Prophets of Rage is a supergroup for our current times that is not designed to heal our country but fight the powers that be. They have a clearly defined agenda lyrically, laid out to battle the current establishments policies in front of metal injected hip-hop riffs and beats. In a vacuum the combination of Chuck D, DJ Lord (Public Enemy), B-Real (Cypress Hill) and Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave) should be an explosive collection of radical headbangers and pit movers, but in execution the group’s first full-length release sounds rehashed, uninspired and sluggish.
When there are this many strong musical voices it is tough to pinpoint where things failed to gel: the main issue is with the musical backing. On Rage Against The Machine’s albums, there is a molotov cocktail explosion of aggression behind Zack De La Rocha’s rhymes. For Prophets of Rage, the trio slows down trying to back the MC’s instead of pushing them forward. “Unfuck The World” is angry yet slow and streamlined, losing any urgency the song hopes to inspire while “Smashit” feels like a direct outtake from the end of RATM’s recording career. “Living On The 110” is the clearest mash up musically of RATM and Audioslave while “Legalize Me” lacks any impact and is coated with a polished sheen that doesn’t fit.
Perhaps super-producer Brendan O’Brien put too much gloss on certain songs, but the fault lies more with the songwriting which gets stuck in ruts relying on big choruses that aren’t as inspiring in practice as they might have been on paper. “Hail To The Chief” features two excitable vocal verses from B-Real and Chuck D, but the music drags and the repetitive chorus doesn’t elevate the song. Ideas seem to be running a bit low with two musical interludes (“The Counteroffensive” and “Take Me Higher”) on a twelve song album without even mentioning “Fired The Shot” which doesn’t do much of anything except take up space playing like an unfinished outtake that snuck onto the final release.
Some successful tracks are “Who Owns Who” which puts a killer Morello riff to work behind Chuck’s anger and “Hands Up” which injects energy into things. “Strength In Numbers” is the strongest song here with unique guitar tweaks, DJ scratches, bombastic drums and tempo changes around the MC’s engaging vocals. T
Prophets of Rage’s roots stem back to the early nineties when all of the players involved had huge hits and were collectively changing the face of popular music. Now they are elder statesmen who are still angry and still sloganeering, just with less success. The album will speak to the converted, yet it won’t pack a visceral punch while banging out of speakers the way albums like Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black, Black Sunday or Rage Against The Machine still manage to do today.