Rise Against
The Sufferer and the Witness


5.0
classic

Review

by Davey Boy STAFF
June 19th, 2008 | 487 replies | 22,015 views


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sensational album which delivers energetic, passionate & accessible punk rock. With many highlights, Rise Against have furthered all facets of their music to become a little more mainstream without selling out their origins. Thoroughly recommended.

I have a confession to make. It is an honest one that will hopefully significantly underline and strengthen some of the points I am about to make in this review. Following the first few listens, I rated this album 4 out of 5.

I have often questioned myself on what would constitute a 5 star album. Two factors readily come to mind: (1) Not one filler song and (2) Many standout tracks. I attempted to think of an album that had both and I struggled. There are albums I know which contain no filler, but have only a couple of standout tracks. Then there are those that had many memorable tracks, yet had a couple of ordinary songs as well. My conclusion was that I would rate no album a perfect 5 unless I relaxed the rules a little. Conclusion: Rise Against’s 4th album ‘The Sufferer and The Witness’ rates a perfect 5 due to criteria #2.

As I mentioned in my review of Rise Against’s previous album ‘Siren Song of the Counter Culture’ (rated 4), Punk is not a genre which has struck a huge chord with me over the years. I liked ‘Siren Song…’ though as it seemed to successfully blur the lines of punk, hardcore and surprisingly accessible rock. What that album didn’t have was a number of individually memorable songs, as it was more an even and consistent effort. Rise Against keep the consistency here, but remedy the individually memorable songs weakness multiple times over.

Strangely enough, the opening 1-2 punch delivered here is fairly similar to that delivered on their previous album as both ‘Chamber The Cartridge’ and ‘Injection’ are rampaging punk rockers. They are decent enough, but pale into insignificance compared to what is about to follow. If anything, I would have preferred if they were kept shorter, a’la track 4 ‘Bricks’ which only lasts 90 seconds and is a frenetic interlude of sorts.

Fear not though as pretty much everything on the album is excellent. First single ‘Ready To Fall is phenomenal with its controlled verses leading into a screamingly intense bridge that initially seems out of place. But it is an effective method of setting up one of the catchiest choruses of any song in the past few years. It’s difficult not to shout along with lead singer Tim McIlrath during this track and even that has to be done with volume! Later, track 7 ‘Drones’ practically attempts to replicate the formula and that is not a bad thing at all. In this song, Tim repeats his request for a “simple life” as he did on the previous album.

Once more, the lyrics contained on this album are extremely effective and one of the reasons for this is because they are simple and to the point. Take 2nd single ‘Prayer of the Refugee’ as a case in point. Comparable, but better than, ‘Life Less Frightening’ from ‘Siren Song…’, the chorus pleads “Don’t hold me up now. I can stand my own ground. I don’t need your help now. You will let me down”. Elsewhere, the track is another highlight as it has a successful slow verse/quicker chorus dynamic and an involving guitar solo in the mid-section.

While they are not in abundance, another reason to like this album so much is a couple of gambles taken by the band, both of which come off to varying degrees. Track 8 ‘The Approaching Curve’ is experimental in the fact it includes spoken-word verses, something you would not expect from this group. Yet, it works well to emphasize what is an effectively melodic chorus. It may not be anywhere near the best track here, but it is pretty good and successfully delivers some variety. As does track 11 ‘Roadside’, which is a dark & heartfelt ballad which is a duet with a female vocalist. Containing no drums whatsoever, Tim surprisingly pulls off the vocals superbly as he did on the best track from the previous album, ‘Swing Life Away’. The female touch on this song makes this just as compelling.

Proof that this album has many memorable tracks is shown by a number of solid songs seeming almost so-so only because they are being compared to the many highlights. ‘Under The Knife’, ‘Worth Dying For’ and ‘Behind Closed Doors’ fall into this category, although that may be a little harsh on the latter as it was released as the album’s 4th single. That track leads into what arguably could be the best trio to “ever” close out an album! Sandwiching the aforementioned ‘Roadside’ are 3rd single ‘Good Left Undone’ and the closing ‘Survive’. The former is a truly fantastic up-tempo song which has excellent all-round musicianship and a killer chorus that will get stuck in your head for days. Effectively switching pace, it has a very good vocal arrangement which means the song gets better as it goes along.

Then comes ‘Survive’ which is a real grower. What I love so much about this track is that it once more shows Rise Against’s uncanny ability to balance contradictory elements. Sensational breakneck pace drumming and guitar shredding combine with what some may feel are arguably corny lyrics. But in truth, they reveal themselves to be clever and simple all at once. Furthermore, they are uplifting and motivational. They are so good in my opinion that this is one of the rare times I will ever quote the lyrics of a full verse in a review:

“Somewhere between happy and total f**king wreck… Feet sometimes on solid ground, sometimes at the edge.
To spend your waking moments simply killing time… Is to give up on your hopes and dreams, to give up on your…
Life for you has been less than kind… So take a number, stand in line…
We’ve all been sorry, we’ve all been hurt… But how we survive is what makes us who we are”

Wow… what an album! Possibly the best thing about it is how Rise Against have achieved the difficult task of not selling out their origins, yet furthering all facets of their music to become a little more mainstream. Better production levels and better choruses are the 2 main ingredients that help this along. But it is also helped along by such an energetic and passionate approach to their craft. For those that may be offended by screaming vocals, this is the place to start as there is less of it here. However as it is used sparingly, it is all the more effective when it does pop up.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, punk is not my preferred genre, so rating this 5 out of 5 should say something. And please note that while this album is very accessible, it may not be as immediate, so give it a chance if it doesn’t take your fancy upon first listen. With many highlights, the bottom line is that this is one hell of an album that should appeal to all kinds of rock music fans!

