It's subtle, but telling, that the cover of Audioslave's eponymous debut is designed by Storm Thorgerson, the artist behind Pink Floyd's greatest album sleeves. Thorgerson, along with Roger Dean, epitomized the look of the '70s, the era of supergroups, which is precisely what Audioslave is -- a meeting of Rage Against the Machine, minus Zack de la Rocha, with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. Though both bands were leading lights of alt-metal in the '90s, the two came from totally separate vantage points: Rage Against the Machine was fearlessly modern, addressing contemporary politics over Tom Morello's hip-hop-influenced guitar, while Soundgarden dredged up '70s metal fueled with the spirit of punk. That these two vantage points don't quite fit shouldn't be a surprise -- there is little common ground between the two, apart that they're refugees from brainy post-metal bands. Of the two camps, Chris Cornell exerts the strongest influence, pushing the Rage Against the Machine boys toward catchier hooks and introspective material. Occasionally, the group winds up with songs that play to the strengths of both camps, like the storming lead single "Cochise." For Cornell fans, it's a relief to hear him unleash like this, given the reserve of his brooding solo debut, but this is hardly a one-man show. The Rage band, led by the intricate stylings of guitarist Tom Morello, gets their chance to shine, including on numbers that are subtler and shadier than the average Rage tune. Which brings up the primary fault on the album: Perhaps Morello, and perhaps the rest of RATM, are technically more gifted than, say, Soundgarden, but they never sound as majestic, as powerful, or as cinematic as what Cornell's songs need. His muted yet varied solo album proved that he needed muscle, but here it's all muscle, no texture or color. Consequently, many of the songs sound like they're just on the verge of achieving liftoff, never quite reaching their potential. There are moments, usually arriving in the first half, where Audioslave suddenly, inexplicably clicks, sounding like a band, not a marketer's grand scheme. Still, these moments are few and far between and it's hard to get through this album as a whole. By the end, it's clear that this pairing was a clever idea, but not an inspired one.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine