Review Summary: Rise Against has taken what was good on Appeal to Reason and refined it, creating a sharper sound that sacrifices none of the energy that many felt was somewhat lost in parts of their last record.
Bands sell out. I see it happen all the time. A band gains too much commercial popularity and decides to make their next album as accessible as possible, abandoning what made them unique. After Appeal to Reason’s meteoric rise to number 3 on Billboard’s top 200, Rise Against fans across the globe were concerned if the band’s next album was going to be their sell out album. The album where they lost their energy and drive, making only radio-friendly songs with little lyrical meaning. I am happy to say that this album is not that album.
Now that’s not to say Rise Against has returned to its hardcore punk roots. Instead, they have taken what was good on Appeal to Reason and refined it, creating a sharper sound that sacrifices none of the energy that many felt was somewhat lost in parts of their last record. On another positive note, their lyrical content hasn’t suffered in the slightest. I would even go so far as to argue that Tim McIlrath has some of his most potent lyrics ever on this album.
The album starts off with the blazing song, “Architects,” and immediately it is clear that Rise Against is not phoning this in. The frenetic intro lead us into a song where McIlrath laments how “our heroes [and] our icons have mellowed with age,” and urges his listeners to go make a difference.
Next comes the song that everyone has heard, “Help is On the Way.” While not a bad song, I feel that this is one of the weakest on the album. It feels a tad repetitive and other than the very interesting bridge, it is a fairly generic song compared to what Rise Against has done.
Almost every song after this avoids falling into that trap. “Make It Stop (September’s Children)" is simply chilling, with McIlrath paying homage to the homosexual teenagers who committed suicide after being bullied by reading off their names towards the end of the song. “Survivor’s Guilt” talks from the point of view of a dead soldier and delivers some killer riffs. Rise Against’s guitars and McIlrath’s vocals bleed together as he tells a story of nuclear fallout in the energizing “Gentlemen’s Coup”. Meanwhile, the catchy “Wait for Me,” will be stuck in your head for days.
Another thing noticeable on this record is the anger. It is clear in almost every song that McIlrath is angry. It feels like he is using the music as a way to vent his frustration about a world that he feels is falling apart around him. And while screams are not a prominent part of this record, we do get a few satisfying lines in “Disparity by Design” and “Midnight Hands.”
Is this a perfect record or at least as good as “The Sufferer and the Witness?” No. It’s not quite as cohesive and has less diversity. It suffers from some songs that drag on a tad too long and areas where parts of the album bleed together. But I can assure you that this album is a step in the right direction for Rise Against and a solid offering from the Chicago quartet.
A Gentlemen's Coup
Make It Stop (September's Children)
Wait for Me