Judging by both popular demand and the current political climate, a return from Rage Against The Machine is long overdue. After all, what better time than now for the reformation of a band so relentlessly belligerent? Although for a time it seemed as though a reappearance might actually be on the cards, instead what we got is Prophets Of Rage. Essentially RATM as fronted by Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord and Cyprus Hill’s B Real, it’s a group with no shortage of pedigree behind the name – frustratingly, though, it’s one that only at times manages to live up to the potential that such a collaboration boasts.
Of course, under normal circumstances, comparisons to previous output from musicians now taking fresh new ventures is largely pointless and even counterproductive – however, Prophets Of Rage is different. While the influence of Public Enemy and Cyprus Hill is present in the group’s DNA, the band’s general direction unmistakably harkens back to the early work of Morello, Wilk and Commerford. Musicality here often feels directly lifted from Rage Against The Machine’s more groove heavy moments. Tom Morello’s riffs have the same elastic bounce and knotted heaviness that long ago came to define everything he’s worked on and, whilst there’s no denying the frequently exhilarating power of his playing on ‘Prophets Of Rage’, it does often feel copy-pasted from the records he was making some 25 years ago.
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Song structure, too, does feel rather familiar here. Although the mosh-friendly formula that defined Rage Against The Machine was hugely effective (even if its potency did begin to wear off towards the end of their career), it doesn’t always carry over to Prophets Of Rage in convincing form. There are hugely effective tracks on the album but, too often, the record feels like a somewhat less impactful re-run of past glories.
Lyricism and rapping is generally solid here but, much like the music that backs it, subtlety isn’t the strong point of anyone taking vocal duties on the album. It must be said that the core messages here are often well placed and there’s undeniably much food for thought in the lyrics for those who want to dig deeper into the themes – and for that alone it deserves praise. Although the album gains an undeniable impact from the no-nonsense delivery of its ideologies, the rather simplistic way in which they’re articulated is a point of contention. To be fair, it’s not as though RATM made their name through a nuanced world view or ever tried to see both sides of an argument, but even by those standards Prophets Of Rage are not a band with a particularly complex outlook – though one might argue that it’s hard to mosh and think too hard at the same time.
Regardless of its flaws, ‘Prophets Of Rage’ is anything but a poor record. Whilst the album’s 12 tracks are somewhat hit and miss, the band are largely on-point and there’re no shortage of highlights to be found here. ‘Hail To The Chief’ is a definite standout, boasting one of the best riffs on the record and a stomping grandeur that’s very hard to argue with. ‘Living On The 110’ likewise stands out for having some of the best lyrics on the album, its furious cry of “there’s no end to the poverty stopping me” sounding genuinely disillusioned.
There are moments where the album visibly stumbles, however – ‘Fired A Shot’s overly repetitive refrain doesn’t quite manage to find its groove and ‘Legalize Me’ is so laughably unsubtle that it robs the message of any potential impact. Production largely misses the mark, too, with a squeaky clean sound that really doesn’t sit so well with the feisty, rebellious nature of the music it serves. Although technically well done and actually mixed rather nicely, the high sheen takes away more than it adds.
‘Prophets Of Rage’ is a flawed recorded, certainly, but one that definitely has plenty to offer aficionados of any of the musicians involved. Although the album – perhaps unavoidably – lives in the shadows the far superior records that its creators were putting out 25 or 30 years ago, all things considered it’s a solid and mostly enjoyable effort. It’s no game changer and at times it falls short of the sheer fury that the name promises, but there’s merit in the album for those with the perseverance to find it.
‘Prophets of Rage’ is out on the 15th September. The full track listing is as follows…
1. Radical Eyes
2. Unf–k the World
3. Legalize Me
4. Living on the 110
5. The Counteroffensive
6. Hail to the Chief
7. Take Me Higher
8. Strength in Numbers
9. Fired a Shot
10. Who Owns Who
11. Hands Up