The Prophet of Rage’s solo debut is a call for revolution

Tom Morello, arguably one of the most prolific axemen of the 1990s, has released one of the most interesting albums of 2018.

Released over two weeks ago, The Atlas Underground is his first solo album, and is a musical collage of Morello’s signature guitar firepower combined with EDM, hip-hop and even elements of pop and indie rock.

Morello is most well-known for being the guitarist for the bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.

However, his folk side project, the Watchman, shows he is unafraid of radical experimentation. Indeed, his unique playing style of kill switches, feedback noise and guitar effects can be replicated by no one.

Therefore, the release of such an album from Morello should come as no surprise to anyone. He has always been one to push boundaries. This album is filled to the brim with guests. Artists ranging from Steve Aoki, Portugal. The Man, Gary Clark Jr, Marcus Mumford and Big Boi make an appearance on this record.

“The notion from the very start was to forge this sonic conspiracy of these artists from wide-ranging genres who are like-minded, and then curate all of it into a powerful and cohesive whole,” said Morello.

“What I heard in their music was very simpatico with the analog rock & roll music that I love best. It was the tension and release, it was the huge drops, it was the communal frenzy that they created, for me in the mosh pit, for them on the dance floor.”

Songs such as “Lucky One” (featuring hip-hop artists Big Boi and Killer Mike) and “Vigilante Nocturno” (featuring Carl Restivo) will become favorites of hardcore RATM fans. Morello’s guitar is the driving force behind both songs.

Other songs such as “We Don’t Need You” would be instantly recognizable to RATM fans due to its lyrical content about gun violence and de facto segregation in the United States.

“Where It’s At Ain’t What It Is,” a song about the power of the people, is the result of a guitar jam from Morello and blues legend Gary Clark Jr, mixed with the funky EDM production of Nico Stadi.

This sentiment also appears in “Find Another Way,” which is Mumford’s guest appearance on the album.

“Rabbit’s Revenge” and “Lead Poisoning” both tackle police brutality, while “Lucky One” (featuring K.Flay) focuses on Morello deconstructing privilege with regard to growing up in affluent Chicago suburbs.

“How Long” has Rise Against vocalist Tim McIlrath spit out, “How long can we drown out the hungry mouths and burning streets while the bombs fall at our feet?”

This is a fun, yet powerful and head-spinning album. It is not for everyone, and while not all of the experimentation works, enough of it is there to make it enjoyable. It is a wild, cacophonous blending of sounds, and it is just the unexpected kind of album we’ve come to expect to hear from Morello.

It wouldn’t be a Morello album if it did not have incendiary lyrics on today’s political climate. This is a call to arms, and what a call to arms it is.

Parker’s Picks: “Where It’s At Ain’t What It Is,” “How Long,” “Lead Poisoning,” “Rabbit’s Revenge”