At the very end of ’92, 3 years before the mainstream radios will put the famous “Killing in the name” in “heavy rotation” mode, my roommate Greg stormed by the flat we shared at the time and told me “Nico, I just found an album which is a mix from AC/DC, The Fishbones and Public Enemy”, three bands we were worshipping. He put immediately the CD on play mode and we’re on for 52 minutes trip. First reaction: “Wow!”. Second: “Play it again”. The album was blowing so much energy that I was under the impression that a nuclear power plant had been installed in the living-room. Most of the band trying to have that sort of impact just play fast. But Rage Against The Machine, in this first eponymous album, was able to generate even more power with a slow tempo thanks to a steel-factory style rhythmic section, the great and metal-style guitar from Tom Morello and the furious rap style voice of Zach de la Rocha. The combo power is even more impressive on stage as I witness 2 years later in an east-of-France festival, 10 yards from the stage, 20 thousands people behind me in a pre-riot ambiance.
Lyrics are furious and outrageous in an American street-style (« just victim of a in-house drive-by ») and is led by the commitments against capitalism and globalization of those Californians. The album is nothing but a spit at the face of the USA and a massive attack against the American Dream. The first song “Bombtrack” puts you immediately in the spirit by attacking the “power whore” and to “warm the hands upon the flames of the flag”. On “Killing in the name”, first single and most famous song, RATM links politic and economic power to the Klu-Klux-Klan. “Bullet in the head” is metaphorically describing the propaganda and brainwashing of the media. The most explicit one is “Know your enemy”, turning against teachers who told the students to fight themselves, calling vengeance against cops and naming the real values of American Dream (compromise, submission, ignorance, brutality, …). For a long time, I did not like the last song but it happened to be now my favorite one. It calls for freedom for an indian-american who’s in jail since 1976 for the killing of two G-men. And the song delivers the key of the album: Zach de la Rocha is whispering “Anger is a gift”. Indeed, anger is a gift and this is a precious one for this combo, that’s what gives it this strength. By the way, the career of RATM had quickly faded away as if the stock of anger had all been put in this album. Zach de la Rocha did not perform a lot after that but the guitarist Tom Morello is signing nice collaborations, especially a very exciting one with Cypress Hill on the “Rise Up” album in 2010.
I’m not sharing, far from it, all the views of RATM, on US and on the “system”. But the beauty of it is that this primal rage and those furious views managed to express themselves on this power scale. That such a violence pulse can be transferred on a CD and leave an eternal trace of frustration and anger.