“We’re an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing”. Tom Morello, 31st May 2016, Rolling Stone Magazine.
With the current state of things socially and politically, if ever there was a time for Rage Against The Machine to wake from their slumber, it’s now. Although, this isn’t Rage Against The Machine; the “elite task force of revolutionary musicians” is Prophets Of Rage – three parts RATM: Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk. Two parts Public Enemy: Chuck D and DJ Lord. One part Cypress Hill: B-Real. And they want to “Make America Rage Again”. The six-headed political rap-rock monster emerged in 2016 as a reaction to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he with the fake toupee and spray tan wanted to “Make America Great Again” but he’s gone and got himself elected as President of The United States and well, it’s all gone to shit hasn’t it?
Prophets Of Rage have been touring the world blasting out fan favourite nuggets from their united back catalogues for the past year or so but now they’ve readied their self-titled debut record and as you’d expect, it’s basically Rage Against The Machine with Chuck D and B-Real delivering vitriolic rhymes about social and political injustice. Does it capture the incendiary fury of Rage Against The Machine? No – not really. It’s angry and bombastic but as legendary as Chuck D is – he’s no Zack De La Rocha and neither is B-Real. There’s just something extraordinary when Rage Against The Machine unite; this isn’t to say ‘Prophets Of Rage’ isn’t worth your time – it’s a big rock record that’s fit to bursting with fist pumping anthems – those that’ll ignite circle pits as it will (hopefully) provoke a reaction – be it big or small.
When the album gets it right – it does so with aplomb ‘Unfuck The World’ combines all that’s exciting about this project – it’s a massive, funky, aggressive rock song with Chuck D and B-Real sounding full of fury, the same can be said about ‘Who Owns Who’, an ireful swipe at greedy corruptions and crocked governments while album closer ‘Smashit’ bounces with a volatile swagger. ’Hail To The Chief’s machine gun delivery finds the sweet spot between the unit’s individual bands while ‘Strength In Numbers’ is a pummelling call for solidarity.
‘Prophets Of Rage’ isn’t without its misfires; ‘Legalize Me’ is genuinely terrible; it’s an autotuned B-Real reeling off all the places in North America you can get blazed; I get that the man loves his weed but he’s 47 not 14 – rapping about “fighting on until tomorrow” so he can enjoy a spliff or two just sounds derivative compared to the rest of the record’s fiery subject matter. ‘Take Me Higher’ finds Prophets Of Rage dialling down their ferocity and in doing so sound flaccid – like a weird take off of INXS in fact. Also, when Morello goes into full fret-wanking mode through the band’s debut, it can sound dated as he fires up another elaborate solo.
Will it spark the revolution and overthrow the demon in the White House? Probably not. Will the album work as some catharsis to these frustrating and troubling times? Yes, and I can’t ask for more than that.
Words and thoughts of Adam Williams