Tom Morello mashes his rock roots together with electronica, hip-hop, and more in his diverse new record The Atlas Underground.Read More
It seems Rage Against The Machine is coming back this year in every way except a reunion. After Tom Morello and co. formed Prophets Of Rage earlier this year, their former lead singer has been busy at work making his own tunes. Zack de la Rocha is finally here with his debut single, 'digging for windows'.
It's safe to say that the song is better than a majority of Prophets Of Rage's debut EP (see our review here). It's not perfect, though. It has a lot of swagger and an interesting electronic based instrumental. It's reminiscent of RATM's typical in-your-face vibe, but not in the same flavor. 'digging' depends on thick, distorted synths with the subtle additions of backing guitars and synth arpeggios later on. It's a less chaotic Death Grips song, really. It definitely has the punk vibe paired with it, though.
Zach de la Rocha may have been out of the game for awhile, but he sounds just as energetic and angry as he was in his prime. It was seen when he featured on Run The Jewels' 'Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)' on 2014's Run The Jewels 2 that de la Rocha wasn't out of the game just yet. Coincidentally, it was El-P from RTG who produced the track! The production of the track is perhaps one of its highlights; it's electronic and experimental hip-hop with just enough anger to still give it the punk rock vibes from RATM.
The song is pretty upfront with the lyrics; in fact, it starts off with him saying that he isn't here for cheerful lyrics - he's in it for some madness: "Fuck that bright shit / The spot or the flashlights / We in L.A. ducking both / In the shadows with lead pipes." The song deals with the narrator being caught by the cops and being taken to prison as well as falling into hard and unfavorable situations in life. He's angry at the corruption of it all, and calls out the big corporates: "Rise every time my cherry glows / On the end of my cig as / The smoke blows through the bars / And the C.O.’s laugh fades / As he strolls away / Says I gotta pay / Off that roll away / Or it's fuck your visitation days." The lyrics are edgy enough to harken back to that angsty yet relevant tone that RATM always had.
Prophets Of Rage has nothing on Zack. They may cover Rage Against The Machine, but they're missing the main man that made the songs so real. The song has been confirmed to be the lead single of a yet-to-be-announced LP, and this song shows a lot of positive signs. 'digging for windows' is a great return to music for Zack de la Rocha. Now, we wait. This is the true return of Rage Against The Machine - not in the way we expected it, or necessarily wanted it, but the way we needed it.
Rating: 81 / 100
Several live statements later, and Prophets Of Rage are delivering their first EP. The supergroup consisting of members of Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill, and Public Enemy are here with their debut EP, The Party's Over. If you already liked this project, you'll like this EP, but chances are you'll be wanting more either way.
We've already reviewed the band's debut single, the introduction song to the project titled 'Prophets Of Rage' - read our review for a more in-depth insight on it. The context on this EP makes it a little less substantial, though. It's a great intro track and definitely gets you pumped up, but it's followed by the new song 'The Party's Over,' which has a stronger drive to it. It sounds angrier and more upfront, almost aggressive. That's the true spirit of this band, and their projects in the past. It's lyrics are a bit more angsty and less substantial than 'Prophets' by just a bit, but the instrumental kicks its ass. It features a signature Tom Morello solo near the end and just has a bigger punch to it. 'The Party's Over' makes 'Prophets Of Rage' feel like less of a track.
The rest of the EP consists of three live tracks, and it's just nothing really special at all. Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing In The Name' is first on the list, and it's just a standard performance of the song. It has that good old raw feeling you'd hear from old RATM recordings, but there's probably better performances out there on the Internet you could listen to. 'Shut Em Down' by Public Enemy is next on the list, and this one is actually a bit different, featuring a cool guitar intro from Tom Morello. The rest of the song is pretty average, besides the killer solo Morello delivers in the bridge. It's interesting to note that all of the members of the group have played this song before: Public Enemy, obviously, being the recording artists, and Cypress Hill did a cover of it in 2010 featuring Tom Morello. It's familiar territory for all of them. The last song is a cover of the Beastie Boys' 'No Sleep Till Brooklyn' entitled 'No Sleep Till Cleveland' (in reference to the 2016 Republican National Convention). There's nothing real to comment on besides the fact they don't substitute "Cleveland" in place of "Brooklyn" until the end of the song. You'd figure they'd do it for the entire song. At least the solo is good. Tom Morello is this band's only savings grace.
