The Battle of Los Angeles - Reviews
Wall of Sound
Rage Against the Machine
                  Battle of Los Angeles 
                  Label: Epic 
                  Genre: Alternative 
                  File Under: Fight the power 
                Rating: 82
 
 

                  Since Rage Against the Machine debuted
                  some eight years ago, its mix of hard
                  rock, grunge, and rap has become a
                  cottage industry. Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit,
                  and many others have employed it to
                  great effect, though without Rage's
                  integrity or political activism. On The
                  Battle of Los Angeles, the quartet continues to use its music as a
                  propaganda tool for radical organizing, and creates some
                  thought-provoking music in the process. 

                  As on previous albums, the group proves adept at making thrash
                  breakbeats. On cuts like "Maria," the music hums along while lead
                  vocalist-rapper Zack de la Rocha throttles the beat with his
                  trademark passion then suddenly burns brightly during the chorus,
                  like an awakened giant. Throughout, guitarist Tom Morello
                  amazingly replicates turntable scratches and the eerie sound of the
                  theremin, while drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Y.tim.K back him
                  up. Zack, for his part, rhymes with the intensity of an MC. "My word
                  war returns to burn/ Like Baldwin home from Paris," he shouts on
                  "Calm Like a Bomb," an homage to Public Enemy's "Louder Than a
                  Bomb." 

                  Rather than focusing on guns, ho's, and clothes, however, he
                  addresses the barbarity of America's capitalist system and its
                  victimization of the underclass. Sometimes he speaks of it directly
                  ("Maria," "Testify"), other times he refers to it through tales of his
                  lyrical prowess ("Mic Check (Once Hunting Now Hunted)"). Like
                  Chuck D., the prototypical hard rhymer and Black Power advocate,
                  Zack fashions himself as a guerilla, calm like a bomb. "I be walkin'
                  god like a dog," he raps. 

                  Though Rocha's approach is admirable, it lacks subtlety. On The
                  Battle of Los Angeles, everyone is a "vulture," "rebel," or "survivor."
                  Frequent comparisons are made between slavery and modern times:
                  on "Calm Like a Bomb" Rocha says, "There's a field full of slaves/
                  Some corn and some debit/ There's a ditch full of bodies/ Tha check
                  for the rent." But he never names names or cites specific incidents.
                  Despite the graphic imagery, his rhymes rarely explore the
                  complexities of a capitalist society that builds governments and
                  undermines revolutions. 

                  Rage Against the Machine should be lauded for its courage to
                  address America's social, political, and economic deficiencies. But
                  its reduction of U.S. politics to a war between the haves and the
                  have-nots is simplistic. Comparatively speaking, their songs lack
                  Public Enemy's detailed references to current events, Consolidated's
                  innovative subject matter, or Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy's wry
                  commentary. The Battle of Los Angeles is a furious testament that
                  needs more substance. Mosi Reeves 



All Music Guide
The Battle of Los Angeles - 4 of 5


Rolling Stone
The Battle of Los Angeles - 4 of 5


Rock and Roll Casino
                                              Battle of Los Angeles
                                                Rage Against the Machine
                                                Epic Records
                                              Rating: Gold

                                                One of the disadvantages with releasing an
                                                uncontested superb debut is trying to follow it
                                                up with subsequent releases. While most
                                                listeners of modern rock can pick a Rage
                                                Against the Machine song out of a line-up of
                                                100 tracks, the group hasn't stopped trying to
                                                come up with a new formula to package its
                                                messages. 
                                                     On The Battle of Los Angeles, the band's
                                                third release, we get another forceful assault
                                                of deeply hard-driving tracks, funk-inspired
                                                grooves and a blatant disregard for making
                                                music the way that traditional instruments
                                                were built to create. As with each Rage
                                                release, The Battle of Los Angeles comes
                                                with the band's disclaimer that says all sounds
                                                made on the release are made from guitar,
                                                bass, drums and vocals. This message doesn't
                                                mean a thing until the listener tunes into the
                                                disc and comes across the magical sounds
                                                created by this fired-up foursome.
                                                     One the disc's opening track, "Testify," the
                                                whole band takes a break from hard-driving
                                                rawness in mid-song to create something like
                                                a danceable break-beat segue you might
                                                expect from a group like the Beastie Boys.
                                                While "Guerrilla Radio" takes on a similar
                                                tactic as "Vietnow" did on Evil Empire, it
                                                instantly drew questions about how the band
                                                makes some of its unique sounds we hear. In
                                                the guitar solo part of "Guerrilla Radio,"
                                                guitarist Tom Morello breaks from his funky
                                                grooves to come at us with what sounds like a
                                                harmonica.
                                                     "Mic Check" is another stellar example of
                                                the group's ability to stretch the horizons of
                                                their instruments. Bassist Tim Bob and
                                                Morello create a fuzzy field of hallucinogenic
                                                distortion laced with dreamlike guitar
                                                plucking. In the middle of it all is vocalist Zack
                                                De La Rocha's voice, sneering and chanting
                                                about the skewed reality he says we all live
                                                within. "Sleep in the Fire" is piercingly driving,
                                                while "Maria" almost uses Morello's guitar
                                                manipulation to the point where you almost
                                                can't take it anymore. Just when you think the
                                                shrill guitar sounds have gotten their best of
                                                you, the group breaks into a more traditional
                                                Rage-inspired chorus flavored with powerful
                                                drum work, intensely forceful guitar chords
                                                and thick bass lines.
                                                     As with previous Rage releases, The Battle
                                                of Los Angeles doesn't disappoint. As
                                                politically charged as ever about cultural
                                                imperialism, standing strong against corporate
                                                America and government oppression, Rage
                                                Against the Machine continues to provide a
                                                positively charged musical voice that straight
                                                up tells it like it is



