Review Summary: Rise Against's seventh album is an unexpected departure for them, but the new bag of tricks work great. Exploring new lyrical and musical depths, this is a must listen for any fan of emotionally charged rock.
The biggest mistake Rise Against made with The Black Market was releasing 'I Don't Want To Be Here Anymore' as the first single. It's in no way a bad song, and fits in great with the album as a whole, but it plays it a little too safe, not setting itself apart from their previous work. The rest of the album however, charts new territory for the band, either musically, lyrically, or both, and whenever it seems like the band is reaching to far for a song, they end up grasping it perfectly. On previous records, experimental songs like Entertainment or The Approaching Curve didn't quite work out as well as they should have, but here the changes all feel organic and solid. Their best albums since The Sufferer And The Witness, The Black Market may not please fans looking for the punk rock band of RPM/Unraveling, but the new musical and emotional depths make it a beautiful record that will resonate with almost all listeners.
Track by Track:
The Great Die Off: A solid hard rock opener, this track sets the stage well with unexpected chord changes and Tim's raw, vulnerable singing, but still retains the fierce energy you would expect a Rise Against album to start with. The Lyrics are somewhat typical, as Tim spits venom at generations resistant to change, but also feature his first use of the word "mother***ing" on a record.
I Don't Wanna Be Here Anymore: You have probably heard this one before, like I said, I wasn't a huge fan at first but it did get stuck in my head and the emotional appeal of it grew on me. Here it fits in well.
Tragedy+Time: this is probably their best song since The Good Left Undone (which IMO is better than Savior). It is classic Rise Against, going to dark places but managing to get out and finish with an uplifting side. The lyrics aren't about getting past tragedy but overcoming it, and learning to live with the pain. Expect this one to be Tattooed everywhere after it is inevitably released as a single.
The Black Market: This one gets off to a strange Bluesy start, and stays at a syncopated mid-tempo beat through the verses before exploding into a fantastic chorus that rivals any the band has ever made. Tim's vocals are especially great on this song, both powerful and vulnerable.
The Eco Terrorist In Me: This song is HARD. Old school fans will find their fix here. The song comes in with shredding guitars that lead into fierce screaming for the verses. The chorus is upbeat but lyrically dark (a trend throughout the album) as Tim sings about embracing the darker side of activism.
Sudden Life: This song has a tone that Rise Against hasn't ever approached before, with a dreamy, psychedelic vibe, and a high flying chorus. The lyrics are actually pretty dark, but you still feel like floating in the clouds while listening.
A Beautiful indifference: A lot of unexpected chord changes again. This song has some of Tim's most powerfully driven lyrics, and an anthemic chorus. A break near the end leads into a finish reminiscent of To The Core and Dead Ringer.
Methadone is an addicting love song about addictive love. Solid stuff, it features more great work from Tim, as he sees himself as the harmful one in a relationship
Zero Visibility: Probably my favorite song, this has a southern rock vibe and Tim using a Microphone effect (think White Limo by the Foo Fighters), before breaking into another great shout along chorus. This song is unexpected at every turn, and features some great screaming from Tim along with some of the best guitar work on the album.
Awake Too Long: Great song with some lyrics that will stick with you and an unrelenting fast pace. Not the most memorable but certainly great in the moment.
People Live Here: this is the bands best acoustic song by far. (no small statement). Its a beautifully haunting performance by Tim, and a moment in the last verse will make you stop whatever you're doing so you can listen closely to what he's saying.
Brides: This is an unusually sad finisher for the band, but it fits as too upbeat of a song would have felt dishonest after People Live Here. A Sorrowful and Melancholy closer, this one isn't easily forgotten.
Instrumentals/guitar tone: The guitars on this album will be jarring at first, as the band has used clean high flying guitars on their last few albums. Here they sound a little dirtier and "grungy", like they were recorded in Dave Grohl's garage (which is no bad thing). The chord and time changes are the real difference musically, as every song takes an unexpected turn that works out great.
Vocals/Lyrics: Tim has always had great vocal performances but here he knocks it out of the park. Fans who have seen him live will notice this album is closer to what he actually sounds like than ever before, and throughout the whole album his voice takes unexpected dips and breaks, adding to the vulnerability in the lyrics. And the lyrics are incredible. Rise Against have always been known for championing causes and giving a voice to the voiceless in songs like Make It Stop, Prayer Of The Refugee, Etc. but on this album Tim brings the emotion from within. Many of the songs deal with the struggles of activism and feeling like the world is resistant to change. The best examples of this are on 'The Black Market' and 'A Beautiful Indifference' where Tim sings about not being able to walk away from emotional battles. A wide range of other emotions are shown throughout and every time the Lyrics and Vocals are incredibly honest and relateable. The political side of the band is hidden slightly here, with 'Eco Terrorist' being the only hard rock song to overtly cover a social issue, until People Live Here comes along, with Tim's best vocal and Lyrical performance on the album, possibly ever.
TL;DR/Conclusion; The Black Market is a great new album from a veteran rock band that are at the top of their game. People still hoping for RPM 2.0 will be disappointed, but that's a damn shame because this an amazing album, and most fans will be surprised to find how it resonates with them. It won't blow you away at first like Siren Song or Sufferer, but much like Tim sings about on the title song, you'll have a hard time walking away from this one once the music stops.