RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE — Evil Empire (review)

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE — Evil Empire album cover Album · 1996 · Rap Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
When a band puts out a debut as outstanding as Rage Against the Machine's 1992 entrance statement, the follow-up record is usually met with high expectations and, more often than not, doesn't manage to live up to them. In the case of this American rap metal quartet, their second album is almost always overshadowed by its tremendous predecessor; although 1996's Evil Empire could accurately be described as 'more of the same', I don't think that's a bad thing when you're talking about a style as impressive as Rage Against the Machine's. For my money, Evil Empire is actually the more consistent of the two albums, and while this might not be the most innovative Rage Against the Machine release, it still contains some of the band's finest material.

With an album title referring to a phrase that Ronald Reagan utilized to describe the Soviet Union in the eighties' in addition to some vehemently frustrated lyrics about the actions of the Christian right, it's clear that the band's left-of-center worldview is once again put fully on display. Though some of Zack de la Rocha's lyrics feel a bit too angsty to come across as well-articulated criticism, listening to his completely unrestrained emotion is a large part of what makes Rage Against the Machine's music so damn charming.

Like Rage Against the Machine's first album, Evil Empire strikes a fine balance between aggressive heavy rock riffs, rap music, and pretty funky basslines. The songwriting this time around is perhaps a bit more concise and straightforward, but it's still held to a remarkably high standard. Tracks like “Bulls on Parade”, “Vietnow”, and “Year of tha Boomerang” stand out as some of the band's finest tunes, and the rest of the album sounds irresistible too. Rage Against the Machine's knack for crafting catchy grooves and riffs is made even stronger by the band's tight delivery and strong sense of musicianship; the audiophile-quality production and pitch-perfect mix help all of this translate perfectly to a recording.

Evil Empire feels like the neglected middle child in Rage Against the Machine's discography, but it's a favorite of mine and one that I'd wholeheartedly recommend to any rap metal listener. A remarkably catchy release with some tremendous grooves and hooks, Evil Empire is not one to forget about.
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