On November 2, 1999, "Rage Against The Machine's" third album was released, it was more than 20 years ago!!!
Beyond the fact that this is the group's last studio album with original materials, this album is also probably the creative climax of the "Rage Quartet", which in every hearing even 20 years later shakes our bodies, shakes our heads, and rattles our bones.
Seven years after the debut album that changed the musical map with the unique and psychedelic combination of rap, metal, punk, and funk and three years after "Evil Empire" that infused us with sounds we did not believe could be produced from a guitar, we get this album that is nothing short of a musical paradox.
On the one hand, it is the most calculated and mature album of the band and on the other hand, it has the spontaneity, power, and audacity of the spirit of youth. On the one hand, it includes a new and updated sound and on the other hand, is still strongly connected to the roots of the band.
One does not have to delve deeper into the lyrics to understand that this album does not fall far from the tree lyrically and that it also deals with political and anti-establishment issues that characterized the previous two albums. It's enough to look at the album cover that includes graffiti of a man waving his fist in the air or in song titles like "Voice of the Voiceless" and "Testify" to understand that we are going to get a serious indictment against American society here as well.
Well, we really did not expect anything different from a band with declared social and liberal views.
We start with "Testify" and the wall of sound by Tom Morello's guitar that may sound impenetrable at first, but Brad Wilk's drumsticks that land firmly and steadily on the snare drum manage to gnaw at it slowly until it surrenders and finally collapses in perfect timing with the "ahhhhhh" of Zack De La Rocha. The song that goes against the lies of the American media just explodes inside us with George Orwell's a-la "1984" slogan: "Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past", and just sets the tone for what will happen later in the album.
We continue with the first single from the album "Guerrilla Radio", which deals with the presidential campaign between Bush and Gore in 2000. Wilk's snare attack gradually intensifies to the point of crescendo and the eruption with the frenetic and bouncy reef of Tim Commerford and Morello. What a great song it is... and there's even a harmonica solo here, shocking? A harmonica solo that makes us bang our heads against a wall like it's a cruel slayer riff.
The third track "Calm Like a Bomb" is very misleading in its "soothing" title and Commerford's silent bass opening, but Zack whispers in our ear that it is not going to last that long feel the full blast he whispers and we really feel the earthquake that is going to fall on us with cry-baby effect on Commerford's bass and with the rising and falling alarmed that Morello produces from the guitar.
The song "Mic Check" corresponds with the Beasty Boys with whom the band was supposed to go on tour immediately after the album's release, slowing down a bit, just like the "quiet before the storm" that comes with the catchy and bouncy riff of "Sleep now in the fire".
But these two are just a preparation for the madness that is going to come in the fifth strip. "Born of a Broken Man" is a song that breaks and destroys just like its title. It's a personal song that Zack wrote about the nervous breakdown his father experienced, and you can feel it in the song, including the anger and rage that goes through Morello's reef.
This amazing album also includes the track "Voice of the Voiceless" written about journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal whom Morello visited in prison before being sentenced to death, the "Wake Up" that appeared in the soundtrack of the movie "Matrix", the mighty "No Shelter" that was added as a bonus only in the Japanese and Australian versions of the album and more.
It's a shame that this great piece was the "beginning of the end", and it's amazing to just think what else this band could have given down the road.
Rage is perhaps the best-performing band in the world, and we had the fortune to have it here in Israel for a series of shows in 2000 right after the album was released. This was without a doubt one of the best performances the writers have seen in Israel and we hope we can come back and see this musical wonder soon.