At this point, I don't really know what to think of this group. When they first announced their mission, there was so much hope; the 80s and 90s revolutionary scene was coming back! Rage Against The Machine is basically back! But no, it's all becoming one big cluster of trying to be edgy. It's becoming less of a political statement and more like they're a group of angsty teenagers looking to make some cash and speak their minds on Trump all at the same time by playing covers of RATM. Perhaps everything will start to gel together as they play more; they're currently on tour across North America. For now, though, you can't really say much more than "well, okay" by the fact these guys exist.
Prophets Of Rage are slowly becoming more like the Profits Of Rage. Time will tell what these guys bring - maybe a full length LP not consisting mostly of live tracks will bring some worth to this project. It's a hit or miss right now, and currently they're only shooting misses. There's hope, but right now everything's looking pretty grim.
Favorite Track: The Party's Over
Least Favorite Track: Prophets Of Rage (and the live stuff, simply for lack of effort)
Rating: 50 / 100
There are few things people want more than a Rage Against The Machine revival. What we got is what people didn't know they wanted: a supergroup consisting of members of RATM, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill. That would be Prophets Of Rage, whose mission is clear: "We're an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing," as Tom Morello put it. With the turmoil of America's most tense election yet, the Prophets are ready to make their voices loud and clear, and hopefully do the same for their listeners.
There isn't too much too their debut single 'Prophets Of Rage'. The song was released It started with a siren before Tom Morello delivers a blistering punk rock riff he's known for (no weird effects in this one, though!). The song truly is a simple one, the verses hard and featuring a dinky bent guitar reprising itself over a distorted bass line while Chuck D, DJ Lord, and B-Real all deliver enraged verses before going into the call-to-arms chorus that chants, "Clear the way / Clear the way / I'm away from the prophets of rage!"
This recording lives up to its predecessor; the first verse stays true to Public Enemy's own 'Prophets Of Rage' from 1988's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Both tracks, as well as sharing titles, also can claim they share the proud declaration of "The points made / You consider it done / By the prophets of rage!" Prophets Of Rage are taking the hip-hop flair of Public Enemy and adding the groove of Rage Against The Machine - a combination that was built to work from the start.
The Prophets Of Rage have a busy year ahead of them. The turmoil of this election season is nowhere near over, and November 8 likely won't be the end of it. This supergroup is carrying the flag on their backs, and they're not letting it fall any time soon. Make way for the Prophets Of Rage.
Rating: 70 / 100
Just over a year ago, Linkin Park released their sixth album, The Hunting Party. Coming fresh off of LIVING THINGS and collaborations with Steve Aoki, it was an expected move for the band to continue in their electronic rock-based direction. Then they dropped ‘Guilty All The Same’ in March, and everyone was shocked. Bordering thrash metal, the six minute long riot featured hip-hop legend Rakim and Linkin Park merging their electronica influences with their old, raw sound. And so, The Hunting Party was born and the band yet again changed their game.
For it’s one-year anniversary, here’s a track-by-track review of my opinions on the album. Spoiler: it’s my favorite album of 2014.
