Review Summary: With Siren Song of the Counter Culture, Rise Against further progress on their catchy, melodic, and heavy punk sound while introducing some new touches and sounds. The end result is a superb major label debut.
Change and Rise Against are usually not associated together. Throughout the span of their career thus far they have become famous for their intelligently written lyrics, their intensely delivered vocals, and their overall crushing, heavy yet melodic punk sound. In the year 2003 things took a bit of a different turn in the band. The first change was a new member, as Chris Chasse took over the lead guitar position. Secondly, the group signed onto a major label in Geffen. One of these changes took the writing down a slightly different turn. If you were to pick the cliché one and say well of course the label modified the writing, you my friend would be dead wrong as well as clueless as to what Rise Against stands for. On their major label debut Siren Song of the Counterculture
, their artist maturity and fresh ideas both progress the music, not their enhanced label status.
The hardcore opener in “State of the Union”
is almost misleading but does its job of setting a fury filled pace for the rest of the record to follow. I say misleading since this is easily one of the heaviest tracks on the record. The lower tuned guitars contribute to the heaviness as does the straightforward tempo of the song. Things do not slow down for a second and Tim’s angrily delivered vocals atop of the pounding drums, persistent bass and rapidly strummed progressions pummel listeners into submission. Tim’s lyrics have not fatigued with time, as the message and quality of the writing is just as prevalent as ever; “State of the union address / reads war torn country still a mess / the words power, death, and distorted truth / are read between the lines of the red, white, and blue.”
Clearly the fury has not come anywhere near a close as the opener will show. The first video released from the record was for “Give It All”
. I will never forget the first time I saw it on MTV and just thought to myself how refreshing it was to see a group keeping their core sound intact while transferring onto a major label. The tune further more keeps their hardcore edge alive as the vocals are passionately sung and the music work is gimmick free. Even the bridge features a wonderful chant section before a moderate palm mute bridge marks a wonderful transition into the final chorus. Things eventually become slightly modified as Brandon Barnes goes do a nice double time beat increasing the ferocity tenfold. While both of those tracks are furious, the record does not throw haymakers for its entire duration as the band shows another one of its strong points; versatility.
They do indeed love to bring those melodic punk tracks to the table, and they do so in terrific fashion here. Most of these tunes end up being fairly heavy while favoring some pleasant guitar work. At least that is the case in the third track “Life Less Frightening”
. Listener’s will also notice that during these songs the second guitar part is much more noticeable, as Chris’ hammer on pull off chord riff works well with Tim’s octave chord rhythm attack. Things eventually settle down into a bass driven verse which works successfully for numerous reasons. One, Tim is a great song writer and his lyrics are heard even more clearly than usual. Two, Joe is a phenomenal bass player and always lays down fitting and clever lines. Three, diversity already is shown as this track definitely does have a new feel to it. Later on a bass break comes out once more allowing listener’s to grasp a feel for the significance the four strings have throughout the album. Overall the song ends up a little more mellow feeling, catchy, and enjoyable. A pleasant guitar riff courtesy of the “new guy” Chris opens up “Tip The Scales”
. Despite the consistently excellent music work here, Tim’s lyrics really steal the show.
“ These are our lives
But did they ever even matter?
Are we worth remembering?
These machines feed on the tears of broken lives and dying dreams
We’re throwing wrenches in the gears
Our lives will not be lived in vain”
It is all simply brilliant as the aggressive nature of the lyrical delivery perfectly juxtaposes the more tranquil instrumental atmosphere. Throughout the song the progressions are quite memorable as are the background ohh’s which perfectly accent the chorus. Once more there is a bass dominating bridge with an immense build up. Tim belts out more intensity as the emotional level of the song hits a peak. “Pushed so far to the edge / we teeter just on the brink / you can lead me to the bloodbath / but you can’t make me drink”
The transition leads fluently into a slightly modified final chorus ending the track in a breathtaking manner.
