RedressI’ve seen this album dirt cheap in lots of music shops over the years and always assumed it’s a terrible album. I should actually listen to Evil Empire and give it a fair chance…

Back when I used to collect CD’s, I used to frequent a lot of music shops…Music Zone, Fopp in Manchester, HMV, Probe Records in Liverpool…it’s a long list. I basically spent years buying CDs I couldn’t afford or find when I was younger (and not listening to them) until I discovered streaming…as a result, I saved a small fortune.

During my CD shopping days, I noticed some things that never changed,regardless of what city I was in. All branches of Cash Converter had millions of Eternal and Louise albums. Thrash metal albums were always more pricey than regular albums. And, and…Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Evil Empire’ album was always cheaper than other albums.

I like Rage Against The Machine, I’m not their biggest fan but I do quite enjoy some of their stuff. I didn’t really hear their music until the 2000’s, past the hype of their debut and the release of 1996’s Evil Empire. I got into music in 1996 too, which was difficult for me as I had little money. As I scraped up funds for CDs and cassettes, I was always looking for sales and cheap albums. I had to take a chance sometimes too, all I had for reference was Kerrang!!!

Yet, on my adventures to get as much music as cheap as possible, I never took a chance on Evil Empire, despite it always being in my price range and being recorded by a fairly well known, well-regarded band. Indeed, I always assumed it was a poor album because it was cheap, even heading into the 2000’s, when the price of CD’s crashed thanks to Music Zone.

So, I think it’s only fair, in the spirit of Art of Redress, that I go back and give Evil Empire a listen. Maybe I’ll discover a gem, an album I should have spent my meager savings on…

Evil Empire back

The Songs

Confession time…I hated Evil Empire on first listen. I actually started writing this post in April and my first few listens of this album were painful. It was People Of The Sun (3.5/5) that finally won me over and inspired me to listen to the rest of Evil Empire. I just found myself humming the main riff over and over while driving to work and to the tip. Even now, the riff still resurfaces in my day to day consciousness.

Bulls On Parade (3.5/5) was a similar case to People Of The Sun. I simply got the massive opening riff stuck in my head and spent a few days humming it non-stop. After a few listens, I started to appreciate other aspects of the song. The chorus is great, a really sinister groove with Zack de la Rocha singing “They rally around the family/With a pocketful of shells” over the top in a restrained, but menacing way. I like Tom Morello’s trademark solo too – I call them  ‘fax machine solos’ as it sounds like Morello has plugged his Telecaster into a fax machine and is torturing it via shredding. I’d say Bulls On Parade is probably my favourite song on Evil Empire…

…which makes it a shame my least favourite song on Evil Empire follows it. I found Vietnow (2/5) pretty dull – I think that’s due to the main riff, a repetitive droning riff that plays throughout most of Vietnow’s 4:31 run time. I always find myself waiting for a twist on the riff…there are some variations later in the song, but it’s too little too late at that point. That’s not to say Vietnow is a complete waste of a song, there’s some good drum fills and the chorus nearly takes the rating to 2.5/5. In the end though, I just think Vietnow goes nowhere, which for a song as long as it is, makes it a hard listen.

Revolver (3/5) was the only song I enjoyed during my initial listens of Evil Empire and I still enjoyed it during my later plays. I like the quiet-loud dynamic – it brings variety to Evil Empire. The chorus is great too, the underlying riff is another one that will stick in the head.

Snakecharmer (2.5/5) never made an impression on me during my time with Evil Empire. I found it kinda of unremarkable, some good sections (such as the main riff and the verse riff) but generally it felt like a muddle of different parts. It’s not awful, but it’s the song on Evil Empire that passes me by.

Tire Me (3/5) was a strange one for me. Initially, I was wondering how it won a Grammy Award…it seemed pretty average and I had problems distinguishing it from the other songs on Evil Empire. However, I’ve found myself enjoying it as I listen to more of Evil Empire. The screaming guitar during the verses is what stands out, it adds a frantic, panicked feel to the song  that really benefits it.

I liked Down Rodeo (3.5/5) the more I listened to it too. It’s a heavy song, both musically and lyrically (it’s about class warfare and there’s references to taking a shotgun to Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills) yet it’s oddly laid back. The guitar playing is great on this track – heavy, yet funky with a cool quiet section in the outro and another ‘Fax Machine’ solo. I really like songs that offer variety in playing and Down Rodeo delivers that in spades.

Without A Face (2.5/5) can’t follow Down Rodeo. It’s not a bad track and there isn’t anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t stand out. Like Snakecharmer, Without A Face tends to pass by when you listen to Evil Empire.

Wind Below (2.5/5) is in the same boat as Snakecharmer and Without A Face, it’s not a bad track, but it’s kinda forgettable. It’s also the longest track on the album at 5:50, which doesn’t help it’s cause…in my opinion, it doesn’t really have enough ideas to go nearly six minutes long.

Roll Right (3/5) picks things up again – it’s got a cool riff backed by some slinky bass playing. Another laid back, yet heavy song that works really well on Evil Empire

Year Of Tha Boomerang (3/5) closes the album well – I like the variety in this one. The quiet arpeggio, then the fast section…the bass lead verse…there’s a lot of good parts in this song…in a sense, it’s the polar opposite of Snakecharmer. Everything works well here, even if it does end abruptly. I would have appreciated another minute or so…

Overall – 2.90/5.00

Verdict – I’m glad I gave Evil Empire a chance, sure it has a few average songs, but the good songs were worth discovering. There’s nothing as great as the songs from their debut here, but Evil Empire is an above average album that deserved better than my negative assumptions. In hindsight, Evil Empire would have been worth a punt for a few quid back in the day….