Audioslave (Epic)

The disc’s 14 songs glisten with a well-produced sheen while still retaining raw energy.

What do you do when you were part of a well-known and successful band, now defunct, and want to continue playing with some of your former band members? Well, if you’re ex–Rage Against the Machine members Tim Commerford (bass), Brad Wilk (drums), and Tom Morello (guitar), you recruit the singing and songwriting talents of a former frontman from another now-defunct, equally well-known and successful band who is in need of a new gig. Fortunately for them, it just so happened that Chris Cornell, former leader of Soundgarden (as well as the short-lived early ’90s project Temple of the Dog), fit that description perfectly. Hailed by Spin magazine as the new millennium’s first true supergroup, Audioslave is a fusion of forces that have created a new sound with a comfortably familiar feel. As a result, their debut self-titled release is a 65-minute-long collection of non-pretentious, straightforward, no-frills, high-intensity rock.

Produced by Rick Rubin (Red Hot Chili Peppers), the disc’s 14 songs glisten with a well-produced sheen while still retaining the raw energy that this type of music needs to have to be credible. According to the liner notes, all sounds heard on this disc are “made by guitar, bass, drums, and vocals,” meaning that these well-seasoned musicians have chosen to stick with the old-fashioned, time-tested method of creating rock music, rather than utilizing any of today’s elaborate, high-tech synthesizer effects and equipment.

Cornell is the sole mastermind behind all of this CD’s music and lyrics, giving the songs a very Soundgarden-like personality. His is also the one and only voice heard on all of the tracks, which can be perceived as either an asset or a weakness, depending on the listener’s opinion of Cornell’s distinctive, yet sometimes predictably gravelly voice.

The first single, “Cochise,” starts off the disc with a fierce, powerful surge that sets the tone for what lies ahead. Axe master Morello really shows off his enviable guitar-playing skills throughout the CD’s entirety, especially on tracks such as “Light My Way,” “Bring ’em Back Alive,” and the wear-your-hardhat heavy “Set It Off.” Much of the disc’s tracks lean strongly toward the melodic side, like the beautiful “Shadow of the Sun” and the recently released second single, “Like a Stone.” Three of the best tracks, the epic-sounding “I Am the Highway,” the crunchy “Show Me How to Live,” and the CD’s closer, the haunting “The Last Remaining Light,” are well worth the purchase price by themselves.

Cornell’s brief departure from the band last year, along with a substantially delayed release date due to multiple reasons, contributed to the enormous amount of media attention and public anticipation that has surrounded Audioslave and its debut disc. Unlike many overhyped projects, however, this is one that fully lives up to all of its expectations.

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