"The Battle of Los Angeles" is the third studio album from Rage Against the Machine. Picking up where its predecessor, "Evil Empire" left off, BOLA launches into furious criticism of the American two party system, the bloodshed in the name of oil, police brutality and the imprisonment of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.

With production by Rick Rubin, BOLA initially establishes itself in the halfway ground between the band's funky self titled debut album and the harder and more aggressive Evil Empire. Firey, powerful tracks such as Guerrilla Radio and Sleep Now in the Fire are broadly comparable to Bulls on Parade or Vietnow. Comparisons can also be drawn from Born of a Broken Man, in which frontman Zack de la Rocha tells of his father's fall into the religious fanaticism which led him to burn his paintings and live like a hermit, and Settle for Nothing on the self titled album.

In the last three tracks, however, BOLA moves out of the shadow of previous Rage albums and breaks new ground. New Millennium Homes is a furious, driving, heavy track with well delivered lyrics and an engaging guitar riff courtesy of Tom Morello. Ashes in the Fall is an effects-laden, nightmarish journey through the exploitative world of consumer capitalism tied to religion. War Within a Breath is a display of solidarity with the Zapatista revolution in Chiapas, Mexico, and listening to the track is a genuine adrenaline rush.

Musically, Rage Against the Machine reached the top of their game with "The Battle of Los Angeles." Zack de la Rocha's lyrics are biting, insightful and are delivered with a blend of control and aggression that few other emcees can provide. He attacks the government with lines such as:

"Every official that come in/Cripples us, leaves us maimed/Silent and tame/And with our flesh and bones/He builds his home."

He assaults the candidates in the (at the time of recording) up and coming Presidential election with:

"More for Gore/Or the son of a drug lord/None of the above/Fuck it, cut the chord."

He strikes out at the racism in the judicial system while displaying his knowledge of America's racist past, saying:

"Long as their rope/Is tied around Mumia's neck/Let there be no rich white life/We're bound to respect"

Guitarist Tom Morello, too, is on top form. He produces effects comparable to a DJ or producer throughout the album. In "Testify" he creates a hollow, rolling sound almost like an fighter jet flying overhead. In "Sleep Now in the Fire" his squealing, electronic solo sounds like morse code. In "Ashes in the Fall" he builds multiple layers of resonating, high pitched screams.

Drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Timmy C form one of the tightest units in modern music, and they blend the many eclectic sounds of Rage Against the Machine into a coordinated sonic assault, while Timmy C adds his trademark funky flourishes and Wilk provides some interesting drum fills and rythmic flair.

"The Battle of Los Angeles" led to some of Rage Against the Machine's most successful activism. In the Michael Moore directed video for "Sleep Now in the Fire" the band plays live outside the New York Stock Exchange, succeeding in shutting the market down in the middle of the trading day. It also led to the band's message being spread further than had been previously possible through the inclusion of "Guerilla Radio" in a video game featuring Zack de la Rocha's skating buddy Tony Hawk.

All in all, "The Battle of Los Angeles" is an album of consistent quality with some nice touches. Lyrically and intrumentally, it is fantastic and the band's political views are effectively and articulately presented.

Track listing

  1. Testify
  2. Guerrilla Radio
  3. Calm Like a Bomb
  4. Mic Check
  5. Sleep Now in the Fire
  6. Born of a Broken Man
  7. Born as Ghosts
  8. Maria
  9. Voice of the Voiceless
  10. New Millennium Homes
  11. Ashes in the Fall
  12. War Within a Breath
Further Recommendations

If you like this album, you might want to listen to some of these artists:

Public Enemy
Cypress Hill
Dead Prez
System of a Down
Red Hot Chili Peppers

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