Audioslave’s third and final album, Revelations, has frequently been overlooked. Released on 4 September 2006, it went gold in the US, but with vocalist Chris Cornell’s second solo album, Carry On, making the US Top 20, and his bandmates’ Rage Against The Machine reunion also wowing the public, Revelations fell off the mainstream radar by the time its creators announced they’d split, in 2007.
Divorced from the times, however, Revelations cries out for some overdue respect. Due to its funk and soul flavourings, it stands apart stylistically from Audioslave’s first two albums, but it rocks with a passion and more than lives up to its title thanks to some compellingly diverse and frequently startling moments.
Audioslave’s Rick Rubin-produced 2002 debut, and 2005’s Out Of Exile, both resulted in multi-platinum sales, Grammy nominations and favourable comparisons with 70s rock legends such as Led Zeppelin. However, while these discs showed that the celebrated alt.rock supergroup had hit upon a winning formula, with Soundgarden frontman Cornell’s soaring vocals perfectly complementing his RATM compatriots’ monster riffs and heavy grooves, advance word suggested that Audioslave were drawing upon a wider sonic spectrum for their much-anticipated third album.
“I love rock music, but my favourite singers are not in rock bands, they’re Stevie Wonder, Mavis Staples and The Chambers Brothers,” Cornell informed Rolling Stone in May 2006, while guitarist Tom Morello told MTV that Revelations’ sound was akin to “Earth Wind And Fire meets Led Zeppelin.”
Revelations proved that these claims really weren’t so outlandish. Liquid funk coursed through the grooves of songs such as ‘Jewel Of The Summertime’ and ‘Somedays’, while Morello communed with his inner Hendrix on the wah-wah-fuelled ‘One And The Same’. Cornell also unleashed some supremely acrobatic vocal takes on the euphoric, Motown-flecked stomper ‘Original Fire’ and the heartfelt ‘Broken City’: a vivid tale of urban poverty which, he told Rolling Stone, reminded him of The World Is A Ghetto-era War.
Elsewhere, though, Audioslave returned to their trademark hard rock sound on tracks such as ‘Shape Of Things To Come’ and the portentous, pummelling titular song, which was powered by one of Morello’s heaviest riffs to date. Cornell’s lyrics also displayed a burgeoning political awareness on hard-hitting numbers such as ‘Sound Of A Gun’ and ‘Wide Awake’. Featuring no-holds-barred lines such as “1,200 people dead or left to die/Follow the leaders, were it an eye for an eye, we’d all be blind”, the latter track attacked US political complacency in the wake of 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina, and it still ranks among the 21st Century’s most effective protest songs.
Even while Audioslave were recording Revelations, rumours were rife that it would be the band’s last album; much was subsequently read into the chorus of the record’s final track, ‘Moth’ (“I don’t fly around your fire anymore”), after Cornell left the group early in 2007. Dwelling on the minutiae of the album’s creation ultimately feels futile, though, for Revelations is a transcendent record crafted by a band who were rapidly evolving.
Over a decade on from its initial release, Revelations still sounds like the beginning of what should have been Audioslave’s next chapter, not a record which effectively serves as their epitaph.
Revelations can be bought here.