By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
[Concord Music Group; 2017]
Key Tracks: “Unfuck the World”, “Hail to the Chief”, “Take Me Higher”
Given the current political climate that we are facing, it’s understandable why some would want to lash out and rebel. Music has often been one of the more popular mediums when it comes to the expression of frustration and has been for over 60 years. In the 90s, it was groups like Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill who were influencing the previous generation with their radicalized lyrics and style. To think that a supergroup combining all three of these bands in today’s environment would be just as effective is almost a given. This time around, however, it doesn’t work.
Prophets of Rage’s lineup includes Rage’s Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tom Commerford, who make up the instrumental aspect of the group, along with the legendary MC Chuck D from Public Enemy and Cypress Hill’s B-Real on vocals. The opening track to their self-titled LP, “Radical Eyes,” starts off sounding exactly like any Rage Against the Machine song would; heavy and hard-hitting percussion from Wilk, mixed with Morello’s signature riffs and various effects pedals. As a listener, you would expect to hear Rage’s Zack de la Rocha come in and start rapping, but instead, you get Chuck D talking about radicalism from all sides in the U.S. It’s a heavy hitting protest song that’s made somewhat effective thanks to the instrumentals, but the biggest problem here (and for most the album) is the poor, sluggish composition of the song. Chuck D has two short verses that each go on for nearly 20 seconds, while the other two and a half minutes are dedicated to the same, annoyingly repetitive chorus with B-Real and Chuck going back and forth. Songs such as “Fired a Shot”, “Who Owns Who” and “Hands Up” just become harder and harder to listen as the album progresses because of this same problem – making you forget what the album is about in the first place.
Each track on the LP tackles a different polarizing issue in the United States, such as homelessness in “Living On The 110”, the legalization of marijuana in “Legalize Me” and unfairness on our country’s social and economic system in songs like “Unfuck the World” and “Strength in Numbers”. As expected, the lyrics are very much “in your face” so to speak. Seeing what kind of lyrics and songs that each three of these respective groups have put out in the past, it shouldn’t come as a shock to listeners when B-Real says “When I drop these lyrics that’ll make you sing ‘fuck the cops!’” in “Take Me Higher” or Chuck D encouraging us to “Burn that god damn flag” in “Who Owns Who”. As inspiring as it may be for some, it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth, due to the sluggish production on many of the tracks. Rage Against the Machine has always been praised for its increasingly loud and quick-paced instrumentals as evident in songs such as “Bulls On Parade” and “Killing in the Name of”, yet this time they scale it back significantly. Both Chuck D and B-Real simply cannot pull off the same rhythm and intensity that de la Rocha had in RATM, which nearly throws off everything, creating the types of issues as mentioned earlier.
Prophets of Rage is an album that will cater to a select few, whether it’ll be for those who are looking for inspiration and hope in these dire times or just nostalgic Rage Against the Machine fans. While Morello, Wilk and Commerford are able to hold up their end of the bargain instrumentally, the other side falls flat, resulting in an LP that is destined to become insignificant in just a few years.