10 Years Ago: Audioslave Depart With ‘Revelations’
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On Sept. 4, 2006, modern rock supergroup Audioslave dropped their third release, Revelations, taking a somewhat retro funk/R&B turn on the record that guitarist Tom Morello described as “Earth, Wind and Fire meets Led Zeppelin,” while also evolving into more of a rock radio-ready outfit than their prior Rage Against the Machine-meets-Soundgarden ethos allowed. It would be the band’s final LP before disbanding.
Featuring 12 tracks clocking in at just under 50 minutes, the Brendan O’Brien-produced Revelations was a logical continuation of the band’s previous albums, Audioslave (2002) and Out of Exile (2005), but aspired to incorporate a soul flavor that hadn’t been previously explored on those earlier outings. In the end, it wasn’t that dramatic of a shift.
Plans for the record materialized fairly quickly after Audioslave—Morello, singer Chris Cornell, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk—wrapped up their Exile tour. In January 2006, the band entered the studio armed with 20 new songs, some of which had been performed on the road, including “One and the Same,” “Wide Awake,” and “Sound of a Gun.” There’s no shortage of compelling musical ideas on the album, whether it’s the monstrous riff for “Moth,” the driving weight of “Shape of Things to Come” or the loose and lively “Original Fire.” These ideas don’t always gel into complete compositions, but there’s plenty to keep the listener interested.
Lyrically, Cornell focused on themes of loss, life and love, but also political commentary, as with “Wide Awake,” which tackled former Pres. George W. Bush as well as the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. Regarding the latter, Cornell powerfully opined, “Down on the road the world is floating by / The poor and undefended left behind / While you’re somewhere trading lives for oil / As if the whole world were blind.” According to Morello, Cornell had also quit smoking prior to the recording sessions, which only boosted his vocal performance.
Perhaps the highlight of Revelations, oddly enough, is the Black Sabbath-esque closing track, “Moth,” which was written and recorded at the last minute due to the urging of O’Brien, and is the last song the band ever recorded together. Prophetically, Cornell sings “I won’t fly around your fire anymore,” in the track.
Other cuts resonated through media crossover opportunities: The title track was used in the video game Madden NFL 2007, while “Wide Awake” and “Shape of Things to Come” were featured in the 2006 Michael Mann reboot Miami Vice prior to the album’s release. The title track and “Original Fire” would later be released as singles.
When it did drop, the album was both an immediate critical and commercial success, entering the Billboard 200 at No. 2 and selling 150,631 copies its first week, eventually selling nearly one million copies worldwide. But despite the praise and sales receipts, Audioslave’s steady decline into dissolution was already underway. The band didn’t tour in support of the record; instead they went into hiatus while Cornell recorded “You Know My Name,” the theme of the 2006 James Bond flick Casino Royale, while Morello explored his acoustic/folk roots with his solo project The Nightwatchman.
Rumors of a looming breakup followed the band through 2006, until Cornell officially announced his departure on Feb. 15, 2007, saying, “Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave. I wish the other three members nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors.” Audioslave was then officially disbanded in 2007, while Morello, Commerford and Wilk pursued a Rage Against the Machine reunion, and both Cornell and Morello dropped solo albums.
Aside from the songs played on the Exile tour, most of the music on Revelations has never been performed live, although Cornell has given solo acoustic renditions of “Until We Fall,” “Original Fire,” and “Wide Awake.”. In September 2014 Cornell and Morello reunited onstage for the first time since the 2007 split, performing together as part of a benefit show Morello hosted in Seattle to benefit 15 Now, the organization that successfully fought for Seattle’s $15 minimum wage.
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