Prophets of Rage (and other dream supergroup hookups)
Next to Nirvana's Nevermind, Rage Against The Machine's eponymous debut is perhaps the only other album released in the early 1990s that could reasonably claim to have had such a paradigm-changing effect on the prevailing currents in popular music. Formed in 1991 by guitarist Tom Morello, vocalist Zack de la Rocha, drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford, Rage Against The Machine would become one of the decade's most influential bands, blending de la Rocha's politically-charged rap lyrics with Morello's driving heavy rock riffs to produce a unique sound of their own, one which would go on to influence countless 'nu-metal' bands that emerged later in the 1990s.
Despite a career that produced four platinum-selling albums over the course of eight years, the band's internal relations were almost as combustible as their fearsome live shows and in October 2000, following months of speculation about the band's break-up, Zack de la Rocha finally announced that he was leaving the band to pursue a solo career. Although the original line-up did reunite for live shows in 2007, in the intervening years the remaining members hooked up with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell to form Audioslave, a band whose sound featured the familiar heavy riffs and thundering rhythms of their previous band, but whose lyrics were a lot less overtly political.
Audioslave called it quits after their third album, 2006's Revelations, and while there had been discussions about the idea of reuniting for a new record in recent years, the plans never came to fruition and, tragically, were rendered permanently off the table following Cornell's suicide earlier this year.
In the meantime, though, Morello, Wilk and Commerford had found a new impetus to return to the politically-orientated messages of their earlier band – namely, Donald Trump. Recruiting Public Enemy's Chuck D and DJ Lord, as well as Cypress Hill's B-Real, Morello announced the formation of a new 'supergroup' in 2016, taking their name from a track featured on Public Enemy's seminal 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Morello laid out the new band's mission statement: “We're an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullsh*t, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing."
Embarking on a series of shows across North America tour whose name lampooned Trump's campaign slogan, their Make America Rage Again tour saw them perform tracks form both Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy's back catalogues, as well as a handful of new songs that will this week appear, along with several others, on the band's self-titled debut, Prophets of Rage.
Comprising 12 brand new songs that marry RATM's towering riffs with Chuck D and B-Real's laser-guided lyrics protesting the state of affairs in not only the U.S. but the wider world, Prophets of Rage faces the obviously daunting task of living up to collective legacy of the men involved. It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the individuals involved to find the band railing against the familiar targets of social injustice, inequality and unfettered, free-market capitalism, but if this has the effect of feeling like a bit of a nostalgia trip then it's mainly because depressingly little has changed in the two-and-a-half decades since Public Enemy and RATM were at the peak of their powers. As Tom Morello himself has said in recent weeks, “dangerous times call for dangerous songs”, and if Prophets of Rage lack the shock value of their members' previous outfits, the message is still vitally relevant.
Chuck D in particular is such a natural fit as the band's frontman that it got us wondering: what other now-defunct bands could have continued to make great music with the addition of a new member?
You can find the video for Prophets of Rage's latest single 'Under the 110' below, beneath that we've picked out some fantasy band hookups we'd love to see...
Beastie Boys & Nas
One of the most commercially successful hip-hop groups ever, Beastie Boys could in some ways be considered forerunners to Rage Against The Machine in terms of their rap-rock crossover style, but after several critically-acclaimed albums their run finally came to an untimely end in 2012 following the death of Adam 'MCA' Youch. In the wake of MCA's death, remaining members Mike D and Adam 'Adrock' Horrowitz revealed that there would be no more new Beastie Boys since they had promised to discontinue the band when Yauch was diagnosed with cancer, which is totally understandable.
Had Youch insisted they carry on, however, then fellow New York rapper and hip-hop legend Nas might have made a great replacement. Not that Nas needs any help, but his collaboration with the Beastie Boys on their last album Hot Sauce Committee Part II proves that this is a partnership that would very much have worked.
Led Zeppelin & Ginger Baker
Following the death of Led Zeppelin's legendary drummer John Bonham in 1980, Led Zeppelin's remaining members decided to call time on their long and insanely successful career, taking the view that Bonham was simply irreplaceable – which is a difficult point to disagree with. But if there was one drummer who might conceivably fill Bonham's considerable shoes, then former Cream sticksman would probably be the leading candidate. Even Bonham himself once famously said: “There are two drummers in rock and roll, me and Ginger Baker”.
There are one or two issues with this one though. For one thing, the respect between the two drummers wasn't entirely mutual; in the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, the former Cream drummer was typically caustic about Bonham's skills, saying that he “had technique, but he couldn't swing a sack of sh*t.” And yes, it's a little late in the day to be talking about this now and extremely unlikely to happen, but Robert Plant's voice is still a formidable force even now and you can bet that as long as there's still a breath in Ginger Baker's body, he'll still be playing the drums. Hey, we can dream...
Queen & Andy Sturmer
OK, this one is a bit of a stretch, but bear with us for a minute: Queen's surviving members have remained musically active and continued to play live on occasion with a rotating cast of vocalists since the death of their beloved frontman Freddie Mercury in 1991, but haven't released any new material since. That's hardly surprising given Mercury's legacy and the fact that he was one the band's main creative forces, but if there's anyone that might have been able to fill his shoes – in the studio at least – then we'd suggest the former Jellyfish man Andy Sturmer.
Why? Well, anyone who has listened to either of the two albums Jellyfish released in the early 1990s will recognise the huge influence that Queen had on their music and Sturmer's ambitious arrangements, not to mention his skill with assembling layered harmonies, would have been a great fit for the band. He's also a fantastic drummer, which raises the tantalising prospect of some competitive drum-offs with Roger Taylor. Where this one falls down however is on their comparative stage personas; Sturmer is notoriously camera-shy and the years since Jellyfish disbanded have seen him become a near-recluse as far as the media goes, so we doubt he'd have the stage presence to match Freddie Mercury's. But then again, who does?