Audioslave is the debut studio album by American rocksupergroupAudioslave. It was first released on November 18, 2002, through Epic Records and Interscope Records. The album features the hit singles "Cochise", "Show Me How to Live", "What You Are", "Like a Stone", and "I Am the Highway". The album was later certified 3x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in the United States. "Like a Stone" was nominated for a 2004Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Audioslave was formed after Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine and the remaining members were searching for another vocalist. Producer and friend Rick Rubin suggested that they contact Chris Cornell. Rubin played the remaining Rage Against the Machine band members the Soundgarden song "Slaves & Bulldozers" to showcase his ability. Cornell was in the writing process of a second solo album, but decided to shelve that and pursue the opportunity to work with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk when they approached him. Morello described Cornell: "He stepped to the microphone and sang the song and I couldn't believe it. It didn't just sound good. It sounded transcendent. And... when there is an irreplaceable chemistry from the first moment, you can't deny it." The quartet wrote 21 songs during 19 days of rehearsal and began working in the studio in late May 2001.
Songs from the album were first heard when thirteen rough rehearsal demo tracks were leaked onto various peer-to-peer filesharing networks on May 17, 2002, six months before the official release of the album, under the name "Civilian" (or "The Civilian Project"). According to guitarist Tom Morello "it was very frustrating, especially with a band like this, there is a certain amount of expectation." He also said that the songs were not in their finished form and that in some cases "they weren't even the same lyrics, guitar solos, performances of any kind." In an earlier, July 2002 interview with Metal Sludge he spoke more explicitly about the incident, blaming "some jackass intern at Bad Animal Studios in Seattle" for stealing the demos and putting them on the Internet without the band's permission.
The band was nearly derailed before the album's release. Cornell was going through alcohol problems and a slot on the Ozzfest tour was canceled. During this time, there was a rumor that Cornell had checked himself into drug rehabilitation. He later confirmed it in an interview with Metal Hammer that was conducted from a clinic payphone. In a San Diego CityBeat article, Cornell explained that he went through "a horrible personal crisis" during the making of the first record, staying in rehab for two months and separating from his wife. The problems were ironed out and he remained sober until shortly before his passing in 2017. The album was released on November 18, 2002, in the United Kingdom and a day later in the United States. The band toured through 2003, before resting in 2004 to record their second album.
Audioslave received mixed reviews. Some critics lambasted the group's effort as uninspired, and predictable.Pitchfork Media's reviewers Chris Dahlen and Ryan Schreiber praised Cornell's voice, but criticized virtually every other part of the album, calling it "the worst kind of studio rock album, rigorously controlled -- even undercut -- by studio gimmickry." They described Cornell's lyrics as "complete gibberish" and called producer Rick Rubin's work "a synthesized rock-like product that emits no heat." Jon Monks from Stylus Magazine had the same opinion. He considered Rubin's production over-polished and wrote that "lacking individuality, distinction and imagination this album is over-produced, overlong and over-indulgent." On the other hand, other critics praised the supergroup's style reminiscent of 1970s heavy metal and compared it to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, saying they add much-needed sound and style to contemporary mainstream rock music, and have the potential to become one of the best rock bands of the 21st century. In 2005, Audioslave was ranked number 281 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.