Audioslave is the imposing name which Chris Cornell and the three remaining members of Rage against the Machine have christened themselves as. The first creative outpouring from the group, a blistering assault by the name of ‘Cochise’, was released online recently. To understand the cathartic mayhem driving the song, is to first understand the legend of Cochise.
One of the true great Indian chiefs, Cochise’s life is intrinsically linked to the ‘Bascom affair’. While working at the Apache Pass stagecoach station of the Butterfield Overland line, he was wrongfully accused of abducting the child of a ranch hand by George Bascom, an inexperienced Army Lieutenant. What followed was an attempted arrest of Cochise and five other Apaches, a death, and Cochise’s subsequent bloody escape. The U.S. Cavalry’s continued injustice took the shape of several Apache deaths, including members of Cochise’s own family. His vengeance in turn entailed declaring bloody hell upon the Southwest, spearheading warfare of such savage proportions that all troops and settlers were forced out of the region. Tom Morello, now entrenched as Audioslave’s resident Guitar God, has opined that the band’s song has much in common with Cochise himself – “fearless and resolute, attacking everything in its path with an unbridled fury.” He couldn’t have hit the nail harder on the head.
This is simply one of the most abrasive, and incidentally, best songs of the year. Supergroups of the past often had to contend with the dilemma of whether to forge a new sound or carry forward the musical tradition of any one of the members. Cochise delivers proof that Audioslave are suffering from none of those doubts. RATM just continue to pound the walls of rock like they’ve always done, only this time, they do it harder. And Cornell continues to pierce the soul with his ravaged screams, only this time, he goes deeper.
A sense of creeping menace is established right at the onset through bullet-gun fire like sounds (Morello up to his old tricks), before the band launch into one of the crunchiest riffs since RATM’s own ‘Ghost of Tom Joad’. The viciousness on display is so fierce, it would blow each and every garage-rock band amp to smithereens, depositing their sorry remains at the bottom of the Tasmanian Sea. Tim Commerford (bass) and Brad Wilk (drums) know a thing or two about creating a sonic onslaught. Here, they bring on an atmosphere of impending doom with earth-shattering style. Tom Morello plays the way only he can, eliciting scratchy cries from his instrument, while almost simultaneously delivering large doses of sludge rock to near perfection. And then, there is that voice.
As rock soothsayers have discovered the hard way, you try and predict Chris Cornell’s next move at your own peril. Right from early incarnations of Soundgarden to his solo debut, Euphoria Morning, he’s revelled in turning almost every rock-vocal notion upside down. Even on Soundgarden’s most scathing releases like ‘Birth Ritual’ and ‘Hands all over’, his voice sparkled with mysticism of a rare nature. Later Soundgarden efforts such as ‘Bootcamp’ revealed an experimental, ethereal tendency which suggested that a detour would be on the horizon. This departure came to its obvious fruition on his solo release, a supremely graceful collection of songs, epitomized by the soul-laden ‘When I’m down’. With Cochise, he nearly takes us back to 1991 in delivering a scorching, full-throated performance which would surely bring even the most jaded Soundgarden reunion hanger-on back to life. His voice only seems to have gotten better with age, the raw decibel ability now blending peacefully with a seemingly unfathomable emotional depth. When Cornell screams – “I’m not a martyr/ I’m not a prophet/ I won’t preach to you/ But here’s a caution/ You better understand/ That I won’t hold your hand/ But if it helps you mend/ Then I won’t stop it” – it’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic. Really, the only thing missing from performances of days gone by is that trademark ‘second verse at a deafeningly higher pitch’.
Audioslave will be releasing their self-titled debut album, featuring 14 songs, on November 19th. Song titles like ‘What you are’, ‘Shadow on the sun’ and ‘The last remaining light’ offer a tantalizing glimpse of the sublimity that lies in store.
Speaking about his former band, Chris Cornell had once said that Soundgarden was a tear from an eye… like dreaming. What little evidence there is seems to suggest that Audioslave will be like blood from the brain, an unapologetic celebration of hard rock at its purest.
For more information go to: www.audioslavemusic.com