Breaking a new act is a crapshoot. So to minimize the risk, record labels often bite on groups that have members with proven track records. The combination of Soundgarden's frontman with Rage Against The Machine (sans Zach de la Rocha) would seem like a sure shot. But Audioslave was one of those blue chip "marriages" that nearly blew apart before it got rolling. After de la Rocha's departure, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk decided to press on. It was Morello who asked Chris Cornell to come on board. Cornell was initially agreeable but soon bailed, saying things weren't moving in the direction he hoped (whatever that means). Was that the end of that? For awhile. But Cornell was persuaded to return and Audioslave rolled on.
The video for debut single "Cochise" used the equivalent of a medium sized city's 4th of July fireworks. The good news was the group had pyrotechnics of its own.
Following an impressive debut and an equally successful tour, Audioslave released their platinum-certified sophomore album "Out Of Exile" in 2005.
Audioslave did something later in '05 that would have been typical of Rage Against The Machine. They performed in Cuba. The U.S. State Department actively discouraged any contact with that country or its citizens but Audioslave went anyway playing their songs and tossing in Soundgraden tracks ("Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun") and Rage songs (including the classic "Bulls On Parade").
Returning to U.S. soil, the group began work on their third album "Revelations." The 12 track, 2006 release, with the single "Original Fire," was produced by Brendan O'Brien (Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine - he has history with these guys).
In February, 2007, came the announcement that singer Chris Cornell had left Audioslave, effectively ending the supergroup. The recent decision by other bandmembers to participate in a Rage Against The Machine reunion tour was listed among the reasons. "Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band," said Cornell. "I wish the other three members nothing but the best."
Despite the unfortunate name, Audioslave Rocks with more accessibility than, oh say, Rage Against The Machine. While the single "Cochise" takes a stab at Rocha's political bent, Audioslave is actually a straight-ahead Hard Rock outfit. That's OK. People gotta make a living. Cornell has been through the drill and knows what needs to happen. For that matter, so have Morello, Commerford and Wilk. Is Audioslave's self-titled debut Soundgarden brilliant or Rage Against The Machine aggressive? No. But in its own way it works. After all, these guys are pros.
Produced by Rick Rubin, Audioslave steps it up a notch with "Out Of Exile." Cornell and Morello make it interesting while Commerford and Wilk keep it moving. With strong songs, the performances are raw and fresh. "Drown Me Slowly" is the premier track. The hypnotic title track, the opener, "Your Time Has Come" and "Dandelion" also score.
Morello was heard to claim that "Revelations" was like "Led Zeppelin meets Earth, Wind & Fire." If only. Zeppelin's a legend. Nuff said. Earth, Wind & Fire was one of the best '70s R&B groups. Maurice White and Phillip Bailey provided stunning vocals/harmonies while the horns and rhythm section blasted the songs into the ozone. There were grooves in those grooves. Not much of that is evident in "Revelations." Rather, it's like Led Zeppelin meets the James Gang. More "Funk #49" than "September."
The title track, a strident Rocker, gets things off to a good start. "One And The Same" is driven by a hot riff. "Original Fire," "Until We Fall," with acoustic guitars, and "Wide Awake" also make an impression. While the songs are strong, probably the best collection Audioslave has produced, Cornell is as strong and as emotive as ever and the group is tight, the album never seems to take off. Even Zeppelin had a "Communication Breakdown" or "Rock N' Roll" to put their albums over the top. Here Audioslave plies a comfortable mid-tempo throughout. But not so long ago, they could really kick it out.