Review Summary: Its great to know the future of punk rock lies in a band as dedicated to combining the elements of poignant socio-political lyrics, uplifting melodies delivered with precision, and the fury of hardcore punks' guitar and drums, as Rise Against are; and sho
Rise Against deliver everything you might expect of them plus more with their latest - Appeal To Reason.
This album sounds like (for those familiar with the band) a mixture of the pounding drums, wailing guitars, and 'layer-of-sound' recording quality from Siren Song, the mid-tempo soaring, almost painfully screaming vocal melodies from Revolutions Per Minute, and the sheer consistency of Sufferer and the Witness.
The key point is that they have opted for more of a balance between mid and fast tempo tracks, rather than Sufferer's basically entirely fast tempo style. This mid-tempo leaning harks back to Revolutions (songs like Broken English and Amber Changing), and will have fans of this style in pure heaven. These songs are fresh and delivered with passion and melody. Naturally, this album is better suited to people who like slightly slower more melodic numbers than the sheer lightning attack of fast tempo tracks.
1) "Collapse" - 3.5/5
The first thing I noticed in Appeal To Reason, is that, FOR ONCE, the opening track didnt grab me by something other. Black Masks and Gasoline nearly brought me to tears when I first heard it, whereas State of the Union felt like a kick in the groin with its sheer raw energy. Chamber The Cartridge was my favourite song from Sufferer. This song is, I feel, more of an introduction. Whether this was given away by its gradual fade in, or its early bad religion style complicated riff followed by an awkward sounding vocal melody, im not sure, but this song seems to be a sum of a wide array of parts rather than a statement in itself. Having said all this, as far as introductions go, this is a pretty good one. The chorus wont be sung in acoustic fireside fan renditions, but gets the adrenaline going and the sheer sound of the band itself again, after a short (but long seeming) two year layoff is brilliant. Okay, but leaves you wanting more.
2) "Long Forgotten Sons" - 4.5/5
Alright boys. Here we go. This is a new sounding Rise Against. Much more rock than punk rock in my opinion, and powerfully mid-tempo, this song makes a huge impression. The lack of catchy chorus from Collapse is more than made up for here. Not precisely for the fans of songs like 'Drones' or 'Tip The Scales,' this track is a potential killer for those who enjoy a good old fashioned chorus screamalong, of the kind only a voice like McIlraths can leigitimately get away with.
3) "Re-education" - 4/5
Another heavy almost metal sounding punk barrage. A bit like Ready To Fall, but without the latter's unidentifiable annoying qualities. Something fresh about it. Hard to say exactly, but the odds are this is the one you've heard even if you havent heard the album yet, and you know what it is - a solid powerful styled punk rock piece. Very, very Rise Against in a way.
4) "The Dirt Whispered" - 4/5
Much more melodious, much more pop-punk in riff. Fans of 'Everchanging' or 'Anywhere But Here' will enjoy this one. Im not 100% sure its up there with those two (classics), but time will tell. Thats all there is to really say about this one. Though, I must say Tim's voice is just so well suited to this sort of musical accompaniment (like it or hate it he does sound great with this backdrop and in this style, admit it).
5) "Kotov Syndrome" - 3.5/5
Four songs in and what to say" Very good stuff, and a mix of what the rest of the album as a whole will sound like. Four different styles have been used already. This being done, track five seems to revert back to the bands' Fat Wreckchord days. Faster and with a chorus that will get a mosh-pit going ("Spin out of controoooollll!") Kotov Syndrome just doesnt have the memorable qualities the rest of the songs have by the bucketload. Though a classic Rise Against bridge breakdown brings it home and makes it survive. Still good but one of the weaker ones.
6) "From Heads University" - 4/5
Return of the mid-tempo style. This one seems to be a grower, give it some time, plant the seed in your head, and it might well bloom into one of the best. For now though, it seems to be more of a precurser to the more innovative section of the album to come. If you like melody, you wont be disappointed here though. This song is really classicly 'Appeal To Reason' -- it wouldnt fit in on any other Rise Against album. Six songs down, and if your like me, the great news is, as good as these songs are, they seem to be really just a warmup of whats to come. Brace yourself, its about to go to the next level..
7) "The Strength To Go On" - 4.5/5
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Angry riff in the verse contrasted with bitter but melodious, painful but poppish chorus. Seems to be getting closer to the beating heart of the album. You cant help but feel tingles up your spine during this song. Its almost like 'Black Masks and Gasoline.' No-one does the combination of sincere suffering wailing sounding vocals and combines it with melody quite like Tim. He really makes the band what it is, separates it from the rest of the 'scene' such as it is. Fantastic voice.
8) "Audience Of One" - 5/5
Heres where the polarising comes into play. I can almost hear some of you groaning when you see this rating. But here it is: people who like mid-tempo and melody will adore this. It is clearly the best on the album, in this particular mould. If released as a single, will be hugely popular. This is the kind of song you play to friends who dont know anything about punk rock to make clear to them what it can sound like when good punk bands opt towards sheer and utter melody. Nothing gets in the way. Just brilliant. Havent absorbed the lyric here -- and I really ought to, because these few tracks are where the album breaks all the rules of hipness and lays it all on the line. These are the beating heart of the album. And if you dont like this particular style, dont worry, the next ones for you..
