In a decade which saw the rise of grunge, pop-punk, nu-metal and emo, there’s a strong case to be made for Rage Against The Machine – vocalist Zack de la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk – being the most impactful and important rock band on the planet. Over the course of three landmark albums – that peerless 1992 debut, 1996’s Evil Empire and 1999’s The Battle Of Los Angeles – the quartet authored a hard-hitting, fearless body of work that today sounds every bit as powerful and inspirational as it did upon its initial release.
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In 2000, they called time on things, worn down by the intensity of their mission, but not before recording a covers album, Renegades. Their interpretation of classics by spiritually like-minded artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Minor Threat, MC5 and Afrika Bambaataa, left a breadcrumb trail of discovery for fans willing to delve into the original inspirations fuelling their disaffection.
The quartet first reignited their will to fight the good fight once more in 2007, and saw them through until 2011, serving as an opportunity to take a degree of credit not wholly offered previously. Sadly, the same issues which first sparked their fury into flames remained as prevalent as ever. Scoring 2009’s UK Christmas Number One single with Killing In The Name, powered by an online campaign to undermine X Factor boss Simon Cowell’s chart hegemony, was an unanticipated bonus, “a wonderful dose of anarchy” as guitarist Tom recalled. Yet, despite sales of 16 million albums across the band’s career, when interviewed by Kerrang! in 2017, Tom unsentimentally declared Rage Against The Machine’s career a “missed opportunity’ and “a promise unfulfilled”.
“I was aiming to bring down governments,” the guitarist insisted, entirely seriously.