy band name. However, there was at least one redeeming afterthought: it’s not Rage’s legacy on the line.
So, after a superficial and lifeless EP, we’re all blessed with the band’s first full-length album, a record which continues the dire trend, albeit on a much larger scale. There isn’t much to take away from listening to this self-titled release other than the realization these guys are having a midlife crisis. No, what this record offers is a sound you’ve heard a million times before and done a million times better. It’s sad to say the members of Prophets have become a sad parody of their former selves; a caricature overshadowed by their former glory days. Songs like “Un*** the World”, “Strength in Numbers” and “Hail to the Chief” back up the sentiment; containing vapid guitar work and far from hungry vocal performances, which had me imagining DJ Lord and co. rapping with their chins in the palm of their hands, elbows based firmly on a table, reading from their lyric books.
But let’s not lose focus on the matter here; even if we look past the lucid performances, you can’t overlook the horribly cliché, cringe-induced lyrics that accompany the half-assed takes here. "Un*** the World" brings up the topic of unification and the eradication of racism, which is a subject I and many others agree with, the problem is the subject matter is told in such an amateur way it ends up hurting the track. Most of the tracks on here feel as though they're told vicariously, with a massive lack of feeling and genuine emotion being put in to convince you they're feeling the effects of the real-world’s problems; as if they are telling people what they want to hear than fighting out a message they believe in, just so they can make some party tunes. And this is Prophets of Rage
’s biggest problem, you can’t wing a politically charged record and hope people believe what you’re saying, and it so obviously shows here; the topics of discussion are important problems in today's world, but the intensity and drive is non-existent and comes off as a bit of a joke. When you look at performances from “Un*** the World” and “Legalize Me”, they come across hammy, lacking the sincerity required to pull the songs off.
Ultimately, Prophets of Rage
is a failure, but since this is a band that has Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk’s at its rhythm section, there is the odd spark here and there. The likes of “Fired a Shot” and album closer “Sma***” contain some decent, infectious grooves, if there was ever a highlight to be found here; but even then, the duo lack the intensity which can be heard better on their Rage and Audioslave albums. Even Tom Morello feels absent throughout this album, his guitar work taking a backseat, with a lack of decent riffing and some pretty poor guitar solos to match the, overall, empty compositions here. The bottom line: just listen to the projects that made the individuals here big in the first place. I see no reason why anyone should check this album out, musically it’s a watered down RATM and quickly becomes repetitive, lyrically it's numbing to listen to, and vocally the execution leaves much to be desired. If there was ever a reason why RATM shouldn’t come back, this is it.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A