Thursday, June 16, 2011

Endgame -- Rise Against

Rise Against is an incredibly consistent band. So much so, in fact, that when you pick up one of their albums, you know exactly what you are going to get. For those that love the band, this is a good thing. For those that are on the fence or dislike the band, it may not be so favorable. Regardless of your opinion, your notions are not going to be changed with Endgame, so feel free to skip straight to the recommended tracks if you are familiar with the band.

If you are still reading, you don't know much about Rise Against or you think my writing is like the sweet poetry of R.L. Stine. Either way, the two most important things you need to know about the band are: they are politically driven and they are masters of tempo changes. One may think they'll grow tired of hearing political songs one after the other, but Rise Against generally does it well and sometimes it is good to get a break from the ocean of songs about the opposite sex. The problem is political songs tend to be simplistic because they are the simplest songs to write. No matter what happens, there is always going to be something you disagree with, so the songs will nearly write themselves. All a political band must do is write about how terribly they believe the government is performing and the song is complete. Yes, Katrina relief was not handled optimally and the oil spill was not applauded by anyone, but writing a song ("Help is on the Way") about it isn't going to embarrass anyone at fault or change anyone's mind on the subject. Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a politically driven band, it just doesn't require as much lyrical talent to churn out single-after-single.

A few years ago, I affectionately knew Rise Against as the "Slow-Down/Speed-Up Band", because I noticed that in nearly every single they released the chorus was at half the speed of the verses. This is an extremely cool tactic to put into the songwriting process, because it gives the chorus a much more epic punch. In Endgame, nearly every song (not just the singles) has some sort of tempo change. No matter how much I try to grow tired of it, it always sounds awesome. It isn't just half-time and double-time changes; there are numerous complete tempo changes in the middle of songs that keep each song fresh throughout. If you haven't experienced this, take a listen to this album (or any by Rise Against) for that reason alone. There is no one better than Rise Against at tempo changes. It is the single biggest draw to the band and can bring me back to them time-and-again on its own.

Like many "punkish" bands, the overall speed of songs by Rise Against, including those on Endgame, is quite a bit faster than the average album. The band does its best when it takes its time and goes just slightly slower, though. When they speed up too fast, Rise Against tends to sound like The Offspring with a better singer. While The Offspring is not a bad band, Rise Against has so much greater potential and should not waste songs sounding like an inferior. However, the comparison between the bands cannot be made in the song "Broken Mirrors". It is the most unique song Rise Against has made to date and, as a result, ends up being one of the top songs on Endgame. The best way to describe the sound is the lovechild of The Resistance-era Muse and American Idiot-era Green Day meeting Tool. There is probably no bigger, truthful compliment that can be given to Rise Against thus far in their careers.

As far as the music itself is concerned, the band again focuses heavily on the singing of Tim McIlrath. He still has the strong, raspy voice that he has always had, but with the screaming all but eliminated from Endgame it is sometimes difficult to see if feeling resides behind his words. However, have no doubt, the ability is still completely there. Other than vocals, drums are the only instrument worthy of any conversation. While there is nothing earth-shattering within the beats of Brandon Barnes, he is absolutely above average while pounding the skins, and his ability to completely change tempos in the middle of songs should not go unnoticed. The guitar and bass work are nothing at which to scoff, but are definitely par for the genre.

Like the lyrics of their songs, Rise Against's Endgame is going to change no minds. If you liked the band before, you'll welcome the release. If not, you'll avoid it. McIlrath may need to ask himself his own question: "Don't you remember when you were young, and you wanted to set the world on fire?". Somewhere deep down, Tim, I know you do. Don't let your fire be squelched or you may forever be resigned to being average. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Rating: 3.2 out of 5
Genre: Hard Rock/Punk

Recommend Songs:
Make it Stop
Broken Mirrors

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