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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Twenty years on and the rage is as fresh as ever

Published 30/11/2012 | 18:00

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XX

( Sony)

HHHHI

Can it really be 20 years since Rage Against the Machine released their debut album?

It is, you know, and this re-mastered and re-released version of that self-titled work (renamed XX) still sounds remarkably potent and fresh today.

Its ability to stand the test of time is helped, in large part, by the fact that so many of the hardcore metal bands that followed in its wake were heavily influenced by the uncompromising sound trademarked by Zach de la Rocha and friends.

So, even today, there are any number of young upstarts whose abrasive brand of rock and confrontational, sloganeering words owe an enormous debt to the Californian quartet.

In 1992, de la Rocha was the archetypical angry young man who was proclaimed in some quarters as the voice of a disaffected generation.

And when you listen to such snarling missives as Killing in the Name and Bombtrack it's easy to appreciate why.

The remastering job has highlighted many of the album's strengths – including virtuosic guitar work – but, in truth, it doesn't offer the transformation that studio clean-ups have done for other albums, especially ones released years before when recording techniques were cruder.

Still, hearing this album again in its entirety after several years is a frequently thrilling experience.

Know Your Enemy, featuring Maynard James Keenan, is as powerful and intoxicating as ever and those tracks that mightn't have felt as vital in 1992, such as Fistful of Steel, now appear crucial to the whole project.

It has to be said that de la Rocha's shouted lyrics can be terribly trite here and there, and if it's subtlety you're after, it's probably best to look elsewhere.

What's not in question is the cohesive strength of the songs, built around shrieking, abrasive guitars and the most thunderous drums you're ever likely to hear.

Rage Against the Machine remain a going concern, but it's been 12 years since they last released an album (Renegades). And that's unlikely to change in the near future with guitarist Tom Morello confirming that there's no new album in the pipeline.

KEY TRACKS Killing in the Name; Know Your Enemy; Fistful of Steel

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