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Audioslave - Audioslave (Epic/Interscope)

Finally, after a couple of rumours, false starts, name changes, song leaks on the Internet and cancelled live dates, Audioslave, the long-awaiting drawing together of the former Soundgarden singer (Chris Cornell) and Rage Against The Machine members (everybody bar Zack) has hit the ground. And what a fine album it is; definitely worth the wait. Fans who'll come to this from a purely Rage background will no doubt be surprised by how much Morello has matured and improved as a guitarist and how Cornell can drag as much raw emotion out of his voice as ten Zack de La Rocha's, without having to resort to hacking and screaming into a microphone. Who'd have thought that the blending of two such different bands would yield such superb results? Okay, that was a stupid question.

Blazing straight into it with 'Cochise', Audioslave are going to make you sit up and take notice from the off. If you want to look at this as four veterans of the scene getting together and showing the kids how it's supposed to be done, then you can, but I'd seriously suggest coming to this with an open mind and very few preconceptions. Not that you'll be disappointed if you do, but I think the best way to first hear this is as a new band that you've just discovered. Thankfully, unlike so many other 'nu' bands, it's fuelled by real emotion and not just teenage hormones. The lyrics deal with everything from religion to inner turmoil and love; from struggles with personal demons to suicide. At least five songs on here may, or may not, deal with Cornell's personal battle with drugs.

Proof that all the parties involved have learned from each other is evidenced on the mellower tracks like 'I am the highway'. The distortion takes a back seat and lets words speak for themselves. This is Audioslave showing us that they don't have come across as being abrasive and loud all the time just to keep our attention - the sign of a good band with good songs. The more bombastic tracks like the explosive 'Set it off' and the opener, 'Cochise', which starts off with what might sound like a tractor, but can only be Tom Morello, are as good as anything that either Soundgarden or RATM turned out in their careers. Oddly enough then, it's worth noting that Chris Cornell doesn't play guitar on the album at all. Instead, he concentrates solely on his vocal delivery, probably the best in his career.

Morello's itchy, scratchy guitar work is still present (of course) and at times even more off the wall then ever (check out the solo in 'Bring em back alive'). Within the confines of what is, technically, a rock band (as apposed to a rap-rock band) and with the chance to adapt and try out new techniques (playing acoustic guitar, playing proper chords????), he's proven himself to be a virtuoso even more than before. The rest of the old Rage rhythm section is as powerful and rocking as it's ever been. Don't believe me? Throw on 'Bring em back alive', 'Cochise' or 'Set it off' and tell they're not the best you've ever heard Brad and Timmy C playing. Go on, I dare you.

All the musicians involved in Audioslave were, in their previous bands, considered innovators. Believe me when I say that hasn't changed. There's nothing else out there at the moment that sounds remotely like this. Go out and buy it today.

Ken McGrath

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