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Out of Exile
Length: 12 tracks / 53:43 min
Audioslave’s sophomore album is bound to be the best-seller this year. Fans of cookie-cutter slow rock garbage are going to buy it because they keep hearing “Be Yourself” on the radio every half hour. And fans of quality hard rock are going to buy it for the rest of the album.
“Be Yourself” is such a lousy, boring song that I almost didn’t buy this album. But then I remembered that the first single off of their debut self-titled album was the nearly-as-awful “Like a Stone.” But as with the first album, the second is full of good tracks, despite what the promoters would have you believe, judging by their taste in music.
The biggest difference between Out of Exile and Audioslave is this. Audioslave was one aggressive Tom Morello guitar-driven beast after another. It remains my favorite workout CD. It was a bit of a disappointment that the new album is not like this. But it is still a fine disc in its own right.
I like what mixer Brendan O’Brien has brought to the table. He has previously worked with the Audioslave component bands (Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine) as well as such bands as Pearl Jam and King’s X. You can see bits of these bands and quite a bit of southern rock influence (judging by chord progression and riff placement) as well in Out of Exile.
The title track has a classic King’s X sound, right down to the vocal harmonies. But the lead guitar minimalism, in lieu of arpeggios, on the verses assures you this is Audioslave. “Drown Me Slowly” is heavy from the beginning and reminds me of The Jelly Jam’s “Allison,” while “Man or Animal” would have fit perfectly on Pearl Jam’s “Versus” album.
One candidate for the album’s best record is a slow-rumbler, reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” called “The Worm.” The song seems to be a mockery of “ultra-Calvinists” who believe the elect no longer sin.
I see a lot of sincere religious seeking and nothing particularly offensive on this album. My only complaint with “The Worm” is the waste of a good guitar solo in favor of some incoherent squeaking noises.
Also noteworthy is a song about distrust, “#1 Zero,” which is slow, head-nodding guitar picking for the first three minutes until the bass drops in, thick and groovy as the foundation for some solid soloing and an intense Chris Cornell vocal performance before mellowing back into the original flow. “Heaven’s Dead” has that same build-up around the 2:45 mark, but doesn’t deliver nearly the impact. But it’s a love song, so we’ll give them a break for not going completely heavy with it.
Audioslave delivers a lot more variety and a lot less “rage” on Out of Exile. But the lack of a solid line-up of in your face rockers like “Show Me How to Live” requires I rank it slightly below their first album.