Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian recently recalled a conversation from the early 90s where he had noted that the only way Rage Against The Machine could have become more exciting would have been – with no disrespect to the band’s vocalist Zack de la Rocha – to install Public Enemy’s Chuck D as their frontman.
More than two decades on, that whimsical notion became a thunderous reality, with the added bonus of Cypress Hill’s inimitable B-Real as Chuck’s co-rapper and an accommodating world providing guitarist Tom Morello and his new band with the most perfectly fucked-up political backdrop. Until mere weeks ago, Prophets Of Rage’s gigs were dominated by covers of RATM, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill tunes, but new material was always a distinct possibility, and this 12-track eruption of socially enlightened fury is the end result.
Of course, it’s almost impossible to avoid comparing Prophets Of Rage to Morello’s former band, but differences are plentiful and definitive. The combination of Chuck D and B-Real’s wholly different vocal deliveries is a revelation throughout: the former’s commanding baritone and preacher’s power contrasting beautifully with the latter’s nasal sneer and street-smart menace. Similarly, the chemistry between Morello, drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford has never been in doubt, and here, while generally less aggressive than they were in their youthful pomp, that effortless ensemble groove ensures that none of these tracks will fail to free minds and asses.
The best are gleaming anthems for the Trump era; Unfuck The World, Hail To The Chief, Hands Up and Who Owns Who are all strident, Rage-style calls-to-arms, replete with those unmistakable Morello squeaks and scrapes emerging from a riot of Hendrix-via-Andy Gill riffing.
Meanwhile, the one-two punch of the strutting, Zep-ish Take Me Higher and the tense, chicken-cluck stomp of Strength In Numbers points to shrewd new shades on the expected sonic palette. Even the slightly daft Legalize Me, with lyrics that reek of B-Real’s notorious weed worship, is sharper and more convincing than you may expect. Only the under-baked Fired A Shot and the closing Smash It fail to register with at least one fiery hook. And if nothing here hits the nail on the head with quite the same ferocity as Body Count’s year-defining No Lives Matter, it matters not. However you slice it, it’s a welcome and very timely thrill to hear Scott Ian’s dream come true.