Out Now: Tom Morello’s ‘Life Raft’ of a New Album, the Collaborative and Experimental ‘The Atlas Underground Fire’ (Listen)

Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

Tom Morello is esteemed the world over for his signature guitar sounds with Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and a prolific solo career, which continued today, Oct. 15, with The Atlas Underground Fire, a new solo album that follows 2018’s The Atlas Undergound, and finds Morello collaborating with the likes of Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen, Bring Me the Horizon, Phantogram, Damian Marley, Chris Stapleton, grandson, Mike Posner and more.

A rousing cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” opens the record, finding Morello linking up with Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder:

If such a team-up brings to mind the image of the three icons sharing MP3s back and forth via email, well, Morello agrees:

“I mean, my gosh. Nobody could have predicted such a thing but yeah, that happened,” he told us in our new feature interview for October.

The focus of the album, he added, was to help bridge the gap, musically, blending styles and pushing rock and roll forward. This is realized on the album with the tracks with Bring Me the Horizon, one of the leaders of the “new school” of rock and roll. Speaking of the English band, which has morphed its sound over the years from pummeling death metal to more experimental, even synth-pop/rock recently, Morello told us, “they’re really flying the flag for rock and metal in 2021 and beyond.”

Click here to pick up The Atlas Underground Fire on CD from our Rock Cellar Store
Click here to pre-order The Atlas Underground Fire on 2-LP from our Rock Cellar Store

“Let’s Get This Party Started” is that collaboration, a standout track on The Atlas Underground Fire:

“Hold the Line” finds Morello joined by grandson, the incendiary young artist on the rise with a social awareness and lyrical bite to his music that very much continues the aesthetic that Morello and his Rage Against the Machine band mates built a legacy on — making their team-up a perfect match:

Written and recorded mostly during the pandemic, Morello characterizes The Atlas Underground Fire as being, “as much of a life raft and an anti-depressant as anything else,” due to the ability to work on it and collaborate with artists around the world remotely, from his home studio. One of the tracks, the album-capping “On The Shore of Eternity,” features Palestinian DJ Sama’ Abdulhadi and spans nearly nine minutes of guitar-driven electronica:

Explained Morello of that collaboration in particular:

“She actually mixed that song during the Israeli bombing of Palestine, while that was going on. So it was a hectic time, and she would disappear for a few days at a time. And I’d be like, ‘are you okay?’ But yeah, I have a nice studio at my house, but I don’t know how to work it. There was always an engineer there. And during lockdown, there was no engineer there.

Inspiration came from very unlikely place. I read a Kanye West interview where he said he uses the voice memo of his phone [to work on songs], and I was like, ‘that’s crazy!’ And so I just started recording my guitar into my phone sending off these voicemail guitar tracks. Like my phone sitting on a folding chair in front of my Marshall stacks. And the tracks were fantastic. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, wait. We’re not just continuing to play music, there’s a way to make a record here.’”

The end result of The Atlas Underground Fire is a wildly experimental and rewarding listen from Tom Morello, one that allows him to venture outside the realm of “guitarist” and immerse himself in collaborations with peers that pushes the envelope further, all the while adding to his singularly versatile catalog of music. Give it a listen below.

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