Recommended Tracks: Survive, Ready To Fall, The Good Left Undone, Prayer of the Refugee, Drones & Roadside



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user ratings (2347)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2008



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Well that was longer than I expected it to be! I suppose that is only natural when one thinks an album is so good.

beans
June 19th 2008



2332 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i really like this album and this band a lot but im not sure about a 5...
good review though

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2008



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks BUNIT9488. This is my first 5 rating review and it was indeed a tough call to go all the way & give it a 5. But the way in which this album has consistently grown on me over the past year or so resulted in me deciding on doing so.

AmericnZero02
June 19th 2008



3329 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Good review, "Injection" is one of my favorites off this though. I definitely agree with the points you made on "Survive" though.

AtavanHalen
June 19th 2008



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This took guts, kid! Biggg brownie points for you. I still think Ready to Fall has one of the best videos I've ever seen.

beans
June 19th 2008



2332 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i agree although i haven't seen it in a while i want to check it out again, i've always loved drones on this album, good energy on that song from the beginning all the way to the end.

ninjuice
June 19th 2008



6761 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Doesn't need another review, but good nonetheless. I would give this a 5 but I'm holding on to the hope that they somehow top this.
I also love "Injection", it might be my favorite, but it's hard to pick favorites when the whole album's awesome.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2008



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks for the feedback guys. Strangely enough, while being pretty good, 'Injection' never did anything too much for me. Hell, if I loved that track as well, it would have been an easy 5 rating.
ATAVANHALEN, speaking of their videos and you being a fellow Aussie, tv show Rage had 5 or 6 of their videos in a row a few weeks back. Watching them was actually what made me head back to their last 2 albums to review them for this site.
NINJUICE, with the band working on the new album as we speak, I also am somehow hoping they can top this. But in reality, I really doubt it. And even if they do, I don't think it can be apparent on the first few listens anyway.

Fire Away
June 19th 2008



293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i don't get the love for this, i like siren song better

thesystemisdown
June 19th 2008



412 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Siren Song >>>> this

Behind Closed Doors is not really filler... I would call it better than The Good Left Undone or Chamber the Cartridge by far. Injection is also one of the best on the album. I would also argue that the "experimental" spoken word verses on The Approaching Curve were just due to the band running out of ideas

SpinLightTwo
June 19th 2008



1025 Comments


Ready To Fall and Survive ftw

rasputin
June 19th 2008



14517 Comments


this is a great album, need to get more from the band

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
June 19th 2008



862 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good album, could never see it as a 5, I just can't see the awesomeness of many of the tracks you think are stand-out. Very good review anyway.

SHOOTME
June 19th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

sweet review, I need to hear this.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2008



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

THESYSTEMISDOWN, I don't think I ever labeled 'Behind Closed Doors' as filler. I definitely don't think it is and it actually could be the song that has grown on me the most of late. That's the great thing about this album; Many songs get better over repeated listens. As for them running out of ideas with 'The Approaching Curve', I'm sure you could put up that argument, but I'd disagree and put up the at least equally strong argument that they were looking to add variety.
Thanks to everyone for the feedback. I wasn't certain how the review would go over to be honest. Rating an album 5 out of 5 is very much a test as such as I found that I really had to back up my opinions clearly.

AtavanHalen
June 19th 2008



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Believe me, I've had the same issues with my 5/5 reviews. Had to change one because of that. I stand by the rest of my 5s, though.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2008



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I just checked your 5's Dave. They say you learn something every day & I just learnt that William Shatner has released an album!

ToWhatEnd
June 19th 2008



3172 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I would also argue that the "experimental" spoken word verses on The Approaching Curve were just due to the band running out of ideas
I honestly think it's them coming up with a new idea as opposed to running out of ideas. But that just has a lot to due with the overall construction of the song and how well the idea works itself and with the rest of the song. The spoken verses allow for a bigger chorus where the group makes exceptional use of crescendos. Plus the whole bridge build up with the guest female vocalist echoing the last vocal line before the final chorus kicks is definitely one of the album's most memorable moments IMO.

ninjuice
June 19th 2008



6761 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Plus the whole bridge build up with the guest female vocalist echoing the last vocal line before the final chorus kicks is definitely one of the album's most memorable moments IMO.
Heck yeah.
i don't get the love for this, i like siren song better

Um....let's see:
Tim's vocals are better.
Roadside trumps Swing Life Away easily
And I'd argue it's just consistently better.


AtavanHalen
June 19th 2008



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just checked your 5's Dave. They say you learn something every day & I just learnt that William Shatner has released an album!

And a brilliant one at that. I still love Has Been; must listen to it again this afternoon.



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