Audioslave Rage To First Billboard #1

Rock supergroup takes chart's top slot with 263,000-strong first week.

For the first time in more than 10 years, Chris Cornell can lay claim to the country’s best-selling record.

Out of Exile, the second studio offering from the Cornell-fronted Audioslave, will debut atop Billboard‘s albums chart with first-week sales of more than 263,000, scoring the band — which also features the instrument-playing components of the late Rage Against the Machine — its first #1, according to the latest SoundScan figures.

Audioslave’s newest opus continues a recent retail trend of rock domination. Out of Exile becomes the sixth straight rock record to debut as Billboard‘s king of scans. The previous week, the Dave Matthews Band conceded the sales throne to metal act System of a Down’s Mezmerize. With close to 170,000 scans (and a second-week sales decline of 63 percent), the last champ falls three spots to #4 on this most recent sales chart. The week before that, Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails passed the proverbial torch to Stand Up, DMB’s newest LP, which will show up at #7 with sales of just over 100,000 this time around.

Three weeks ago, it was the Nails’ With Teeth — now finishing out its fourth week at retail with scans of 41,000 and then some, to take the chart’s #26 position — giving Bruce Springsteen’s Devils & Dust the bump. The latest release from the Boss checks in at #39 on the most recent chart, with a fifth-week sales showing of close to 26,500. But rock’s retail run all started back in mid-April with Something to Be, the solo debut from Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas — which continues to garner strong retail interest, with week-six sales of 46,000 and change, earning Thomas the chart’s #23 rank.

Who says rock and roll is dead?

But for Audioslave, Out of Exile is a triumph on so many different levels. The album not only outperformed the band’s debut — which opened at Billboard‘s #7, with first-week sales of just over 162,000 back in 2002 — it marks the first time since the 1994 release of Superunknown, the hit record from Cornell’s former group Soundgarden, that the celebrated grunge vocalist finds himself on top. And for the rest of his band, Out of Exile becomes the third #1 debut of their musical careers: Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire finished first with sales of close to 250,000 in 1996, while 1999′s Battle of Los Angeles netted first-week sales of over 430,000, to take that week’s #1.

Rapper Common’s latest, Be, earns the week’s second-best debut showing, coming in at #2 with sales of close to 185,000. Holding to the chart’s #3 spot for yet another week is Mariah Carey’s comeback album The Emancipation of Mimi, which netted week-seven scans of nearly 180,000.

The previous #2 falls three spots to #5: Country star Toby Keith’s Honkytonk University suffered a 55 percent dip in sales, closing out its second week of retail availability with sales of 128,000 plus. Demon Days, the second full-length from virtual hip-hop group Gorillaz, will debut at #6 on the chart, with scans of 107,000, while alterna-metal act Seether turned out the band’s strongest debut showing with their latest, Karma and Effect, which scored sales of nearly 82,000.

“American Idol” arbitrator Simon Cowell’s boy-band discovery Il Divo jumps from the chart’s #21 spot to its #9 position, thanks to an 80 percent sales increase that resulted in sixth-week sales of more than 79,000. The sales surge comes during the same week in which the group serenaded the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series nominees at the Daytime Emmy Awards. Finishing at #10 is Gwen Stefani’s solo debut Love, Angel, Music, Baby, which scores scans of more than 76,000 after spending 27 weeks on the chart.

For the first time since the release of The Massacre 13 weeks ago, rapper 50 Cent finds himself outside the chart’s top 10. Fiddy takes #11 with sales of 75,000 plus, followed by country trio Rascal Flatts and their latest, Feels Like Today. A 42 percent sales increase on the heels of the band’s appearance during last week’s “American Idol” performance resulted in sales of just over 65,000, which was enough to score the band a #12 finish. Debuting at #13, the latest from R&B heartthrob Marques Houston, Naked; the album sold more than 64,500 copies.

“Idol” alum Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway holds to the top 15 at #14, with sales of nearly 62,000 — not bad for a disc that’s been out for 26 weeks. And rounding out the top 15 with debut-week sales of 59,000 plus, the latest from Philadelphia rappers Young Gunz, Brothers From Another. But the Young Gunz were just one of several acts to debut high on the chart: Pretty Ricky’s Blue Stars takes #16; B.G.’s Heart of Tha Streetz finishes at #21; Alkaline Trio’s Crimson checks in at #25; and the latest disc from the Wallflowers, Rebel Sweetheart, comes in at #40.

Hitting Bottom

After just four weeks of release, Limp Bizkit’s The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1) has gone from bad to worse to it’s over, Johnny. The record is dangerously close to falling off of the chart completely, diving 84 positions from #111 to #195. The album debuted at #24 before falling to #82 and then #111. Bizkit’s record sustained a 43 percent decline in retail interest over the last week, spawning sales of just over 5,000 — bringing the album’s four-week grand total to just over 63,000 (see “Limp Bizkit: What Happened?”).

Scoring the week’s biggest plummet is the Insane Clown Posse’s The Calm, which tumbled 120 chart positions from #32 to #142. A 76 percent sales slip led to just over 7,200 scans. It was a sad week for the rap-rock world.

As Seen On TV

Gavin DeGraw’s latest release climbs five chart positions to #92 on the heels of last week’s appearance on “Live With Regis and Kelly.” Chariot Stripped sold more than 11,000 copies, a 23 percent surge in sales. Likewise, Jimmy Eat World’s Futures reappears in the top 200, taking #168 with sales of just over 6,000. Small potatoes, you say? Well, since the band only sold 3,000 plus copies of the disc the week before, sales of the album rose 87 percent. The Arizona emo specialists might want to thank their appearance last week on the WB’s “One Tree Hill” finale for the boost.

More Movement

Simple Plan’s Still Not Getting Any experienced a 15 percent sales increase on the strength of the hard-hitting — and much-requested — video for their single “Untitled,” which examines the tragic results of driving drunk.

Both of Gap girl Joss Stone’s albums continue to do well. Appearing in the clothing chain’s television ads seems to be having a positive effect on the singer’s LP sales. Mind, Body and Soul jumped 23 chart positions to #37, thanks to moving nearly 27,000 copies, a 38 percent spike. Meanwhile, her Soul Sessions jumped up in retail interest a whopping 45 percent, earning her the chart’s #170.

One To Watch

Like lions in the wild stalking a herd of gazelles from afar and stealthily inching closer before striking, bands that have slowly climbed their way up, moving a few positions at a time here and there, are all over the chart. Flying under the radar, these bands — like My Chemical Romance before them — are ones to keep a watchful eye on, as they’re likely to keep moving on up.

Take Hawthorne Heights, for instance. The band checks in this week at #96, climbing 13 chart positions thanks to a 21 percent sales increase. The band’s Silence in Black and White sold nearly 11,000 copies, helping it penetrate the top 100 for the first time.