Rise Against Shows Off For Mainstream, Satisfies Hardcore Audience Too

This week we look at Rise Against’s “Appeal To Reason”.  

With the release of their much anticipated fifth full-length album “Appeal To Reason” Chicago hardcore rockers Rise Against prove they’re more than drum rolls and angry lyrics.  With the help of producer Bill Stevenson, the band manages to push their power-punk roots to the side, trading jagged edges for a shiny pop sheen without blindsiding fans or forgetting where they came from.

Tim McIlrath’s vocals are pristine. Stevenson has finally managed to find a happy medium between the gargling rasp of previous albums and the Nickleback-esque vocals a pop-ier influence would produce.  A perfect example is track 8, “Audience of One.”  Without polishing things up too much, the verses still manage the grit Rise Against is known and loved for.  Then as the hook builds, a more refined Rise Against steps into the spotlight, and Tim sings–not screams, not wails, not howls…sings!–“We ran away.  Now all my friends are gone.  Maybe we’ve outgrown all the things that we once loved.  Run away.  But what are we running from?  A show of hands from those in this audience of one.  Where have they gone?”  As members reach the ripe old age of 30, there’s no doubt this track questions relationships and goals, and how they change and evolve over the years.  Everyone has a point in their life when they look around and realize they’re not surrounded by the people they thought would be there for them.  “Audience of One” addresses the questions associated with growing up and growing apart.

Other standout tracks from “Appeal to Reason” include “Long Forgotten Sons”–pretty typical Rise Against on this one.  Todays children of divorce will appreciate it most.–and “The Dirt Whispered” which reminds me of “The Sufferer and The Wittness'” “The Good Left Undone.”  This time around, however Rise Against hit the ball out of the park with a much stronger chorus, melodically speaking, and a lyrical story line that’s easy to follow and almost impossible not to relate to.  

In true Rise Against form the band makes a loud statement with their only acoustic release since “Swing Life Away” with the anti-war/pro-soldier anthem “Hero Of War”.  McIlrath wrote this one after hearing first-hand accounts of the war in Iraq from the men and women serving our country.  The song traces a the hypothetical journey of a soldier from enlistment to battle and back home, all the while questioning the idea of a ‘hero of war’.  More than anything else, the emotionally cumbersome track addresses the brutality of war and a question I’m sure every soldier has asked him/herself at one point in time, “Why am I fighting this fight?”  I would argue this is one of Rise Against’s most effective politically-driven songs, and even if you’re not in love with chicago hardcore you need to hear this one!

Personally, my favorite track from “Appeal to Reason” is hidden just after “Hero of War”.  Track 11 is entitled “Savior” and is the classic good-girl-wants-to-save-bad-boy-before-he-self-implodes story.  Instead of allowing himself to be her clay-to-be-molded however, he assures her that he’s “not the answer to the questions [she] still has.”  The chorus is incredibly catchy and the power is back in McIlrath’s vocal after taking a short break during the previous track.  

Overall, old-school fans with enjoy the last half of the album more, but newcomers will definitely appreciate Stevenson’s influence on the first 8 or 9 songs.  With “Appeal to Reason” Rise Against has created a masterpiece worthy of mainstream radio and dare I say it, MTV.  

Check out Rise Against on tour with Alkaline Trio and The Gaslight Anthem in a city near you.  It’ll be a live show to remember!

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