Why I love Rage Against The Machine’s debut album – by Parkway’s Winston McCall

To celebrate 50 years of metal, we asked today’s biggest stars to pick their favourite metal albums of the last five decades. Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall chose Rage Against The Machine’s era-defining 1982 debut album. Here, Winston reveals how his band wouldn’t exist without it.

Winston McCall: ”It’s hard to choose just one album from the last 50 years of metal, because there’s obvious choices. But I picked Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled album. I don’t know if it even qualifies as a heavy metal album but that’s because I don’t know what it qualifies as. If you look at the impact that the album had on metal music, guitar music and aggressive music it was influential to everything, and it is heavy as fuck

“There are albums that come along and reach a pinnacle in something that’s established and then there’s albums which completely shift a musical landscape; if you look at what that album did it was completely genre-bending and against any trend that was going on at that time and it did it in such a way that it’s created something timeless. It’s shot off on so many branches and influenced so many different parts of metal, especially with the guitar playing. The way the guitar is used in that album, it’s up there on Hendrix’s level. The fact Tom Morello used the guitar on that record in such a way that they had to put a disclaimer on to say there weren’t synths on it! It’s bonkers. How many albums come along that that happens, let alone in a genre as shred-heavy as metal? It’s the genre with the biggest riffs, and then someone comes along with stupidly massive riffs but also redefined how that instrument can be used – and that’s just the guitar.

“When it came out my friend showed it to me and Killing In The Name came out in the Australian charts. The amount of emotion and genuine vitriol in that song scared the shit out of me. It wasn’t scary in the same way as listening to Slayer or Metallica – which is horror movie scary – it was more like ‘this is a human that’s cracked’. When you listen to the entire album the lyrics are confronting and the genuine nature of the way it’s delivered with that conviction makes it so, so powerful. The raw nature of the recording only adds to it. It is such a genuine piece of art that at no point in time do you doubt the anger. There’s no character that takes you to another world or a front to hide behind, it’s pure human rage that does exactly what the name says. It’s rage against the machine. There are so few albums and bands that you could sum up so well in a recording and go ‘That’s what it is’.

“It’s influenced us 100%. When you create something that powerful it stands as a reference point. The songs are unforgettable and also act as a benchmark and signpost. There’s plenty of times we’ll be fucking around with something and we’ll do something on the guitar that isn’t normal, noise-wise or whatever, and it’s about simply having the courage to follow that and not do it in the way it’s necessarily meant to be done or playing the guitar in the way it’s meant to be played; what you’re doing is interesting so you fuck with it some more. You start exploring things that aren’t in the manual of how to play guitar so you go down those paths because the light’s been shone by someone who’s had the balls to put together a record with really weird shit. Then there’s the actual groove, the riffing, the spacing, how to pace songs and as a lyricist the amount you can put into a song in regards to being political. The way Zach used words is incredibly dexterous, he’s a phenomenal lyricist. The way he frames issues in a way so that’s so hooky and so poignant and manages to put very large issues into context in a very artistic way. He puts all the rage in it, but it’s not just straight up punk rock going ‘Fuck you’, it’s delivered very artistically. 

“I never saw Rage live. It’s one of my biggest regrets. I’m not the kind of person that goes up to anyone and says anything, and I’m sure they’ve heard it all before and must be aware of the impact they’ve had. But the amount of lives they’ve shaped, including mine is enormous. There’s nothing that I could say apart from ‘Thanks’ that could even put into perspective how immense their impact has been. Not just on a personal level and continuing political level, but if you take away all the political integrity that they’ve become known for, the simple musical legacy they had is like a fucking meteorite in the music scene. The first song Luke [Kilpatrick] our guitarist ever learnt was Killing In The Name – literally the first thing people ever learnt to play was a Rage song, so without them we probably wouldn’t be here.”