9) "Entertainment" - 5/5
Took me by complete surprise after the precursur. Almost an apology by the band to the hardcore audience. Though its melody is still freakishly good. The difference is, its angry. Very angry, in a satirical, *** you, sort of way. "Are we only entertainment"" No apologies in the lyric, if the music indeed is one. Lyric hints of a big finger pointing towards anyone who judges them in a way which negates what they truly write music for -- to get across their political and personal messages to people like them. And they answer their own question in a polka-styled circus feel breakdown: "But this is more than entertainment, in a world so sick with pain, this is the only thing thats real or true." Therein lies the power of music, punk in particular. It works on many levels. In Rise Againsts case, lyrics will be a significant proportion of how they judge THEIR OWN stuff, if you ask me. It comes as no suprise then, that on their most mid-tempo of albums, comes one of their most political. An attempt to appease current, and gain new fans. People, pop music, true pop music, in the way most of us puck rockers despise it, is what it is because of a lack of lyrical content, a lack of longevity, a lack of care for the craft, only the final finished product, the surface. If all we have is the surface, then what else is there for us" It seems a very empty way to live. This is the reason why I was first attracted to punk rock. It offers something more, and Rise Against, are by now, and will continue to, fly the flag for the newest generation of punk kids. With songs like 'Entertainment,' I believe the future of punk is in good hands. Phew. The album has reached a kind of climax of sorts here. Something has to break. And sure enough it does..
10) "Hero Of War" - 5/5
What breaks is the electric guitar, traded in for the acoustic that has been in their last couple of albums in one way or another too. The question is, does it hold up to the brilliance of Swing Life Away" I believe it does. Coming from New Zealand, I am more than a little detached from the feeling brought by wars in places like Iraq, though I follow it, it just doesnt have the feeling it might for Americans. This song is no-doubt beautiful and simple in melody. The lyric - a tad confusing. I need to look at it more closely again, though it seems to be presenting in a very sarcastic, 'Born on the fourth of July', sort of sense that what is encouraged by some communities and families, that being in a war makes you a hero, is subjective, impersonal, and false. "Son, have you seen the world"" No, father, I have not, and when I do, I want it to be flying the "flag white as snow," that Rise Against refer to in this song. "Its this flag that I love, and the only thing I trust." Hero of War indeed. If 'Entertainment' proclaimed a return to the days where lyrical content is appreciated over sheer entertainment for entertainments sake, then this song hammers that nail home. Peace songs have never sounded so good. Rise Against, you've done it again.
11) "Saviour" - 4.5/5
***, they're on a roll now, how to finish an album off that has come to such conclusions by track ten" Heres one way. Continuing with one of the best runs in my recent punk rock memory. People will agree that 'Saviour' kicks arse, I think. Touches of early AFI in here (wooooooahhhh, woooahhhh). This is a love song, and a very nice punk tune. No-one should be polarised by this one. All Rise Against fans are happy here. Great, great song. Superb breakdown at the 3/4 mark.
12) "Hairline Fracture" - 5/5
I have a love-affair with this song. You might be mistaken into thinking with such a great collection of songs to this point that all styles and bases have been covered. After all, Siren Song had 12 songs, and that is one of the best punk albums ever, with only a couple of slightly weaker numbers. You sort of think you cant get back up to the high of that 8, 9, 10 combo, but this song does. Hairline Fracture is old school Revolutions Rise Against back doing what they do best, powerful, powerful screaming choruses and bridges. Almost 'Long Forgotten Sons' Part II - better and more emotional version. Yeah man!!
13) "Whereabouts Unknown" - 3/5
This one just doesnt send me. Like 'Collapse' (even moreso in fact) I expected something extra special for the closing track for a Rise Against album. I dont need to reference the previous greats. Does this one match up" Its nifty in a way, but just doesnt have the emotional or melodic longevity of a Rumours of my Demise or Survive. It just isnt all there in the same way. Not that it matters, the albums peaked at so many points before this. This is Collapse's opposite, a signature to the album. Signing off. The return of the fast tempo - perhaps though in a last ditch effort to appease fans of the hardcore side of the band. I cant help but think this song might have been crafted with that exact thing in mind, which is not necessarily the best way to produce creative music. However, in a way, you need some lesser tracks. They make it easier to recognise just how great the top tracks are.
If you hear criticism of this album, and you are both a fan of Rise Against, and felt that The Sufferer And The Witness was just a smidgen too fast, just a smidgen irritating in some way, and love the band for its Revolutions Per Minute style emotion, and Siren Song wailing guitar sound, then this album is for you. It seems to be caught somewhere in the crossroads between these two albums stylistically, but with the experience having completed another album after them will bring. It also seems to be quite fresh and new sounding. Perhaps my main point of contention with Sufferer. The Unraveling days of straight laced punk with hints of glory are gone. The glory years of Rise Against begin here, and now. There may be more to come, but in the meantime, dont leave this one out of your collection, whatever you do. True fans of this band will not, and should not be disappointed.
Theres my rant,
hope it helps,
(Rise Against for life)