It’s not surprising that Rise Against hail from Chicago. Chicago grew up in the industrial revolution, although having to restart in the Great Fire of 1871. It hosted the World Columbian Exposition, among the world’s most influential fairs in history. However, the real connection between Chicago and Rise Against is in the nickname The Windy City. The man who coined the term Windy City, a New York journalist, made the term due to the quick way ideas spread throughout Chicago, not for the excessive wind in the city. Rise Against, in that manner, spread their own message quick and fast. With swift political ideas, the band gleams with an angry intensity that still hasn’t diminished from Revolutions per Minute. The Sufferer and the Witness is an intense, raging album of stories, messages, and ideas.
Rise Against is:
Tim McIlrath - Lead Vocals/Guitar
Chris Chasse - Guitar/Backing Vocals
Joe Principe - Bass/Backing Vocals
Brandon Barnes - Drums
Rise Against have certainly made a name for themselves. They stand among the many bands taking a political viewpoint as one of the honest and true bands. Their music accompanies their message perfectly, a furious brand of punk rock. A driving rhythm section, with typical punk rock drums and that bright picked bass tone, allows for the rest of the band to build tremendous energy off of them. The guitar interplay creates excellent melodic structure even in the normally power chord infested punk rock layout. However, on Revolutions Per Minute and Siren Songs, the band normally went through an extremely similar sound. Siren Songs began to explore more melodic songs, but many songs like State of the Union stayed in their usual style. The Sufferer and the Witness makes further explorations, the band certainly remembers and uses their excellently refined punk sound. The explorations include a much softer Roadside
, which pulls in clean guitar lines and female back up vocals. Tim McIlrath shows an excellent evolution in his vocals, making a perfect baritone-tenor voice that accompanies the female back-up vocals perfectly. Strings add more vibrancy and life to Roadside
, and all in all make the most beautiful song ever from the band.
Rise Against also knows how to get fans. Ready to Fall
is an incredibly catchy single with a powerful video accompaniment. The band, entirely vegans, made a video protesting animal torture. Although the lyrics are much more introspective and speak more towards a relationship than animal torture, the video is plenty enough. Musically, the song relies entirely on the angry sound of the band. The verse enters an uptempo speed with the bass outlining the chord progression. With Tim screaming in the prechorus, the song pulsates forward into the climatic half time feel in the chorus. Tim’s chorus is one of the most anthemic of the band’s history. The song may stand as one of the best punk singles of the year. However, the most strictly punk rock song is certainly Bricks
. The song only lasts for a minute and a half. Opening with just a drum beat, a guitar slide down the fretboard leads the band into a quick, simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus. However, slight variations in guitar riffing and slight nuances in the bass make the song all the more interesting. Although the band’s main lyrical intention has always been political, The Approaching Curve
tells a story of a relationship. The song takes the half-time uplifting chorus style established in Ready to Fall
, but the verse is spoken word from Tim. His writing tells a heart-felt story that avoids cliché through Tim’s word choice and writing ability. The song ends with the girl crashing the car intentionally, implying suicide.
However, Rise Against makes sure they don’t fall into doing the same exact process for every song. Prayer of the Refugee
takes the opposite approach of Ready to Fall
. The verse takes a much softer approach, with a clean guitar tone and clean, melancholic vocals. However, a distorted guitar builds some steam in the verse before exploding into a fast, furious chorus. The chorus is so uplifting and powerful; it alone makes Prayer of the Refugee
a contender for best song on the album. Survive
stands as the other contender, a 5 minute song that is as close to epic as a Rise Against song gets. The song starts with a longing guitar riff and cymbal swells. After the minute long intro of a much more rubato and freeform style, the song explodes into a punk feel and some of the best riffing on the album. Once that movement closes, a high hat click allows a much sparser and a bit slower movement, consisting of only 3 guitar hits in between Tim’s singing. Slowly, a full guitar strum pattern and drum beat enters. The song flawlessly and without pause transitions into the faster tempo to close out the song on an energetic and powerful note.
As far as the rest of the album, there are no truly terrible songs. However, most of the rest fall into a mesh of the typical Rise Against sound. Listening to each song individually, they are all great songs, but the few that standout are either the perfect execution of Rise Against punk or departures for the band. The other songs, such as Chamber the Cartridge
, and Worth Dying For
all sound like the stereotypical Rise Against song. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as Rise Against have a fun, catchy formula to their music, but it also makes for a slight lack in variety. However, all in all, Rise Against produce a true and excellent album with The Sufferer and the Witness.
Ready to Fall
Prayer of the Refugee
The Approaching Curve