Review Summary: Rise again.
Some years ago in a bid to highlight the importance of dynamics, my old guitar teacher started slapping himself in the face repeatedly, with exactly the same amount of power each time. After less than 20 seconds he explained how numbing the sensation was, so he began alternating between harder and softer slaps instead. Sure enough he felt the purpose of each and every one, his body much more receptive to the changes in intensity – in a lesson which unsurprisingly never left me. It isn’t until you’ve experienced forty minutes of medium powered slaps to the face however that you really
begin to appreciate the point of the demonstration, and the true importance of dynamics. 2011’s homogenous Endgame
was the musical embodiment of those slaps, and it marked the moment when Rise Against fully embraced their formulaic sensibilities.
Ever since the well channelled aggression of The Sufferer and the Witness
, Tim McIlrath has been slowly perfecting the art of the radio friendly alternative punk song. The formula focuses heavily on vocal hooks, and couples undeniably catchy choruses with strong, trademark bridges; resulting in unerring mid-tempo bonanzas. On paper at least it’s a winning formula - big vocals relaying even bigger hooks has resulted in many a memorable album, after all. In Rise Against’s case however, it was the sound of a band gradually diluting themselves, to the point where they became so palatable that absolutely nothing stuck. Fortunately, after you’ve finished listening to The Black Market
you aren’t left feeling numb, and the increased variety throughout has resulted in the band’s strongest release since The Sufferer and the Witness
Explosive single ‘The Eco-Terrorist in Me’ is a welcome nod to the past, featuring gruff shouts and galloping drums which are highly reminiscent of their earlier work. Most notably it channels a sense of focus which we’ve not seen from the band for some time, and it’s their first song clocking in at under 3 minutes since ‘Bricks’ and ‘Under the Knife’ on The Sufferer and the Witness
- highlighting just how single minded they’ve been over the past 6 years in their pursuit of alternative punk perfection. Elsewhere, the title track features a brilliant chorus which weaves in and out of the song rather than acting solely as its centrepiece, and the chugging ‘Zero Visibility’ benefits from numerous tempo changes as it stutters and strides to completion. ‘People Live Here’ provides a welcome acoustic reprieve towards the album’s end, and it’s something which Endgame
sorely missed. Its effectual chorus is underpinned by subtle strings, and although it doesn’t reach the emotional depths of ‘Roadside’ it does avoid talking about pissing on people’s hands, in one of the album’s highlights.
Of course not everything hits the mark, like the sugar coated pop punk of ‘Tragedy + Time’ which seems extraneous even amidst the variety, and the utterly forgettable ‘Awake Too Long’ which fails to leave any lasting impression at all. Despite these flaws however, The Black Market
is still a big step in the right direction, and they’ve managed to avoid settling in the comfortable, formulaic rut which they’d created for themselves.