Review Summary: If nothing else, Rise Against sound like they give a shit again
The past 10 years or so have been a slippery slope for Rise Against. As they’ve ascended into the annals of mainstream rock stardom, the ferocious punk edge they made their names on has slowly withered away. While there have still been moments of heartbreaking sincerity in their recent work (LGBT youth anthem “Make It Stop” comes to mind), even the band’s most diehard fans will argue the band’s last three albums have veered dangerously close to “going through the motions” territory. Enter Wolves
On principle, Rise Against are a political band. While all their records to this point have had an emotional touch, they’ve been generally raging at injustice for the last 15-some years, and this hasn’t changed in the least bit in Donald Trump's America. Songs like the title track and “Welcome To The Breakdown” (cheesy title aside) are packed with the same urgency of Siren Song of the Counter Culture
and The Sufferer and the Witness
, a bit worn with age but undeniably a step up in delivery from the near-catatonic Endgame
and The Black Market
. There’s certainly no arguing that a more hostile political climate breeds more a passionate Rise Against, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the weakest tracks Wolves
has to offer are the ones with more personal themes (“House On Fire”, “Politics of Love”). Rise Against are at their best when they’re angry, and thankfully, this record sees them pretty angry.
This passion is most well reflected in the energetic composition of the songs. There’s no token acoustic ballad; there’s no swinging butt-rock grooves; there’s no…. whatever that was on the title track to The Black Market
. For most of Wolves
, Rise Against sound not only like a punk band, but a punk band that wants
to be a punk band. While they will never regain what they lost in 2006 with Chris Chasse’s guitar leads, this is Zach Blair’s best effort with the band to date. There’s a few genuine “oh ***” moments here, such as the monolithic bridge riff in closing track “Miracle”, assuredly the band’s best song in at least a decade. At nearly 40 years old, Tim McIlrath’s voice doesn’t quite have the gruffness of yesteryear, but it actually feels like he’s giving these songs everything he’s got this time around, especially on the succintly titled “Bull***”.
is not the direct sequel to The Sufferer and the Witness
. That album is 11 years in the past, and that band isn’t coming back. But Wolves
succeeds where its predecessors have failed because it’s what a late-stage Rise Against album should
sound like. In an era where a strong message from an overtly political band is needed more than ever, Rise Against have come through with something sincere and meaningful. That alone should count for something.