Thursday, March 24, 2011

"We are the orphans of the American dream"

Rise Against's 2008 album Appeal to Reason met with disappointment from fans and critics alike. The band was accused of straying from their hardcore punk roots to venture into the mainstream. With the obvious pop sensibilities, slower songs, and catchy hooks, they seemed to be losing touch. Now the band is back with the release of Endgame, which I was more than a little bit skeptical about. Instead of reverting back to the musical style heard on their pre-Appeal to Reason albums, the band polished that new sound, making it harder and more in-your-face. The result is an impressive, energetic album full of politically charged anthems that are surprisingly easy to relate to.

Rise Against's musical growth from album to album is blatantly apparent, and their most recent effort is no exception. Though the band has let go of the raw sound of old, their music is still essentially hardcore punk. Songs like "Midnight Hands," "Survivor Guilt," and "A Gentleman's Coup" feature guitar riffs and drums that stand out from the rest of the album and show what the band is truly capable of. The vocals on the album are exactly as expected -- gravelly singing with a few screams thrown in -- and the songs are rife with poignant lyrics. One thing I've always admired about Tim McIlrath's storytelling is his ability to place himself in the situation. Many of the lyrics are written from a first-person perspective, which is particularly powerful on "Make It Stop (September's Children)," a song that was written in response to the suicides of teens bullied for being gay. In it, McIlrath sings, "I'm done asking, I demand / From a nation under God / I feel its love like a cattle prod / I'm born free but still they hate me / I'm born me, no, I can't change." No matter what topic is covered in a given song, the message is always relevant.

Overall, Endgame is a solid album that serves as a reminder of what makes Rise Against special in a sea of fading hardcore punk acts. If you were disappointed by Appeal to Reason, this will certainly renew your love for the band.

Verdict: 4/5
Sounds like: One big call to arms
Favorite tracks: "Midnight Hands," "Make It Stop (September's Children)," "Satellite"

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