- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Any good cook knows that the ingredients in a recipe need time to mingle before the flavors emerge. The same

premise holds true for so-called “rock supergroups” like Audioslave. The band pairs former Soundgarden singer-guitarist Chris Cornell with musicians from another top-selling group, Rage Against the Machine.

In a rush to create new music and cash in on the excitement of the pairing, Audioslave released an undercooked debut disc in 2002. But after three years of touring, the four members sound more like a well-seasoned group and less like the result of a creative marketing scheme.

Audioslave’s newest release, “Out of Exile,” debuted in May in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 album charts. The record spins off hit singles as effortlessly as Mr. Cornell nails high notes with his heavy-metal-meets-opera howl. “Be Yourself” sped to the No. 1 spot on Rock and Alternative radio charts, followed by a top 10 position for the song “Doesn’t Remind Me.”

“We’ve certainly jelled into Audioslave as a complete band,” said guitarist Tom Morello in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “When we wrote and recorded the first album, we’d played zero shows together as a live band. Our first show was on ‘David Letterman.’ ”

Audioslave, which appears Wednesday at the Patriot Center, can get political. In May, the group visited Cuba and played an outdoor show for more than 60,000 people. Clips from the event are posted on the band’s Web site, www.audioslave.com. Two months later, the group slammed out a set at the Berlin segment of Live 8, the global concert to urge leaders of the G8 industrialized countries to erase debt owed by developing nations.

Activism and involvement in political movements binds Mr. Cornell, who lashed out against environmental abuse in his Soundgarden lyrics, and Mr. Morello, who operates a non-profit organization, Axis of Justice, with Serj Tankian of rock band System of a Down.

“Doesn’t Remind Me” and its accompanying video clip epitomize Audioslave’s ability to wrap potent protest — in this case against the war in Iraq — within a hook-laden, radio-ready track. The band grabs the listener with a jaunty, innocuous rhythm and some sweet reminiscing from Mr. Cornell. The tone changes abruptly during the corrosive chorus, as he rues “The things that I loved/The things that I’ve lost/The things I’ve held sacred that I dropped.”

The disc’s opener, the searing, Rage-like “Your Time Has Come,” mourns lives lost in the Vietnam War. “I’ve seen 50,000 names all engraved in stone … All of them left brothers and sisters and mothers behind,” Mr. Cornell sings.

Audioslave, then, has found its musical and moral center. The band has progressed from the early days, when the pairing of Mr. Cornell’s inventive lyricism and stirring vocals with the sonic clamor of Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist and rhythm section sparked equal amounts of over-the-top optimism and cautious skepticism among fans.

Fans liked the idea of Mr. Cornell’s return to a proven band instead of his floundering as a solo artist. They desperately wanted more from Mr. Morello, who showered his guitar tracks with splinters of hip-hop effects, and they wanted more of the earth-rumbling grooves of bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk.

Judging from the huge sales of “Out of Exile,” both the fans and the band have found what they’re seeking.

• • •

In 2001, Green Milk from the Planet Orange boldly named its first release “The Shape of Rock to Come.” The Japanese guitar shredders maintain their ambitious disposition on 2005’s “City Calls Revolution” and on their Web site, which welcomes visitors by proclaiming, “This is New Wave of Progressive Rock.”

The trio, who go by letters — T, A and Dead K — take a sledgehammer to the idea of tight-knit songs that conclude in a neat, four-minute format. None of the four tracks on “City Calls Revolution” end before the seven-minute mark, and the closer, “A Day in the Planet Orange,” spans 38 full minutes.

The men of Green Milk from the Planet Orange love their spaced-out jams, but they’re not opposed to commercial success. To polish their sound, the band hired producer Paul Mahajan, a scorching hot name thanks to his work with edgy groups such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and TV on the Radio.

Ticket buyers for the band’s appearance Wednesday at DC 9 should expect a set of expansive voyages that wind from languorous jazz to panicked tantrums of spiky guitar and muscular drumming.

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