The Matrix Reloaded: The Album

The Matrix rewrote cinematic rules and became a pop culture phenomenon in 1999, thereby enabling its creators, the Wachowski Brothers, to let their imaginations run wild for its sequel, 2003's The Matrix Reloaded. Too bad their imaginations didn't run as far as the soundtrack, since The Matrix Reloaded: The Album is of piece with the soundtrack to the original, relying on industrial, aggro nu-metal, and dark dance music. In 1999, it was everything that was stereotypically cyberpunk, and even then, it was feeling a little out of date. Four years later, it really seems out of date, even if it contains several bands that didn't exist back then, since the sub-goth darkness of this adolescent-geared murk doesn't quite gibe with the sounds of 2003. Then again, this could have been a deliberate extension of the first film, a way to tie them together, since this 12-track collection (the second disc is given over to the evocative score) contains four artists featured on the first soundtrack (Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Deftones, and Rage Against the Machine). Also, much of this is instrumental -- or, if it does have words, it plays as instrumental -- which makes it evocative and cohesive, even if overall, the music doesn't seem nearly as elegant, sleek, provocative, or muscular as the film itself. But, if anything related to The Matrix Reloaded had to be tailored for the red-meat-craving teenagers who form part of its core audience, better have it be in the soundtrack than the film itself, and much of this is pretty good for what it is, even if the general aesthetic feels too retrograde for the film. The first half of the record, in particular, doesn't have a false step, but it unravels a bit in the second half, thanks to the guttural wailing on Unloco's "Bruises," the always-irritating Zack de la Rocha on Rage Against the Machine's "Calm Like a Bomb," the always-insipid Paul Oakenfold's "Dread Rock" (though his remix of the Dave Matthews Band's "When the World Ends" is OK), and P.O.D.'s unbelievably awful "Sleeping Awake," written from the perspective of somebody who is asleep in the Matrix yet aware of Zion, which pretty much defies all of the Wachowskis' mythology. A pretty bad stretch, but the first half makes up for it, thanks to moody instrumental Linkin Park, good new stuff from Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, and good Deftones. All enough to satiate some of the adolescents who like how cool The Matrix looks and sounds, but ultimately, this isn't meant for anybody besides that audience, while the film itself has a wide appeal, which makes the narrow vision of the soundtrack kind of disappointing. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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