In an age when the Internet search engine wields great power, choosing a title like Revelations is no small risk for Audioslave. A Google search for "Revelations" initially brings up references to "The Book of Revelation," the chapter of the Bible that describes the end of the world. You won't find scriptural verse in Audioslave's Revelations, but you will find a soaring testament to the redemptive power of rock and soul. Audioslave most likely intends the title to refer to the definition that means "newly revealed information," and on that front Revelations stands as a flaming bush atop the mount.
If Audioslave initially was stitched together as something of an alternative rock Frankenstein-a renown singer joins a renown singerless-band-this monster now has a life of its own and Revelations puts that history into back-story. This album is full of experimentation and fresh direction, while at the same time it exudes the kind of poise that could only come from pedigreed-veterans of stadium tours. Not all of Revelations easily fits into the alternative rock pigeonhole, as several songs experiment with rhythmic change-ups. Some of the singing is soulful, there are songs that are funky, and others that are anathematic, though it all adds up to a powerhouse rock record.
The pairing of Cornell with Rage's guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk, proved to be something just short of genius, and Audioslave was formed. When the foursome first went into the studio in May 2001, they wrote 21 songs in 19 days. Audioslave, their debut album released on November 19, 2002, went on to sell five million copies worldwide. The band's first single, "Cochise," was followed by "Like a Stone," and "Show Me How to Live," all featuring a sound that is at once huge, but also intimate. That seems be one of Audioslave's gifts: Their songs are filled with enough huge hooks to rock a stadium, but there is also a subtle magic to their sound can't easily be charted.
Audioslave's last official release was a DVD of their historic 2005 concert in Havana, the first time an American rock band had played a show in Cuba. For musicians who have always made social activism an important part of their life, on and offstage, Revelations also represents a more overtly politic Audioslave, particularly on the song "Wide Awake." This scathing condemnation of the Bush administration's failures may tie together the heart and soul of Revelations. Using the kind of dark imagery that truly suggests the end of days, Cornell rails against a leader who is "trading lives for oil as if the whole world was blind." With the power of Morello's guitar, and the driving beat set by Wilk and Commerford, Cornell roars, "I find you guilty of a crime of sleeping at a time when you should have been wide awake." It is a chorus that could have come straight out of "The Book of Revelation," and one that we can only hope is not an apocalyptic prophesy.
- Charles R. Cross