The first real guitar lead of the record comes out during “Paper Wings”
. But the track does not stop there as it also makes terrific usage of an acoustic as well. Already this one has two new features in it and of course it clutches onto the signature Rise elements in wonderfully written lyrics and undeniable flow. The chord progressions here are so memorable and Chris does an exceptional job of working in a neat little riff throughout both the introduction and the chorus. Following the second chorus and a brief drum break the lead comes out, working very nicely with the song. Things later transition into a quiet acoustic bridge and later progress into a chorus. Of course the crescendo is complete when the riff is brought back out and the song is topped in an epic manner. The acoustic bridge is only a preview as to what is to come later on. The second single “Swing Life Away”
consists only of Tim, a microphone, and an acoustic. The end result is magnificent as his smoothing voice really works throughout the song. He also manages to drop some superb lines such as “If love is a labor I’ll slave to the end.”
On top of it all he keeps the acoustic writing interesting as it never just lingers in the background. Overall it just ends up as a wonderful song, and really separates itself from the rest of the album. Its power is still quite present despite its peaceful nature.
Two songs present on the record are by far some of the best ever created by the group. They both top the four minute mark and are as breathtaking as they are brilliant. The first is “Dancing For Rain”
and opens with a spectacular acoustic riff. After the soft introduction the group all comes in providing a wall of punk rock fury. The rapidly strummed octave chords making up the main progression just give off an uncontested amount of energy while later rehashing sections of the acoustic riff counter balance the song and give it a mellow edged nature. If not obvious by now, there are quite the degrees of power and emotion present as the song whips through multiple sections. But the concept of a climax and crescendo really gets a new meaning during the bridge. After pulling back the acoustic intro things slowly build up into a gem of a bridge. The overall transitions between the acoustic break, the bridge and the final chorus and outro are just paralyzing. Lyrics again further more show their genius.
“ You've bled me dry, but i'm still breathing
I swear I'm sucking dry the sky
And you won't ever find us kneeling
Or swallowing your lies
If I held my ground would you ask me to change?
This drought bleeds on now we're dancing for rain
We drink the air but it's still not the same
These worlds collide but the distance remains
We point the finger, never accept the blame, and I know, I know
This drought bleeds on... this drought bleeds on.”
While it opens with a calm acoustic intro, Dancing For Rain ends violently with Tim belting out the last line. From start to finish the track just grabs a hold of listeners and doesn’t release until utter silence returns. The final song on the record is also the longest. It contains many significant parts such as memorable one liner’s, a hook, and of course a signature raw and powerfully delivered bridge. Indeed “Rumors of my Demise have been Greatly Exaggerated”
has a lot going on for it. Lyrics are one of them, as they stay consistently wonderful throughout. Things really reach a peak when Tim screams “Shots fired into the sky, are now returning / where the *** will you hide?”
However, this is another song where one really has to read the lyrics in their entirety and placing segments of them here would merely take up space. In short, the sheer awesomeness of the lyrics is inexpressible here. Thankfully Joe’s wonderful bass lines throughout the track are expressible, as he dishes out a fill on the last line of the chorus. While his flowing lines dominate the verses, they make their presence felt throughout most of the track. Things come to a close with Tim repeating the chorus over a single guitar. “Let's take this one day at a time / I'll hold your hand if you hold mine. / The time that we kill keeps us alive.”
are the last lines heard on one hell of a major label debut.
For a band that is constantly said to be afraid to switch out of their comfort zone, Rise Against sure did branch out of it on Siren Song of the Counter Culture
. By keeping true to their traditional hardcore influenced punk tunes they showed their exact roots plenty throughout the record. They also expanded on them even further by adding their famous melodic elements into everything. However, they did not stop there. Acoustics were brought into the mix and the end result was a more diversified, a more emotional, and in turn a more power record than before. One typically associates acoustic with a calmer nature, and while Rise Against used the element in its typical manner they did not stop there; as it was also used to compose a more intense climax. And even amongst all of these changes, a new guitar player, and a major label, Rise Against showed everyone that they are still leaders of the modern day punk world. They still possess both the power and the force they previously held and end up taking it all to new heights. Siren Song of the Counter Culture
shows that Rise Against are the heart of the 21st century punk scene and are absolutely on fire.
Final Rating: 4.5/5