Will a Chris Cornell-led Rage succeed? Industry experts say that Rage Against the Machine's lead-singer transplant may actually work -- if the new band can sidestep some pitfalls

”Hey, you got your Soundgarden in my Rage!” That’s a likely reaction to ”Cochise,” the first single from Audioslave — the new band that transplants former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell onto a Zack de la Rocha-less Rage Against the Machine. The song’s melodically howled vocals and Zeppelin-cum-hip-hop groove are each deeply familiar to fans of those two bands, but are being heard together for the very first time.

With the single just out and a video on the way, Audioslave’s self-titled album hits stores Nov. 19, about a year and a half after Cornell first hooked up with Rage (who lost de la Rocha to a solo career in mid-2000). In the interim, they’ve already managed to break up at least once, canceling plans to headline this summer’s Ozzfest. But now that Audioslave are together again, will their garden grow or will the machine break down? Radio programmers and other industry experts say the signs are good, but there may be some pitfalls along the way.

GUERILLA RADIO ”Cochise” — inspired by the tale of the Apache war chief — is currently on a warpath. It was the second most-added track on modern rock stations last week, after the long-anticipated lost Nirvana song ”You Know You’re Right.” It’s already the No. 14 song on such stations, and is likely to approach No. 1, according to Jim Kerr, alt-rock editor for chart-keepers Radio & Records.

”It’s performing well because people are very curious to hear this thing,” says Lisa Worden, music director for modern-rock flagship KROQ in Los Angeles. Fans of both Rage and Soundgarden (a smaller contingent these days, since the group split in ’96) are responding well to the track, she says. But Aaron Axelsen, music director for San Francisco’s Live 105, isn’t so sure. ”The song is reacting on the phones, but it’s really polarizing so far. It looks like the older Rage and Soundgarden fans are overly critical.” Instead, it’s kids without much of a history with either Rage or Soundgarden who are embracing ”Cochise,” he says.

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