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Audioslave
When supergroups break up, fans and industry-watchers alike show a great deal of interest in the future paths that the careers of the band members will take. When Soundgarden called it quits people wondered where the pieces of the band would land so there was some surprise when ex-frontman Chris Cornell began popping up in rumours about the replacement for Zach de la Rocha in Rage Against the Machine. De la Rocha left Rage in October 2000 and the gossip turned out to be true when Cornell joined the band in the studio in May of 2001. While there were doubts about how the apolitical singer would fit into the activist mindset of the rest of the band, there was no doubting the musical viability of the new equation.

The doubters were sure to have felt vindicated when Cornell left the band before Ozzfest got underway. The only reason he gave at the time was that the band was not moving forward in the direction he had hoped. The break up did not last long and he was back with the band a few months later. All it took was the firing of their respective management teams and signing on as a band under industry management superpower, The Firm. Then there was the question of a name. They had initially considered calling themselves Civilian, Commerford and producer Rick Rubin had favoured the name Black Hitler and there was even talk of performing and recording under the title After School Special (especially since the resulting acronym was sure to cause much amusement). The name Audioslave, at first glance resembles a hastily put together title that might generate curiosity off CD and poster art, but closer inspection allows the name to be interpreted as a combination of the names of the earlier bands these four artists came from the 'audio' could be equated with the 'sound' part of Soundgarden while the 'slave' portion could come from the political self-representation that is clearly evident in 'Rage Against the Machine.' While the implications of the name no longer matter, what does matter is that the band's self-titled debut album went on to sell over 2 million copies.

While Rage Against the Machine performed and recorded music with an almost military precision and did not shy away from political issues, Soundgarden's music gave off a laidback, grungy vibe. Cornell was clear, from the beginning that he did not want the band's music to become all about political statements. He was more than happy to do benefit shows and pitch in where help was needed but he did not want to be known as the replacement singer or be at the front of a political band. The new formation was clear that they didn't want Audioslave to become an extension of either Soundgarden or Rage. With the view to getting their own identity the band went out of its way to ensure that they only performed music from their debut album when they toured in support of the record for ten months. Only recently, when the band began doing the club and arena circuit in support of their follow-up album, have they begun exploring material from the back catalogues of the two bands that spawn this group. The performances have left fans electrified and have finally quenched their thirst for examples of how Soundgarden's Seattle-grunge would sound when played by electro-guitar genius Tom Morello and his Rage cohorts Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk. Similarly, their rendering of Rage classics has satisfied the curiosity surrounding the marriage of Cornell's rock star vocals replacing de la Rocha's angry rap-rock rants. All in all, the fans are satisfied that justice is being done.

The single Be Yourself off the new album Out Of Exile, is a groove-filled mellow-to-heavy track which is an enjoyable slice of rock that could go a long way towards cementing the relevance of this band that enjoys the dubious distinction of having being declared broken up before they ever officially announced their formation. While fronted by de la Rocha, the members of Rage felt that they promised more than they actually achieved. Cornell has helped change that and the rage trio are satisfied that they are doing more in this new avatar. Most recently, Audioslave became the first American band to perform a concert in Cuba. Greeted by over fifty thousand fans, the auditorium, that has seen its share of political rallies was quaking with the roar that went up and stayed that way through a nearly two-and-half-hour set in which the Cubans were treated to not just old and new Audioslave material but also acoustic renderings of Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun and an instrumental take on Rage Against the Machine's Bulls On Parade. Clearly the band is beginning to come together, not just in terms of music and temperaments but also in terms of ideology.

In the early days, the band bonded over their shared love for cars, motorcycles and dogs. Between them, the band members are supposed to have nearly a dozen dogs and these interests that are in some ways completely anti-rock 'n roll have allowed them to get past the initial distrust that plagued them and almost killed the phenomenon before it had its moment in the sun.


You can read the rest of our feature on Audioslave in the May 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.
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