Review Summary: A perfect mix of anger and passion.
With the release of 2001's The Unraveling
on independent label Fat Wreck Chords, Rise Against had cemented themselves as a rising punk rock group. The album was good, though the production was sub-par, and overall it was a decent debut. Two years later, they released what will always be their masterpiece: Revolutions Per Minute
. Filled with pure fury and fast and powerful instrumental work, this was the most hardcore they ever got.
Anger is the key to a good Rise Against album. It's why songs like "Give It All" are great and pumps you up, while songs like "Swing Life Away" are lame and boring. The album is filled with such passion and emotion that no other Rise Against album has been able to match. The intensity in Tim McIlrath's vocals is immeasurable, as they contain so much fervor and agony. He places screams in all the right places, not yelling too much nor too little. When McIlrath is overcome with rage, you can feel the raw emotion in his vocals, conveying a mood appropriate for the song. On other tracks, his vocals will be more subdued, creating a calmer mood, like in "Like the Angel". Lyrically, Revolutions Per Minute
is very diverse and strong, exploring many subjects such as suicide, self-deprecation, first love and anti-American sentiments, among others.
Opener "Black Masks & Gasoline" kicks off the album on a more straightforward punk note, and, although not being the heaviest song on the album, gives a taste of what the album will be like. The next track, "Heaven Knows", is the best on the album, and it's not hard to see why. With McIlrath's furious screams, Brandon Barnes' fast and furious drumwork, a slow outro, and heavy lyrical theme about suicide, it's no surprise that it's still a common concert staple ten years later.
"Blood-Red White & Blue" shows a more political side of Rise Against, with McIlrath's cries of "Would God bless our ineffective court system? / God bless the sweatshops we run! / God bless America? No!". "Broken English" is a close runner-up for best song on the album, with its catchy chorus of "we all fall down, and we get right back up again". It may be one of the softer and more melodic songs on the album, but the passion in McIlrath's vocals are still there, along with great guitarwork by Zach Blair. "To the Core" and "Dead Ringer" are both fast-paced, straight-up hardcore punk anthems that only last for one and a half minutes, but they're one and a half minutes well spent. The former has McIlrath screaming his lungs out about haters on the internet, then a minute in, slows the tempo down, only to return to anger with five seconds left. Meanwhile, the latter has heavier verses, but a softer chorus and bridge. "To the Core" is the better of the two, due to its angrier lyrics and better message.
There is not a single weak song on Revolutions per Minute
; my biggest gripe with this album is that "Like the Angel" is a little too soft and boring, but its instrumental work saves it from being nothing but pure filler. There's even a cover of Journey's "Any Way You Want It" as a hidden bonus track, and it's actually pretty faithful to the original. In the end, Revolutions Per Minute
will always be Rise Against's best album, a perfect mix of melodic and hardcore, with heavy songs to let off steam and more subdued songs to relax to. This, along with The Sufferer & the Witness
, are the only two Rise Against albums I can listen to without ever hitting the skip button. There is no filler, just rage and emotion.