Rockzone
                                         Battle Of Los Angeles - 5 of 5
                                                    by Samuel Barker
                                                       January 18, 2000

     When I got a copy of "The Battle of Los Angeles", I was amazed at the power of this album. From the first track, "Testify", to "War Within A Breath", this album was absolutely brilliant. After Evil Empire, I didn't think the band would even be able to recreate the power of their self titled album, but I was happily proven wrong. This album is the best thing Rage has released to date. 
     Zach De La Rocha's lyrics are a step above the other albums on this record. He's not as precise, and leaves some statements up to interpretation. Then, he comes right back with an in your face power track. "Born Of A Broken Man" to me is the true shining point for Zach. From the pained lyrics, to the primal screams of the chorus. This is where De La Rocha shines. 
     The guitar playing of Tom Morrello is brilliant on this album. Some of the sounds he pulls from his guitar are astounding. From his solo in "Guerilla Radio" to the entire song "Voice Of The Voiceless", this is the strongest he's played on album yet. This is the first album, where you get the emotion of a live show in you home or car. This is the album that allows you to bring the revolution, the ideas, and the truths with you. 
     And as always, the driving force of the music, Brad Wilk and Tim Bob, keep the steadiest base you could ask for. They get tighter, and more precise with each album Rage Against The Machine releases. On this album Wilk and Tim Bob provide a constantly strong, hard hitting feeling from the opening of the album to the last note/beat you hear. On "Maria" this pair are the song, the constants. That was their shinning moment. 
     This album was perfect. This band is perfect. People have claimed that Rage has sold out signing with a major label, but this album, their message, and the music would be done no justice getting out to 50,000 people on a indie label. It takes people to force change, and reaching 5 million people can aid change dramatically. As long as you own your music, and stay in control, you are staying true to the art, but if you don't, you betray the world. To quote Chuck D, "If you don't own the master, then the Master owns you." 
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com. 



AMZ All Music Zine
Rage Against the Machine
                         Title:"The Battle of Los Angeles"
                         Label: Epic
                         Reviewed by: Bushman
                         Rating: 4.5 of 5

     It keeps getting better and better. Honestly, there's not a weak track on this whole  album. Considering the legitimacy, intensity and urgency of past endeavors from hard rock's most political mouthpiece, it's nothing short of amazing that Rage Against the Machine can return with such a tight, meaningful slab of opposition and not choke on their own sound. The Machine still Rages with the same super intense climactic rap pushed metal jams dripping with guitar trickery and shake your ass bass that the band has forged from the beginning.
     Rage isn't really exploring any new sonics, rather quite impressively churning out the            dynamic that has served them well in the past so the "Battle of Los Angeles" sounds like a natural extension of the Rage catalog. The most challenging tune is the off timed stumble of "Mic Check" that hits with an intentional "tripping over itself" delivery and makes a critic's pick as it stands out well from the pack. This (as well as most every song here) is put together with a range of ideas that gel together well so the individual numbers are all injected with varying textures and tempos. Keeps the formula fresh.
     "Sleep Now in the Fire" opens with a guitar rip that Lenny Kravitz would be proud of           before falling into a bass/vocal rumble of verse and hits with a meaningful "I am the Nina, the Pinta, The Santa Maria / The noose and the rapist / And the fields overseer / The agents of orange / The priests of Hiroshima / The cost of my desire / Sleep Now in the fire" and then dose the listener with some wicked DJ whines. 
     All respects to guitarist Tom Morello for not only supplying the signature heavy as a heart attack guitar runs, but all those tweaks, squeaks, whines and dives that supply the more intangible guitar textures and backdrops that set up the big cave in choruses that truly rage. And it would be grossly unfair not to mention the low end of "Y.tim.K." drumming of Brad Wilk that supplies the as tight as it gets structure that allows the guitars and vocals their platform to dominate and control the songs.
     Zach de la Rocha is the politically charged powder keg as expected ("Calm like a Bomb") which is a good analogy of his presence as a singer. Zach's true talent is not only his prowess for expressing dissatisfaction rather poetically, but also his ability to accentuate and punctuate with an honorable sense of rhythm that plays in and out of the sticky guitar riffs that makes his presence even more commanding. Which is the tag word for Rage Against the Machine and especially this album. "Commanding."



