Review Summary: A fantastic blend of melodic and hardcore punk.
Ah, Revolutions per Minute
. I remember having such a terrible time finding this CD since it was on an independent label. I lived in a small community growing up and the closest thing I had to a music store was a Wal-Mart that was 20 minutes away. I heard "Heaven Knows" on an Atticus sampler CD (also when I discovered Thrice) and I was hooked. I had to have the album. The anticipation grew and grew every time I went to a bigger city with family or friends and I got a chance to check the local music store. My disappointment grew as well every time I found a Rise Against filing card with no CDs to accompany it. One day I finally found it and I was so excited when I got home and opened it up. Even though I had only listened to one song I just had a feeling I was in for something special.
I was right.
The vocal department is where Rise Against shines. Tim McIlrath is a force to be reckoned with. He sings and screams with a passion you don’t hear from too many vocalists. Tim is a very talented singer, being that his singing and scream voice is top notch. Sometimes, when a singer does the screaming and singing, it seems like one suffers compared to the other, where as Tim excels in both areas. And his scream… man, is it impressive. It’s raw, aggressive, passionate and intense. To me, Tim screams when he feels it’s necessary instead of just doing it because he can or he thinks he has to because of the music scene the band is in. It’s like raising your voice or swearing in an argument to get your point across. It’s not always needed but it can be useful to get things going in your favor and/or have your voice heard. The bridge right before the solo of “Blood Red, White and Blue” is a perfect example:
Would God bless a murder of the innocents?
Would God bless a war based on pride?
Would God bless a money-hungry government?( Nooo!)
Would God bless our ineffective court system?
God bless the sweatshops we run.
God bless America.
God bless America. (Nooo!)
He may or may not have a few qualms about how our country is ran. It pisses him off and he wants to tell you about it in a very raw and aggressive manner. Another shining point of Rise Against is the lyrics. Like his vocals, Tim puts a lot of passion into his writing. Politics are and probably always will be a touchy subject area and Rise Against is not afraid to tell everyone what side they are standing on. Fortunately, the entire album is not about politics and other subjects are touched upon as well. Another highlight of the album is the playing of bassist Joe Principle. He is fantastic at what he does; sticking to rhythm when needed, throwing in fills at appropriate times and even playing lead on the occasion. He is a very prominent part of the band’s sound and I love the fact that he is evenly put in the mix instead of being tossed in the background and getting lost behind the guitars and drums.
There’s a certain intensity that is inherent throughout most of the album, but not all of it is the angry, screaming version of Rise Against. The tracks blend back and forth between a general, hardcore and melodic punk sound. The opening track (which to this day, I still can’t decide if I actually like it or not), “Black Masks and Gasoline” has a general, simple punk feel to it with fast drums and power chords chugging along until the bridge, where Tim gives just a taste of what his scream can do and the band follows suit with a slower, heavier half-time feel. Songs like “Dead Ringer” and “To the Core” are just intense, fast paced, screaming fests that barely scratch 2 minutes and strictly fall in the hardcore area (except for the small bridge on “To the Core”) while songs like “Broken English” and “Like the Angel” show the more melodic, pop-punk side of Rise Against. “Like the Angel” could be considered a pop-punk masterpiece. It has this undeniable, almost uplifting energy to it along with lyrics that have a sweet sentiment to them without being corny or eye-roll inducing. That’s impressive, especially when a song like “Dead Ringer” was just two tracks before it.
Next, we have the songs that blend all three together, like” Heaven Knows”, “Halfway There” and “Torches.” I love the build-up of “Halfway There” from the first verse to the chorus as Tim’s voice slowly becomes more intense before he gets to the scream-filled chorus (which is always kind of nice change of pace when you typically get screamed verses and sang choruses). “Heaven Knows” and “Torches” tends to blend the sing-screaming vocals instead of favoring one or the other. “Heaven Knows” just brings a certain urgency to the listener with its vigorous pace and aggressive tone before slowing things down a little bit for the wonderfully done, more melodic bridge/outro combo. “Torches” basically throws everything on the table, with a typical punk styled verse, livens it up with an interesting chorus riff (rinse and repeat) and then throws you for a loop when the three-part bridge enters the fray. First, it hooks you in with a catchy guitar part and sets you up for the ferocity of the heavy second section, which then completely mellows out and drops everything but the vocals and a small lead guitar part before bringing it all back around for the chorus. It almost seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does.
If I have to complain (and unfortunately I do), I did notice that a lot of the songs tend to be written in similar keys, which can kind of give you that déja vu feeling on certain tracks. It’s only a bit noticeable here and there and tends to go away after you get more familiar with the songs. I also find “Amber Changing” to be kind of boring. The verses just trudge on to the hurried chorus while neither really leaves much of an impact. The only real worthwhile part to the song is the bridge, which brings back some of the intensity and urgency of the earlier tracks and then just fades back into the chorus. It really just feels like a set-up to the oddly chosen (but not objected to) Journey cover. Can you really go wrong with an “Anyway You Want It” cover though? I don’t think you can.
I am amazed at how much I enjoy the vocals on RPM
since I absolutely hate them on The Unraveling
. On that album, the vocals and the music are like two separate entities, like they don't belong together. Rise Against definitely improved in a big way from their debut and made a much more cohesive, complete album this time around. It’s refreshing to be able to go back and listen to a decade old album and still remember it almost as fondly as you did the day you first popped it into your CD player