Review Summary: Not as hopeless as some would make it, but nothing really amazing either, this album shows a band that hasn't lost their passion but seems to be lacking intensity; however, some tracks are exceptional.
There was a time when Rise Against was my favorite band. I got hooked on songs like Prayer of the Refugee, Ready to Fall, and Hero of War- songs that were more accessible. They were catchy, a little bit punk, and a hell of a lot better lyrically than any other band I knew at the time (when my iPod was limited to 3 Days Grace and Avenged Sevenfold). I remember eagerly anticipating the release of 'Endgame', and I was a fanboy; it became the favorite album that I listened to constantly. I got to know every track inside and out, almost like each one had its own little comforts, and when I started expanding my tastes a bit, I still remembered it as an underrated gem.
But alas, the time comes to look back. Ever since they joined Geffen, each album has been a little more commercial, with a noticeable (and awkward) jump on 'Appeal to Reason'. 'Endgame' follows suit, with a dozen songs that are all radio length and the same verse-chorus structure.
Does that make it a bad album" No. It's certainly better than its predecessor. The worst tracks on this album are the first few and the last couple, with the well-meaning but ultimately flat Make it Stop (September's Children) and utterly unconvincing Help is on the Way (Satellite was the best single of the bunch but failed to leave a lasting impression). The overdone choruses and vocal overdubs make these tracks painful at times, and the instrumentation fails to achieve anything noteworthy.
The part of this album that is really worth your time is the bulk of the middle. Starting with Disparity by Design (with Tim memorably screaming 'And if there's a God, you better pray!') the songs get much better. Midnight Hands features the best riff Zack Blair ever came wrote, and Survivor Guilt's political rants interspersed with snippets from the satire Catch-22 (snippets Tim used in another song with his first band, .baxter.) make for some powerful moments. Broken Mirrors and Wait for Me are both very strong lyrically, the former an unusual (by Rise Against's standards) sounding heavy-hitter and the latter an incredibly moving ballad that one longs to hear Tim sing acoustically.
The bass work is pretty unremarkable, as Joe Principe has proven to be a better-than-average bassist in the past with his leads on Blood to Bleed and 1000 Good Intentions. Besides a nifty little riff on the album's rather dull title track, there's not much to talk about. And drummer Brandon Barnes has never been very creative as a drummer, but he is good at what he does.
Ultimately this is an album of misconceptions. It is not a lost band flailing about in their former glory, nor is it a band driving forward with the same intensity as their earlier albums. It has several very good tracks and a few failed ones, and it culminates in an overall above-average album.