1) Keys To The Kingdom: Right from the get-go, you know what you’re in for. Chester screams madly with a distortion effect over another distorted sound. Then that disjointed riff kicks in, and the drums go wild. The verse is a throwback to their electronic influences... There’s just a lot going with this song sonically straight from the beginning. Shinoda’s rap in the second verse brings us back to the aggression of Meteora and Hybrid Theory. Perhaps the best moment of this song is the bridge, a huge buildup to a massive solo and final chorus. While the solo is somewhat wonky (a portion of it questions itself on whether or not it’s in key or not). Some people aren’t very fond of Chester’s voice breaking in the choruses, but I feel like it adds a sense of intensity and danger, as if he’s battling something. If anything, this song proves Linkin Park’s evolution. They’re not the same band writing ‘Burn It Down’ and ‘New Divide’. They’re out on a mission to be visceral and heavy, and they’ve proven themselves right off the bat. 9/10
2) All For Nothing (ft. Page Hamilton): Continuing on with the rebellious riffs is ‘All For Nothing’, featuring Page Hamilton from Helmet. Shinoda delivers some of his best verses since A Thousand Suns, bringing some heavy-hitting lines into the mix. The only real complaint I have with this song is that Hamilton’s voice feels very processed and refined, not akin to his Helmet work where his voice is raw and powerful. It still works in the song, but it could have been better. The solo in this song is one of the only solos on the album that isn’t just “RANDOM-TREMOLO-PICKING” but actually thought out. A great song, all-in-all, but there could have been improvements in the chours (the “You say!” parts do get a bit repetitive at some point). 8.5/10
3) Guilty All The Same (ft. Rakim): Oh boy, this song. From the instant I heard this one, I was in love. It’s almost as if this song is quintessential Linkin Park. It has everything the band embodies: emotionally-packed lyrics, heavy riffs, soaring electronics, a killer verse, and a huge jamming bridge. Rob Bourdon truly shines here, showing his improvements as a drummer since LIVING THINGS - in fact, this album contains his best drumming since ‘The Little Things Give You Away’ and ‘When They Come For Me’! Rakim delivers a massive verse, shredding the record-label industry. I love every part of this song, the long buildup intro, the electronics in the verses and behind the guitars, the HUGE riffs in the bridge. There’s nothing more I can say - Linkin Park truly shines at every element they’ve honed until this point in this song. 10/10
4) The Summoning: A filler track to relax the listener from the mindfuck of the first quarter of the album. Was that really Linkin Park? A disjointed, minute long track that prepares you for the rest of the onslaught that is The Hunting Party. 6/10
5) War: Did Linkin Park just go punk rock? Yes, yes they did. One of the simpler songs on the album in regards to vocals and guitar, but it’s a punk rock song. Can you really ask for anything more? Bennington belts out screams against war and its effects with his self-written lyrics on top of a fast-paced instrumental. The guitar solo in this one is one of those solos that sound impressive, but it’s really just tremolo picking and hoping for the best. It still sounds awesome, though. Another testament to Linkin Park being able to smash and genre they choose to. 8.5/10
6) Wastelands: Hello there, Meteora. While ‘Wastelands’ may be one of the more underwhelming songs on the album in terms of lyrics, what it does it does well. Shinoda delivers more brutal verses and Chester delivers another big chorus - the classic Linkin Park formula. One of my guilty pleasures in this song are the synths from the second verse onwards. I feel they add a lot of color, especially in the second verse and bridge. Other than that, Bourdon delivers another foot-stomping, awesome drum line as the rest of the band storms in with the big riffs. 8.5/10
7) Until It’s Gone: This song means a lot to me. Around the time the album was released, my grandfather had just passed. It was the first major family loss for me. All his life (and throughout my life), my family saw him as evil and abusive. While it’s not truly a lie, we never saw him for who he was until he was gone. This song really clicked with me around that time. Personal connection aside, this song is beautiful. Melodically and instrumentally it’s one of the best songs on the album. The part that throws me off about it are the lyrics. There was so much opportunity for it to be amazing. With better lyrics, it might have been one of the best songs on the album. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. It’s a beautiful song sonically, and a song I’ll hold close to me for a long time. 9/10
