New Audioslave LP: ‘Led Zeppelin Meets Earth, Wind & Fire’

Tom Morello says disc is almost ready — and it's a funky 'ass-kicker.'

In the words of Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello, the rock and roll group’s forthcoming third opus is an “ass-kicker.”

As fans might expect, the still-untitled LP (Morello said the band’s toying with the idea of naming it Revelations) is bursting at the seams with the kind of brutal riff rock that’s become Audioslave’s trademark. But at the same time, they’ve woven deep ’70s funk and soul grooves with heavy guitars, “and it’s a pretty potent combination,” he said.

When the album drops (Morello dispelled reports that it will surface in June), expect the end result to be “really unique” and “as hard-rockin’ an album as we’ve ever made,” the guitarist said.

“If you want your ass kicked, you’ve come to the right place,” he added. “And you may have the opportunity to shake that ass too.”

Three weeks ago, Audioslave — Morello, frontman Chris Cornell, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk — finished tracking the disc with producer Brendan O’Brien. O’Brien mixed 2005′s Out of Exile; Soundgarden’s 1994 disc, Superunknown; and produced Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire and The Battle of Los Angeles.

Most of the 20 tracks the bandmembers brought into the studio “were written before we went on the last U.S. tour, so we had about two months of touring to play some of these songs in front of arenas and to go over them during a number of soundchecks.”

Audioslave took “the momentum of playing some of the best shows of our lives, as well as working out the kinks of some of these songs in front of a live audience, seeing what worked and didn’t work,” and recorded 16 tracks over the course of three weeks, Morello said. The “fast and furious pace,” as he described it, was imposed by O’Brien because he wanted to capture “the intensity of the performance — the four of us, in a room, rocking the jam, top to bottom, to get the sweatiest, most intense take.”

For his part, Morello said he experimented with overdubs and worked with different guitars and amps “to create different colors.” The end result, he said, is a record that “sounds like Led Zeppelin meets Earth, Wind & Fire.”

One of Morello’s favorite tracks is a tune called “Original Fire.” Like most Audioslave songs, it began with a single idea — a riff he’d been tinkering with for years. “The songwriting process is tremendously democratic,” he explained. “No matter where the initial idea for a song comes from, it goes into the Audioslave killing-machine grinder, and at the end of the day comes out something unique that you might not have expected.”

As Morello continued to sculpt the riff, he started to imagine what the finished track would sound like. Turns out he was way off-base. “It doesn’t feel remotely like what I thought it would be when I came up with it on the guitar,” he said. “Brad put sort of a double-time soul beat to it, and Tim had this super chocolate-thunder bass lick that went with it, and it turned out much better than I thought it would. Tim and Brad are just a ferociously funky rhythm section.”

Most of the ideas that were brought to the table ended up making it to tape because “we have confidence we can turn it into an Audioslave song we’re going to love.”

Audioslave get overtly political on this album, with the song “Wide Awake.”

“It’s the most political song Audioslave’s ever written, and it’s a scathing condemnation of the Bush administration’s failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” Morello said. “It’s a sad, powerful and angry song.”

There are a number of other tracks Morello’s confident will make the final cut: the haunting and beautiful “Until We Fall”; “Moth,” which was “the last song we wrote for this record, and it’s a kick-ass, anthemic, ‘Hammer of the Gods’ riff-rock jam that will probably close the record”; “Revelations”; “One in the Same”; “Sound of a Gun”; “Until We Fall”; “Shape of Things to Come”; and “Broken City,” which “is kind of Audioslave-plays-[War's] ‘Low Rider.’ “