“The Atlas Underground Fire,” Tom Morello (Mom + Pop Music)
Once the paint-peeling guitar riffs, spleen-shaking drums and rip-roaring parade of guests subside, Tom Morello’s “The Atlas Underground Fire” really gets hearts racing.
The final cut is “On the Shore of Eternity,” an 8-plus-minute dance instrumental that makes it sound as if the album has been hijacked by an aerobics class.
Morello wants America to shape up.
The rock star and social justice warrior delivers that message via a sprawling 12-tune patchwork pandemic product. Morello’s guitars hit hard, even though he recorded them on his phone’s voice memo app, and the passion of his politics comes through. But long-distance file-sharing by the album’s many collaborators results in a whiplash-inducing grab bag.
Morello co-wrote every tune except the AC/DC classic “Highway to Hell,” which happens to be the set’s highlight. It showcases Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder in their full-throated glory, acting as though they’ve sung an arena anthem before.
Even heavier is “Let’s Get the Party Started,” with Bring Me the Horizon’s Oli Sykes singing about dodging demons. Incendiary riffing returns on “The Achilles List,” where Greta Thunberg scolds, “How dare you continue to look away.” The album also calls for activism on “Hold the Line,” a fist-raiser destined to be co-opted by sports venues.
Less likely to last are back-to-back ballads, including one that even Chris Stapleton’s singing can’t save, and the aforementioned workout tune will test stamina. “The Atlas Underground Fire” is at times exhilarating but slightly exhausting.
Steve Wine, The Associated Press