Review Summary: No one will suffer from Rise Against's second masterpiece.
2004's Siren Song of the Counter Culture
was Rise Against's major label debut. Although it was still a great album, its sound was easily more mainstream than its predecessor, the masterpiece Revolutions per Minute
. There was even a ballad on it (which to this date registers as one of my least favorite Rise Against songs), and lacked any real hardcore moments, other than "State of the Union". Two years later, they followed it up with The Sufferer and the Witness
, which almost surpasses RPM
for best Rise Against album.
kicks things off with "Chamber the Cartridge", a fast-paced punk song with politically charged lyrics about our modern society. "First bouts of delirium and scenes of homeless Democrats on Wall Street, a single mom of three," cries Tim McIlrath. In an album with many highlights, "Chamber the Cartridge" serves as an opener that lets listeners know what the rest of the album will be like: a pure blend of rage and emotion. "Injection" follows, and it is one of the best songs on the album, and maybe one of the best song of Rise Against's entire career. The lyrics tell a tale of depression and drug addiction, with a catchy chorus that is bound to be in your head for days.
Rise Against do get a little experimental on this album, offering some tracks that are different than the usual punk style. The first, “Bricks”, clocks in at one and a half minutes long, similar to “To the Core” or “Dead Ringer” off of RPM
, but unlike those tracks, it’s mid-tempo and contains little to no screaming. “The Approaching Curve” is an interesting little ditty, as its verses are spoken in word instead of being sung. The song tells the story of a couple who break up, and during the drive home, drives their car off a cliff, killing them both in a murder-suicide. Even if it isn’t amongst the many highlights of the album, “The Approaching Curve” is a nice variation from Rise Against’s typical style. Lastly, “Roadside” is the ballad of the album, similar to “Swing Life Away” off of Siren Song
. However, “Roadside” does right what “Swing Life Away” did completely wrong. With an intro ripped straight from Staind’s It’s Been Awhile
, the song begins with soft and intimate vocals by McIlrath before launching into the chorus, which features McIlrath beautifully harmonizing with Emily Schambra. “Roadside” is Rise Against’s best slow song, and one of the best on the album.
Luckily, there are still tons of classic Rise Against moments on the album. “Drones”, Rise Against’s best song, is on this album. With its catchy chorus of “And if you see me, please just walk on by, walk on by”, great guitarwork by Chris Chasse, and a politically charged message about overwork (“The drones all slave away, they’re working overtime… but we have bills to pay, yeah, we have mouths to feed”) and just wanting to live “simple lives”, it’s easy to see why “Drones” is Rise Against at its best. “Prayer of the Refugee” is one of Rise Against’s biggest hits, and deservedly so. The song changes tempo in the chorus, speeding up, and tells the story of a man telling his son how he fled from war and destruction. As an added bonus, it flows into “Drones” perfectly. “Worth Dying For” begins with the angry and well-timed cry of “Set me off like dynamite strapped tight around my waist!”, and a chorus that contemplates dying young in the army. “The Good Left Undone” features a chorus similar to “Prayer of the Refugee”, changing tempo from the verses, but this time it slows down as McIlrath belts out “When I do I dream of drowning in the ocean / Longing for the shore where I can lay my head down!”
Rise Against could not have picked a better album to follow up Siren Song of the Counter Culture
. The Sufferer and the Witness
proved that signing with a major label would not ruin their punk sound. It may not surpass Revolutions per Minute
, but it doesn’t need to. With plenty of highlights, including some of the best songs that Rise Against have ever wrote, The Sufferer and the Witness
is one of those albums that I can listen to without ever skipping any tracks. There are no filler tracks; even “Bricks” has its purpose. My only complaint is that the album isn’t as heavy as RPM
, and that there isn’t any hardcore pure-rage tracks like there was on it. Its sound may be a little too mainstream for some (which Rise Against would later add on to in Appeal to Reason
), but it’s still hard-hitting and passioniate. Even that is just a minor dent in a nearly flawless album. In the end, there are no sufferers, just witnesses of an excellent, well-crafted record by one of modern punk’s best bands.