Review Summary: Chicago's finest.
Remember that punk sound that Rise Against used to have? That sound from "Revolutions Per Minute" and "The Unraveling." Fast, angry, and loud. Catchy bass lines, guitar solos, and drum fills all executed to perfection. Tim McIlrath's voice forcing its way into your ears, making you believe every word he shouted out at you. Don't get me wrong, I like the newer Rise Against albums, but I thought that older version of Rise Against was dead and gone. I thought we would be left to only wish for another album as good as those. Then I found out about The Killing Tree.
"The Romance Of Helen Trent" is, overall, a fantastic album. Filled with the things that made the old Rise Against so good. Fast punk riffs, sing/scream along type lyrics, blistering drum fills, and fun bass lines. It has that dirty, distorted recording quality that I really enjoy. But don't think that this is Rise Against number two. Because at times it is anything but. Such as the metalcore breakdowns in "Violets Are Blue" and "Prelude To Pain." It's a departure from what I was expecting at times. But that only made it all the more fun to listen to. The only real down side is that the songs are very long winded. Of course, that is a personal preference of mine. I prefer these types of songs to be short, sweet, and to the point. Although, I can't complain too much. They are long, but great.
At times this album is sloppy. That may be a turn off for some, but I think it just makes the album a little more unique. The riffs aren't played sloppily, but the guitar tone that you'll hear throughout this album is pretty distorted. Almost too distorted if that makes any sense. It adds to the almost constant chaos going on throughout the record. You'll hear a lot of simple lead parts. Simple, but enjoyable. You don't have to play the fast and technical for it to sound good. Most of the time, the bass just hugs close to what the guitarists are playing. Of course, at times an interesting lick will shine through, but not as much as I would have preferred. The drums are full of pretty fast fills and fun beats. Not doing anything out of the ordinary most of the time, but more just laying down something for the rest of the band to build upon.
The vocals are, as expected, pretty damn great. Tim screams much more over the course of this album than he did in his old Rise Against days. Of course, this isn't Rise Against. He does a great job of switching from ear-splitting screams to sing along choruses at the flip of a switch. You'll find a different type of lyrics as well. Not politically charged like you would come to expect from McIlrath. Writing in a more cryptic style in this album. Overall, deep meanings and patterns that I only dream of hearing screamed by the entire crowd live.
All in all, this is a heavier version of the early Rise Against. Adopting a more metal type of sound in The Killing Tree. This is definitely an album that has been in my regular rotation since I first heard it and I have a feeling it will stay there for years to come. Hopefully they will make another record. Considering this 2002 release was the last thing we really heard from them, I have a feeling we won't be hearing anymore from them in the future. So lets just enjoy what we have for now.