Rage Against The Machine’s fiery, politically-driven songs may live on in the present day, but there has always been that void from the lack of new material since the band’s last album The Battle Of Los Angeles dropped nine years ago.
While most of the members have been contributing music to side-projects such as Audioslave, Puscifer and The Nightwatchman, vocalist Zack de la Rocha has been incredibly quiet apart from his 2003 anti-war collaboration with DJ Shadow, entitled ‘March Of Death’.
One Day As A Lion — a 2008 pairing of Zack and former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore — may not be the most ideal comeback for the emcee to die-hard Rage fans, but that isn’t to say its lacking good quality music.
Lion’s self-titled EP is a stripped-down affair consisting of Theodore’s aggressive percussion, and de la Rocha’s spoken-word poetry and funk-inspired keyboard snares. It’s a raw, street sound that escalates the rap-rock brute force that was set by the likes of Public Enemy and Rage in the nineties.
Admittedly, One Day As A Lion may well be more Hip-Hop than Rock, which may displease some, but there is still that un-relentless approach to lyricism that for the most part of the record it feels as if Zack never left. He’s just as pissed off as he ever was, but rather than screaming “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” like he did way back then, he shows his maturity as an emcee by arguably spitting one of his best verses of all time on the fiery Iraq-referencing lead single ‘Wild International’:
“In this era where DJs behave/
Be paid to be slaves/
We raid airwaves to be sane/
And what’s raining from the station/
Like living dead fed agents.”
Theodore’s drum work is also spot on. You can really feel his commitment to the project as he lashes the symbols in time with de la Rocha’s delivery, competing for dramatic, musical expression. The second track, ‘Ocean View’, is just as urgent in its approach, with both individuals complimenting one other with their angst-rock attitudes.
As enjoyable as this is, I still think the EP could’ve benefited from a little musical variation. Disappointingly, the production values of the next two tracks are all too similar to those that came before: Upon first play-through, listening to the sordid keyboard sounds of ‘Last Letter’, I thought that somehow the CD had skipped back to the beginning of the EP. Only on track five do things sound that little bit more distinctive.
That said, the kinetic energy in de la Rocha’s political poetry does mean that every track warrants an in-depth listen. Clocking in at twenty minutes, One Day As A Lion definitely isn’t an EP put out just to fill the void left after Rage’s break-up. It’s not brilliant, but it’s still a powerful, thought-provocative record. Hopefully, there will be more to come from this project.