Bruce Springsteen, Bring Me The Horizon or Chris Stapleton – already the list of guest musicians of Tom Morello’s 2021 album is absolutely impressive. Not too surprisingly, I just had to have a listen to The Atlas Underground Fire, which has been released on 15th October 2021. Here is my review.
Tom Morello – About The Artist
Tom Morello was born on 30th May 1964 in New York City. Even though he is best known for being a member of Rage Against the Machine, he is much more than a rock artist. For example, he even worked as a rapper. Some other acts he is related to are Audioslave, Lock Up or Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. He started very late to release solo albums, though. His solo debut album was The Atlas Underground in 2018, followed by the 2020 one, Comandante. The Atlas Underground Fire is the third album labelled as Tom Morello solo album.
Tom Morello – The Atlas Underground Fire – Track by Track
The twelve song album lasts 46 minutes.
1. Harlem Hellfighter
The Harlem Hellfighter is like a two minute instrumental intro to the album to me. The track starts with guitar riffs, but then there is more and more distortion, electronic sounds and roughness. A transition through different sounds – like the whole album.
2. Highway to Hell (feat. Bruce Springsteen & Eddie Vedder)
If you just listen to the album, you might inevitably run into the question “Is that really the boss?”. Yeah, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder are the first guest musicians on The Atlas Underground Fire. If this top class of music celebrity is opening the album, the song has to be a special one. The three really do good in the AC/DC anthem of hard rock. Unfortunately, like at the intro track, the song breaks its style and then more and more moves into an alternative rock direction.
3. Let’s Get The Party Started (feat. Bring Me The Horizon)
Like Highwell to Hell, this collaboration with Bring Me The Horizon has been one of the single releases of the album. The song is a blast with excellent guitar play and a lovely solo. A song like standing in the jet stream of a starting plane.
4. Driving to Texas (feat. Phantogram)
Together with the US electronic rock duo Phantogram, Tom Morello recorded Driving to Texas. Even though the song has some rocking parts, it is overall having more of a dreaming, mystical atmosphere and thus a very melodic touch. Interesting.
5. The War Inside (feat. Chris Stapleton)
The album is a trip through different genres and their stars. Tom Morello is not shy to include one of the biggest country music rockers, Chris Stapleton, to his 2021 project. After a slow start performed by Stapleton, Morello joins and adds some more riffs. The song keeps having country music in its heart, which is a really nice new flavor to the album.
6. Hold The Line (feat. grandson)
No, this is not a cover of the Toto classic. Not at all. US-Canadian grandson stands for alternative rock and rap rock – and that’s a good description of this song already: distorted sounds, rhythmic parts and rapping in parallel to rather melodic parts. The song just comes with a lot of power – but also a nice groove. Thus, I like the song more than I would typically enjoy a song of that kind.
7. Naraka (feat. Mike Posner)
After all the songs before, which had a clear touch of rock music, the seventh song introduces pop sounds to the album. Few guitar riffs, rather melodic and electronic elements in the song. I overall feel that this is one of the weaker tracks on the the album, though.
8. The Achilles List (feat. Damian Marley)
A special kind of celebrity: Damian Marley is Bob Marley’s youngest song – the track he recorded with Tom Morello is a powerful, straight alternative rocker. Marley is adding hip hop parts with a Jamaican touch. Police sirens in the background of the chorus make the song feel too dramatic.
9. Night Witch (feat. phem)
On the ninth track, phem is adding a touch of Avril Lavigne to the album. The song Night Witch is rather a mixture of alternative rock and pop elements. Again, Morello delivers a beautifully grooving sound.
10. Charmed I’m Sure (feat. Protohype)
Protohype is regarded to be the inventor of Dub Hub and rather does bass music. The song is coming with alternative rock sounds, but also a lot of DJ music styles. I feel too old for that kind of sound. To me, it is too chaotic and comes with too many breaks.
11. Save Our Souls (feat. Dennis Lyxzén of Refused)
Save Our Souls definitely comes with the punk style of the Swedish band Refused. One of the key qualities of The Atlas Underground Fire: Morello invites other musicians and tries to adapt their music – instead of trying to make them act Tom Morello style. Some of the resulting songs may feel a bit weird, but it is actually a great variety of songs.
12. On The Shore Of Eternity (feat. Sama’ Abdulhadi)
The album closes with a very different genre: Sama Abdulhadi is a techno DJ from Palestine. And – just in line what I wrote above – Tom Morello is doing techno sounds with her. Electronic beats from Palestine mixed with sounds right from the temple of rock. The eight minute track works surprisingly well – also because the electronic part gets a stronger presence than the guitars.
Tom Morello – The Atlas Underground Fire – Spotify
Here is The Atlas Underground Fire on Spotify:
Tom Morello – The Atlas Underground Fire – My View
The Atlas Underground Fire is a really interesting release. You might even not enjoy all tracks on the album. I don’ as well. Nonetheless, I love the way Tom Morello is having a one-song visit into the music of other artist. From hard rock to techno – the range of songs is huge. But the album still feels like a Tom Morello one. A brave experiment – which finally turns out to be a success.
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