“The rage is relentless! We need a movement with a quickness! You are the witness of change and to counteract… we gotta take the power back!”
This incendiary cry for social justice from one of the modern music scene’s most controversial bands has echoed on the radio as well as in the minds of listeners for over two decades and shows no sign of going silent.
Nov. 3, 2017, marks the 25th anniversary of Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album, a release that would change all genres of music for years to come.
Rage Against the Machine came together as a musical act in 1991, with a tension-filled Los Angeles as their setting. Civil disturbances surrounding the beating of Rodney King, an unarmed black man, by the L.A.P.D. were becoming more frequent and would escalate to full-scale riots by spring of 1992.
Amidst the unrest, Rage Against the Machine rose to popularity with “Bullet in the Head,” a single loaded with explicit lyrics and anti-establishment themes. This crossover hit would set the tone for their debut album as well as the rest of their ongoing musical career.
Nothing is kept secret when Rage Against the Machine releases music. Messages are delivered in the loudest and most intrusive fashion available by way of a unique musical firebomb containing elements of rap, funk rock, and metal. The messy yet masterful guitar of Tom Morello, the powerhouse drumming work of Brad Wilk, and the driving funk bass of Tim Commerford combine with the caustic rap vocals of Zack de la Rocha to form the perfect musical vehicle to bombard listeners with anti-government themes and awareness of racial injustice.
Though they are often criticized for their support of the political far-left and possibly inciting violence with their lyrics, Rage Against the Machine is a bold group who is still determined to make their message heard after all these years.
Rage’s debut album, “Rage Against the Machine,” is revolutionary from the very moment one sets eyes on it. The cover art for this album is an already infamous picture taken in 1963. The cover contains a photo of a Buddhist monk setting himself on fire in the streets of Saigon. This monk’s suicide was in response to the oppression of Buddhism by South Vietnamese dictator Ngo Dinh Diem, who was installed by the United States. The band members also refer to themselves as “Guilty Parties” when their names are listed in the CD booklet.
The album begins with “Bombtrack,” an expletive-filled militant jam lashing out against the institution. This is followed by the ever-popular “Killing in the Name” and the bloodthirsty “Take the Power Back.” Another notable track is “Know Your Enemy,” which features Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan on backing vocals and former Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins playing additional percussion.
The tenth and final track is titled “Freedom” and ends album with a scream of “Freedom?… yeah right!…” Perhaps this sums up the entirety of Rage Against the Machine, blasting the listener with the voice that the band is trying to make heard.
A quarter of a century later, Rage Against the Machine is still powerful, still shocking, and still relevant. The growing social issues of current America have been accentuated by the election of Donald Trump as President, and the populace is increasingly divided on these factors. In this environment, the lyrics of Rage Against the Machine are as inflammatory and potent as they were in 1992. It is very likely that the direction the nation is going will all but immortalize the lyrics of Rage Against the Machine and their message.