Hot Tracks #04

Artist: Rage Against The Machine
Album: Rage Against The Machine
Published: November 3rd, 1992
Label: Epic / Sony Music Entertainment
Produced by: Garth “GGGarth” Richardson, Rage Against The Machine
Recorded by: Stan Katayama, GGGarth, Auburn Burell
Assisted by: Craig Doubet, Jeff Sheehan
Mixed by: Andy Wallace
Mastered by: Bob Ludwig
Recorded at: Sound City Studios (Van Nuys, CA), Industrial Recording (North Hollywood, CA), Scream Studios (Studio City, CA)
Mixed at: Quantum Sound Studios (Jersey City, NJ)
Mastered at: Masterdisk, NY

Zack de la Rocha: vocals
Tom Morello: guitar
Tim Commerford: bass
Brad Wilk: drums

Guest artists:
Maynard James Keenan, additional vocals on “Know Your Enemy”
Stephen Perkins, percussion (trashcan) on “Know Your Enemy”

hard to find are the albums in heavy rock dialects that can reward the expectations of discerning listeners in search of earvana… distortion, to start with their most basic ingredient, hardly ever rhymes with “audiophile” – and so does compression, especially the heavy one.

Rage Against The Machine (hereafter referred to as RATM for brevity), the eponymous debut album of Rage Against The Machine band (hereafter referred to as RATMs – for brevity, too), is one such of only a handful, and well-known for that – first and foremost because of one of its (many) peculiarities: vocals.

wait, don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of “heavy” rock albums with vocals, and vocals in most peculiar styles… but they’re sung, while RATM is not; rap on (heavy) rock wasn’t mainstream then, and if it ever became such, we owe it to RATMs, and RATM, too, for considering it prime material for “audiophile” playback.

lyrics in song-form contain notes, sung to pitch for a determinate duration – which “last over” the music arrangement, as a sort of sound layer, stealing, or masking, what little silence is left in between notes played by instruments, speaking in layman’s terms; it does so at the expense of dynamic range which, in this setting, usually folds, and shrinks itself, until not much of it is left standing (depending on the competence applied to both arrangement and mixdown, or lack thereof).

RATM is immune from this: sentences in rap styles are already short per se, and spoken word without “sung” intonation is made of (short) consonants interspersed between vowels, contrary to sung lyrics in which vowels “last” over beats… which leaves plenty of dynamic headroom to the band, here.

RATMs’ instrumental line-up is lean and mean – just guitar, bass and drum, intentionally played with mighty energy, but with figures, riffs and lines always staccato, burst-like, inspired by funk and hip-hop, instead of the flourished, baroque-like, pseudo-orchestral rock of more than one “metal” denomination.

often ibass and guitar play unison, with an apparent simplicity that can fool those listeners who don’t actively practice on a musical instrument: it seems all oh-so-easy here, all so stripped-down-to-bare-minimum-terms, which makes it hard to figure the deep musical knowledge that’s required, in order to drive RATMs’ members interplay so fluidly.

it helps to further raise the bar of this album, in terms of audio quality, how its mastering process was rendered by none other than (The) Bob Ludwig at Masterdisk, probably the most competent and experienced critical listener ever, for transfering a mix to different media… but RATM’s very concept is built on maximum transfer of energy from band to listener in musical terms anyway.

notice: no sense in playing this at an SPL level other than as close as viable to the real thing, performed in your living room – hence VERY LOUD!

caution: this might blow weaker loudspeakers to pieces, and cause serious hearing damage over prolonged exposure – so be forewarned: PLAY RESPONSIBLY!

listen to it on Tidal · on Qobuz · on Apple Music

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