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The Story of Audioslave’s Second Album, ‘Out of Exile’

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On May 24, 2005, Audioslave categorically conquered the sophomore slump by going straight to No. 1 with their second album Out of Exile. In fact, the only question really worth asking was, “What exile?”

After all, not even three years had passed since Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello (guitar), Tim Commerford (bass) and Brad Wilk (drums) had formed the new supergroup with then-erstwhile Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell on the recommendation of mega-producer Rick Rubin. Their eponymous debut emerged in late 2002 and went on to shift over three million units, paving the way to extensive touring through the end of 2003, and culminating in a 2004 Grammy nomination, so it wasn’t as if they had disappeared.

Still, they went with the name Out of Exile. In interviews, the band members acknowledged that their creative union had evolved by leaps and bounds since the debut, and the music boasted a far more eclectic array of sounds that fans could more explicitly recognize as not just the Soundgarden or Rage Against the Machine sound, but a true “Audioslave sound.”

Once again, Rubin and Brendan O’Brien handled production and engineering duties, and the desire to forge their own way was made abundantly clear by the album’s smash hit of a title track. It clashed a massive groove against quiet verses, topped by Cornell at his most philosophical. Another pair of singles, “Be Yourself” and “Doesn’t Remind Me” flipped the script with linear riffs and melodies, and some of the most direct lyrics Cornell has ever penned, while the late-album highlight “Dandelion” dipped into catchy psychedelia.

Through it all, Cornell’s vocals were as versatile as ever, only incrementally more emotional, too (see “Heaven’s Dead” and the Led Zeppelin-like “The Worm”), while Morello, for his part, unfurled some of his most dazzling leads yet on songs like “Drown Me Slowly” and “The Curse,” then mimicked keyboards to perfection on “Yesterday or Today.” Finally, the Commerford/Wilk rhythm section never left room for doubt about their being one of the best in the business.

Though Audioslave’s definition of “exile” remains debatable, their return from it was nothing short of triumphant, with more millions of albums to be sold on the horizon as the quartet embarked upon another slog through American sheds and European festivals over the course of 2005. Too bad the magic wouldn’t last and the band’s alchemical union would be splintered shortly after the release of third and final album, Revelations, in late 2006, but that just elevates Out of Exile to the top as perhaps the definitive Audioslave LP.

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