When Rage Against The Machine's incendiary debut album was unleashed in the winter of 1992, it felt like an atomic bomb being set off at the heart of the metal scene. Matching the snarling bars of talented rapper Zack de la Rocha with the earth-shaking riffs and experimental eccentricities of guitarist Tom Morello, anchored by the powerhouse, groove-driven rhythm section of bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, it was unlike anything else in alternative music at the time.
By the end of the decade and following three more studio albums, Rage Against The Machine's time as a creative output was already done, the band split up and with three quarters of its members soon to team up with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell under the banner of Audioslave. Nonetheless, in a recording career even shorter than The Beatles', Rage Against The Machine changed heavy music forever, and their influence is felt as keenly now as it was thirty years ago.
Here is the band's explosive back catalogue, ranked from worst to best.
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4. Rage Against The Machine – Renegades (2000)
Covers albums can be hit and miss affairs, but fair play to Rage Against The Machine, Renegades hits the target way more than it misses. The lead single was a fattened-up groove through Afrika Bambaataa’s classic Renegades Of Funk, but whether they’re going gangsta rap on Cypress Hill’s How I Could Just Kill A Man, hardcore punk on Minor Threat’s In My Eyes or garage rock on The Stooges Down On The Street, Rage prove they can adapt without losing any of their own identity. The true highlight though is their brilliant re-imagining of Bob Dylan’s counterculture war cry Maggie's Farm, which brings some musical muscle to fit those seething lyrics.
3. Rage Against The Machine – The Battle Of Los Angeles (1999)
Coming in 1999, three years after the release of Evil Empire, it was a new musical climate that RATM found themselves returning to. The blueprint of rap and hard rock that they had perfected had been co-opted by the hugely popular nu metal bands of the time, but Rage still stayed ahead of the game. The Battle Of Los Angeles is maybe not quite as consistent as the first couple of albums, but it remains a brilliantly powerful piece of work all the same, with the swirling march of Testify, the rhythmically dexterous Calm Like A Bomb and the bouncing, crushing Sleep Now In The Fire (complete with its iconic video where Rage shut down the Stock Exchange) all becoming definitive moments in the band's career.
2. Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empire (1996)
Seen as a bit of a dip at the time of release in 1996, it’s good to see that RATM’s sophomore album now gets the dues that it richly deserves. It’s really only due to the fact that it followed one of the greatest albums ever made that it has to take the silver medal here, and even then, it is only by the very smallest of margins. Evil Empire is a phenomenal record, spawning mega hits like Bulls On Parade and People Of The Sun, but it’s when you dig a little deeper that you can really get the genius of this record. Songs like the psychedelic punk of Revolver or the scattergun jazz of Down Rodeo are as good and as experimental as anything Rage have ever written. It might be number two here, but this is still a ten out of ten album.
1. Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine (1992)
One of the most revolutionary albums in the history of music, the 1992 debut album by Rage Against The Machine remains legitimately groundbreaking and utterly perfect. By the early 90s, rap and rock had started to become closely linked, but no one could have seen the amalgam of the two styles being so perfectly realised as it is here. It’s really no exaggeration to say that almost every track on Rage Against The Machine has gone on to become an anthem of the era which still stands up today; Know Your Enemy, Bullet In The Head, Freedom, Bombtrack and, of course, Killing In The Name, there are plenty of bands who have released greatest hits albums that couldn’t hold a candle to the track listing here. Morello’s unique guitar style, the perfectly synched, tightly wound rhythm section and De La Rocha’s furious and intelligent raps...you’d not change a single second of this record, an all-time great.