The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s: #16, Rage Against the Machine
The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.
No, Rage Against the Machine didn’t create rap metal.
But they did unquestionably usher in its widespread popularity. And what’s more, they did it with a sense of integrity that none of the bands who followed their lead would ever come close to matching.
Oh, sure: if Rage Against the Machine had never existed there’s a pretty good chance Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park wouldn’t have either. But don’t hate the player: history is littered with examples of wrongdoers who grossly distorted and perverted a well-meaning message.
And a history without Rage Against the Machine is not one I’d ever want to imagine. Taken solely as a musical influence, Rage ushered in the era of rap metal with a sense of fury and musicianship not seen in the genre since. The rhythm section of Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford was as beastly a groove machine is existed in any genre, an unstoppable steam engine that chugged the entire beast forward. Tom Morello was an absolute riff machine, as much a part of the rhythm section as lead maestro, but it should also be noted that he fearlessly played guitar solos — and lots of them — in an era in which it was completely uncool to do so.
But to dwell on Rage’s musical influence would be to understate their larger cultural impact. Led by the fiery voice of Zack de la Rocha, Rage spread their message of activism, equality and justice to an apathetic generation lulled into complacency by MTV and Bill Clinton’s reassuring Southern drawl. From mainstream political issues to institutional racism to more obscure causes like the trial of Mumia Abu Jamal, Rage were solely responsible for raising awareness amongst hundreds of thousands of Gen Xers and Gen Yers.
Rage Against the Machine never gave any fucks. They were never apologetic. They never backed down. Their tentacles extended way beyond the sphere of metal to all of music, and even American culture, at large. They also inadvertently inspired an entire scene of bands. Bow down.