AUDIOSLAVE probably made the smartest decision possible when the band elected to go straight from the road into the studio to write and record its third album, "Revelations". Unlike last year's "Out of Exile", which came two-and-a-half years after the group's 2002 debut and sounded flat and largely lifeless, "Revelations" crackles with the energy of a live band at the top of its game. There may be no three tighter instrumentalists out there than guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, and their natural chemistry shines out across this entire 12-song set. The tunes themselves also have a bit more fire than those on "Out of Exile", and vocalist Chris Cornell sounds comfortable and confident singing in the slightly bluesier style he offers up here.
At the same time, however, AUDIOSLAVE moves even further away from the inventive and creative impulses that set both its members' previous acts, SOUNDGARDEN and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, apart from so many other bands that came out in their wake. While Morello still indulges in the trippy guitar effects and whammy-heavy solos that are his trademarks, AUDIOSLAVE's songwriting is becoming more conventional. The quartet may make big-sounding arena rock records with considerably more character than most of the faceless "rock radio" bands out there, but tracks like "Somedays", "Jewel of the Summertime" and "Until We Fall" end up largely following the template of "generic AUDIOSLAVE track."
Still, many of the songs here are punchier and harder-edged than those of "Out of Exile", and that is probably due again to the honing of several of the songs while the band was on the road. The much-vaunted soul and funk influences come out most clearly on the rollicking "Original Fire", which has a looser feel than almost anything else AUDIOSLAVE has ever done, especially in Cornell's vocals. The title track opens the album on a deceptively softer note, but "Sound of a Gun" and "Shape of Things to Come" are driving, heavy tunes that are much more reminiscent of that great first album than the soggy rockers on "Out of Exile". The best tunes are probably "Original Fire", the epic "Moth", which closes the CD on a simple yet massive riff, and "Wide Awake", an emotional and yet scathing indictment of the Bush administration's failures in the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, featuring one of Cornell's best vocals.
"I don't fly around your fire anymore," sings Cornell in "Moth", and he could be referring to either a past relationship or AUDIOSLAVE itself, which as productive as it's been in the last four years may simply be running its course, the initial spark from the meeting of its two forces (Cornell and the RAGE boys) dying out as, perhaps, they realize they don't have that much in common after all. With Cornell announcing a solo album and pursuing outside projects on his own, while the members of the band vaguely say that they'll "hopefully" tour behind this album early next year, the signs for the band's future are suspect. Yet it's still turned out a powerful, well-crafted slab of heavy rock — even if the biggest revelation here is that AUDIOSLAVE really doesn't have any to offer.