Rise Against have gone through an interesting transformation since their inception in 1999, beginning as a band holding punk rock ethos tight and belting out political upheavals in the name of rock and roll. Being independent had its perks. Things like credibility, soul, and a following from the pits of punk rock standings. And now that they have blossomed into full-bloom mainstream acts, the sound is polished, tighter, and to the fans of many who have seen this happen before- a weaker band.
This should not devalue Rise Against rise to prominence. It took some time, but with The Sufferer and the Witness in 2006, Appeal to Reason in 2008, and now, Endgame, the sound is far removed from those early days where their political belching fell to a small audience. But now, with a massive following, they have the fan base to speak to and the people who will listen en masse. This may have something to do with how politically driven this new record is. Now that they are famous, they have more of an obligation to speak about the anxieties of our political culture- again.
For being so political, it’s still fantastic to hear a band hold pop hooks and tight instrumentation so dear. Lead single “Help Is on the Way” still warrants all that chant-worthy charm from older songs, and the riffs are still intact. “Survivor Guilt” being one of the strongest tracks on the record, having a spoken word portion only adding to the motivations of the band to promote ideas beyond the music in the listener.
As well, all the songs within a solid 3-4 minutes, none too short that they fail to stick and none too long they become overly indulgent preachings. The album also lacks a cohesive straight ballad such as Hero of War from their last album. Midnight Hands comes close, with a chorus that is slower but also booming in its resonance. Rise Against also never fails to come up with a nice slew of OOOHHH OOHHH OHHHH chants that make the whole message seem all the more appropriate.
For what we hear on the radio from many generic cookie-cutter rock bands, Rise Against is ALMOST a breath of fresh air. They are not hesitant to admit that they are motivated by the cultural implications of the political side of things, and their agenda is more than writing a high quality rock hook and making kids bang their heads at live shows. But the album itself doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or bring across an energy and lyrical prowess not seen before from the band- and perhaps done better.
Rise Against isn’t metal. And they aren’t punk. And their not even radio rock cookie cutter bullshit. But they do follow the formulaic Rise Against sound explored in their previous two albums, and for all their political suggestions, from the lyrics to the album cover, there still is a feeling of monotony that plagues the band’s latest album.
I’m not expecting a revolution- just give me some new tricks up the sleeve