I'm pretty confident that most of you are already acquainted with this Chicago foursome, and that no further introduction is necessary. After last years major label debut - "Siren Song of the Counter Culture
" which got a pretty luke warm reception, and was foremost noticed for the acoustic single "Swing Life Away
" - I'm sure some people may have given up on Rise Against. But I'm just as sure that a lot of people are really anticipating this album, the bands fourth full-lenght.
If one was to glance at some other "sell-out" bands (i.e. bands who have jumped to a major label) sophomore major albums, one could venture a few guesses as of how this album would sound. Would they completely lose sight of their music and try to water it down for easy mainstream digestion (like the Offspring)? Would they turn it down, get introspective and less accessible (like Thrice?)?
Not very surprisingly, Rise Against decided to (more or less) stay true to the sound they established on their 2004 album - hooky punk rock with hardcore flirts and pop-punk tendencies. A prime example of this being fitting opener "Chamber the Cartridge
", sporting a classic hardcore "octaves-over-drumrolls" intro, a catchy "whoa"-laden chorus and half-time break inbetween chorus repeats. Followed by "Injection
" (that I'm sure all fans have downloaded by now) with it's characteristic octave intro, harmonized chorus and half-time/part-screamed breakdown, this albums opening is promising indeed.
If the promises are lived up to? Well, it's obviously a matter opinion, but I'd say they only deliver about half the way. Sure, they're as tight as ever and neither delivery nor production can be critiqued too harshly. However, after a few listens, some flaws emerge that are too critical for me to ignore. The formulaic approach that "Siren Song...
" introduced is more than adequately established here, as most of the album follows the same mold of "verse-chorus-verse-break-repeat chorus-end". And most songs exceed both 3 and 3 and a half minutes doing so. That just strikes me as unnecessary - shave off a few repetitions and you have a better song
No, most interesting on this albums are the deviations from the norm; 90 second song "Bricks
" seems to aspire to be the hardcore track of the album. While it never reaches the intensity of songs like "To the Core
" or "State of the Union
", it's a nice speedy number. Both songs that include rather unexpected tempo-changes for the chorus, "Prayer Of The Refugee
" and "The Good Left Undone
", rank among the stand-outs - the first for its "soft verse-rocking chorus" dynamics, mood and heartfeltness from Tim, the second for it's commendably offbeat tempo-shifts. In fact, that welcome spicing-up may well make "The Good Left Undone
" a contender for best song on the album.
If "Swing Life Away
" was the unorthodox hit from "Siren Song...
", surely "The Approaching Curve
" will be the same from this album. It's melodic, almost atmospheric spoken word verses and slow bombastic chorus make up for the somewhat ostentatious lyrics. At least it destroys tired singer/songwriter-styled "Roadside
" that, despite featuring a female singer in the chorus, just seems anaemical and redundant.
So it's both hit and miss for Rise Against on this album - they know their trade, but perhaps too well. Often they seem too comfortable in their set pattern of AABB-rhymes and predictable chord changes. Some attempts (both succesful and not) to break up the routine and an undeniable nack for writing songs that makes you want to see them live just to shout along saves this album from being boring. It's a good album, but it's no "Revolutions Per Minute