When Rage Against the Machine (RATM) frontman Zach de la Rocha announced that he was collaborating with Jon Theodore, drummer of latin prog-rock band The Mars Volta, I was pretty stoked. Both of their respective acts are and were quite successful in their niches. While Rage Against the Machine caters to angsty rap-rockers, who embrace anti-establishment anthems such as “Wake Up” (from the Matrix soundtrack), the Mars Volta, The Rolling Stone’s 2008 “Best Progressive Rock Band,” is best known for their experimental concept albums.
Unfortunately, this (seemingly) match made in heaven was a little too good to be true. Surprisingly enough, their styles don’t mesh well together, and One Day as a Lion’s eponymous debut EP ends up sounding a lot more like noise than music. Gratefully, the album is only twenty minutes long.
“Wild International” is the lead single, but does nothing to distinguish itself from the mediocrity of the rest of the album. With laggy percussion breaks between each of de la Rocha’s verses, the song drags on, and so do the next four tracks. “If You Fear Dying” is the best song here, but only marginally.
De la Rocha’s vocals haven’t changed much from the early 1990’s, and his lyrics still focus on political injustice and bucking the system, but if you’ve followed him for any time at all, you already know that. Unfortunately, he brings nothing new to the table that we haven’t already heard in RATM’s albums. The other half of One Day as a Lion is not exempt from this criticism either. Theodore’s drumming is solid, but not impressive, as it often was when he was with The Mars Volta (take a listen to the percussion in “This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed” to get an idea).
The main problem here, however, is that the format of the group simply doesn’t lend itself to success. Zach De La Rocha has never particularly focused on musicality, instead relying on his screamy, politically-charged lyrics to convey the message. While this works fine for RATM, it was a bit of an oversight to collab with only Jon Theodore. Perhaps “One Day as a Lion” would have benefited from a more radio-friendly single, in the vein of “Bulls on Parade.”
The truth is, everything here pales in comparison to most of their previous work. De la Rocha and Theodore should have either stepped their game up, or scrapped the effort. Currently, there is a full-length LP rumored to release sometime this fall, but after this EP, I wouldn’t hold my breath on it. This act may not even last that long.
-Robert Burns, II
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