8) Rebellion (ft. Daron Malakian): Let’s get this straight: we went from thrash-esque riffs, to a Helmet song, to punk rock, took a trip to Meteora, and now we’re listening to System Of A Down?! This album really has it all! Another amazing song from this album, I have the same ideas about as I did with ‘Guilty All The Same’. It’s less quintessentially Linkin Park, though. Rather, it’s quintessentially The Hunting Party. It’s everything the album embodies: heavy, visceral, in-your-face, amazing drumming, electronically subtle, and so much more. Daron Malakian brings the SOAD influence in strong, his signature Drop C and hammering techniques shine bright on this track. Chester’s brutal screaming in the bridge shows that he still has it - he may even better than he ever was! Mike does a great song singing the song, and all in all ends up to an epic track. 10/10
9) Mark The Graves: Now, we delve into some progressive rock. What’s going on, Porcupine Tree? When listening to this song, you don’t know what to expect. It’s all over the place. The intro is just massive, huge and in your face. Shinoda’s countdown is an epic moment. The verses bring in atmospheric guitars that surround the listener, then the guitars kick back in for the huge choruses, which have Chester and Mike singing pretty high - Mike’s backing vocals are some of his best! The best part of this song may not even be the structure or the vocals, but the fact that you can actually hear the bass - something unheard of (pun intended) in a Linkin Park song! This song embodies Linkin Park’s evolution - to think how much an album difference can make. If this were their previous effort, you’d be listening to the synth-packed ‘Skin To Bone’. Instead, you’re listening to a progressive rock epic, intense and atmospheric. Quite a change, if you ask me. 9.5/10
10) Drawbar (ft. Tom Morello): When you think of a Tom Morello collaboration, this is probably the opposite of what you expect. It’s not a heavy, disjointed wall of guitars. Rather, it’s an atmospheric, almost creepy journey through a dream. Mike on piano, Tom doing his thing with a weird effected guitar, and Rob jamming away with a march-inspired drums. The outro of the song, the piano instrumental, might be the most beautiful moment on the album. The ‘Final Masquerade’ progression chokes me up sometimes. It’s a perfect way to start the final quarter of the album - perhaps the best run of consecutive Linkin Park songs in their entire discography. 9/10
11) Final Masquerade: I’d be lying if I said this song doesn’t make me emotional. It’s a beautiful, emotional journey through a love story. Is it a good bye? Is it a “see you soon?” It embodies so many perspectives and emotions - it’s more of a love song than Taylor Swift has ever mustered up. The solo is another BEAUTIFUL moment - another reprise of the song’s chorus. Nothing about this song is not perfect. Perhaps Linkin Park’s most emotional song in their discography. 10/10
12) A Line In The Sand: There’s nothing you can do to prepare yourself for this. This is Linkin Park’s The Odyssey (not only because the working title was ‘Odyssey’). It begins like we’re back on A Thousand Suns. Then the drums kick in, and instantly we’re back on The Hunting Party. Everything about this song is perfect, just like ‘Final Masquerade’. The pounding drums, the callback to ‘Guilty All The Same’ in the choruses, the atmosphere of the intro and outro, the energy of the guitars... I can go on and on. The breakdown - oh, the breakdown - has Linkin Park fully delve into Metallica and trash metal territory. The tapping solo in the outro is something else Linkin Park has never done, but execute perfectly. What you’ve done with this song is taken their two best albums, A Thousand Suns and The Hunting Party and created their love child. This is what the next album needs to be. A colossal, epic journey of visceral energy and atmospheres. If this isn’t one of Linkin Park’s best songs, I’ll be damned. You’ll need to sit down and reconsider what you just listened to after this one. It’s that huge. 10/10
The Hunting Party is more than just an album; it’s a statement. It is pure visceral energy and emotion packed into twelve songs. It is a long journey and an experience that you can’t get from anything else. It makes you feel alive and makes you question what you are. It’s really a cruel reality. While it’s not the best Linkin Park album (that honor still goes to A Thousand Suns), it’s a close second. Linkin Park does what they do best - change and evolve. There’s no predicting where they’ll go next - if it’s in this direction, only good things lie ahead.
Favorite Tracks: Guilty All The Same, A Line In The Sand, Final Masquerade, Rebellion
Least Favorite Tracks: The Summoning, War, Wastelands
Overall Rating: 9.5/10