 Spin

                                The Battle of Los Angeles

                                 "All hell can't stop us now," screams Zack de la Rocha on
                                 "Guerilla Radio," the first single from Rage Against the
                                 Machine's third album in ten years, his voice emulating the
                                 potential rallying cry of a generation with nothing left to
                                 lose. With the country in the shitbox (like Rage say it is)
                                 and a collective fear of what's to become once the clock
                                 strikes twelve this New Year's Day, Rage Against the
                                 Machine have accomplished the impossible with the Battle
                                 of Los Angeles: they've created an album that dares to
                                 rattle the cage of an America gone numb with a new found
                                 musical sophistication. 

                                 As exclaimed on the kick off track "Testify," "that cunning mantra of killing" has been drilled into the collective head of the band's demographic via the evening news for so long, the shock of the confusion and outrage stirring about in the world around us has just about lost its impact. But it's a challenge that propelled Rage Against the Machine to create an album that defines what they stand for better than anything previous. Musically, the band's sound has progressed to new levels of sonic violence, with guitarist Tom Morello's electric guitar brilliance leading the crusade. Just when you thought that everything had been done with six-strings and an amp, the Harvard prodigy manipulates notes from parts of his guitar that you would never think possible. On tracks like "Mic Check" and "Ashes in the Fall," he rages against the grain of his strings to create a sound born from both Tony Iommi's Black Sabbath-honed riffs and Grandmaster Flash's turntable wizardry. 
     The Battle of Los Angeles is also Rage's most hip-hop oriented album to date. The beats and grooves thrown down still maintain that fury of "Killing In The Name" and "Vietnow," but on songs like "Guerilla Radio" and "Born of a Broken Man," the crunching guitar hooks have been replaced with angular scale structures and sounds that sound like nothing as much as the alarming aura of the Bomb Squad's production on P.E.'s Fear of a Black Planet -by way of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Page. In fact, this is arguably the first time the music itself is perfectly aligned with the vehemence of de la Rocha's voice. 
     Lyrically, de la Rocha has never sounded tighter. After some successfully adventurous excursions into hip-hop's underground, appearing on Rawkus' Lyricist Lounge compilation alongside KRS-One and the Last Emperor, as well as his participation on the "Mumia 911" benefit single with names like Aceyalone, Black Thought, and Pharoahe Monch, his confidence on the mic has improved tenfold. On "Mic Check," he spits nonfiction with a shade of dance hall toasting and Method Man-esque syllable stressing. Even on the pro-Mumia Abu Jamal testimonial "Voice of the Voiceless" and the track "Ashes In The Fall," there's a strong sense of comfort in the timbre of his voice as he allows his words to become one with his flow. But it's the essence of unity that makes the Battle of Los Angeles such a mighty album. 
     The members of Rage have been through a lot together over the past couple of years,
enduring biting criticisms and backlashing in the wake of their rabid devotion to Abu-Jamal and his quest for a fair trial, witnessing human rights atrocities on their own soil let alone third world countries, and well-publicized inter-band feuding that certainly had a hand in the delay of this album's release. These guys certainly have a lot to be pissed off about in the late-90's. Rather than dole out more heavy riffs and thunderclapping drum beats for the meat-heads at the fraternity house to destroy their living room to, however, they've articulated their anger and accentuated the groove in their growl, resulting in one of the best damn rock albums you'll probably buy before the world blows up. 
     Bands who recently cashed in on the rap-metal fusion should get down on their knees and bow down before the ones who served it up first on their groundbreaking 1992 debut, which has now evolved into a style that's now become the aggression outlet du jour. By advancing their own sound while inadvertently bringing a new level of innovation and sophistication to a genre of guitar-based rock desperately in need of a new idea, Rage has sonically risen above the din of the noise they helped create. 
      Ron Hart (moondawg52@hotmail.com)