The reunion of hip hop and alternative metal titans Rage Against The Machine has been desired and speculated for years, and back in April when the band launched a countdown clock on their website, fans thought this was finally the time. Being an election year, RATM die-hards were hoping for a 2016 return of the group to fight against the political wrong. The Los Angeles-based band did not announce this expected reunion, however it was revealed that three-fourths of them were back with two new frontmen. Guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk joined forces with founding members of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, Chuck D and B-Real, respectively. Alongside DJ Lord, Public Enemy’s main DJ since 1999, the six music veterans come together as the supergroup Prophets Of Rage, and in the midst of their Make America Rage Again tour, they’ve released a five-song EP entitled The Party’s Over.
Prophets Of Rage kick off their debut release with a cover of the Public Enemy song that inspired their name. The inclusion of the RATM musicians bring a new heaviness to the song that differentiates it from the original, while still holding up as its own piece. From a hip hop perspective, Chuck D and B-Real actually compliment each other very nicely. Where Chuck D’s voice is usually lower, more gruff and aggressive, B-Real’s higher-pitched voice and smoother flow juxtapose his partner in rhyme in a sharp execution.
‘The Party’s Over’ follows, and this title track serves as the EP’s only piece of original music. The riff and main melody are very reminiscent of RATM’s self-titled debut album, as well as some of the groovier moments of the Chris Cornell-fronted RATM offshoot Audioslave. While the band is undeniably playing tightly and Chuck D and B-Real are once again playing off of each other well, the song overall is not as memorable as other songs from all the musicians’ collective catalogues. It shows potential for the band if they continue to try their hand at original material, however it’s not the strongest tune they could have put together considering the recording history of everyone involved.
The final three tracks were recorded live, presumably at the band’s debut gig at The Roxy in Los Angeles. First, Prophets Of Rage take on the RATM classic ‘Killing In The Name.’ The RATM members play the song just as they would if vocalist Zack De La Rocha were performing it with them, with no variation whatsoever. B-Real does change some of the lyrics in the second verse, using, “Some of those that hold office” and “Some of those up in congress,” to deviate from the repetition of, “Some of those that work forces,” from the original song. In the choruses and outro, Chuck D and B-Real, while both experts in their craft, fail to emulate the aggression and genuine rage that De La Rocha brought to the initial RATM version.
Where Prophets Of Rage really shine on this EP is when they’re taking on Public Enemy songs. Similarly to the eponymous track, the live version of ‘Shut Em Down’ is brought to new life with the RATM members bringing their signature heavy, riff-based sound to the Public Enemy instrumentals that usually only exist in a backing track format. These songs also allow B-Real to play off of Chuck D in place of Public Enemy co-founder Flavor Flav; the vocals he incorporates keep the spirit of the original intact while letting it have its own identity.
‘No Sleep Til Cleveland’ finds Prophets Of Rage taking on Beastie Boys with a variation of their License To Ill single ‘No Sleep Til Brooklyn.’ Although the title differs, the band does not incorporate the replacement city until the very end of the song, so the alteration seemed a bit forced. Musically, the instrumentalists shy away from the heavy, fuzzy guitars of the original to a cleaner, smoother tone throughout. Wilk’s drumming is tight and on pace with the Beasties, and is easily the standout element of this cover. Aside from that and a fairly well-performed guitar solo from Morello, it pales in comparison to the raw, slightly sleazy vibe of its origin.
Overall, The Party’s Over seems like more of a teaser than it does a proper release. For a group of musicians of their weight and caliber, it’s surprising that their initial release is less consistent than expected. However, Prophets Of Rage has yet to state whether or not they will continue to be active after their tour wraps up, so it’s difficult to say what exactly the future holds for this collaboration.
Written by L. Mounts