Rise Against

Appeal To Reason

Written by: PP on 30/10/2008 16:16:36

My fellow writer TL suggested not too long ago that Rise Against are well on their way of becoming this generation's Bad Religion, if they aren't that already. With four albums under their belt before "Appeal To Reason", each of them considered seminal within the genre, the band has thus far demonstrated the same kind of consistency year-on-year that I find myself in agreement, especially considering how "Appeal To Reason" is yet another solid punk rock album aimed at all those who have a problem with the social injustice and political problems currently occurring in the United States.

"Collapse (Post-Amerika)" opens the album like a quintessential Rise Against song must: speedy punk rock riffs, and singer Tim McIlrath's ferocious vocal that's both raw enough to appease the underground and clean enough to carry the band's message forth to the radiowaves. From here on, it's Rise Against show baby, and the show's pretty fuckin' good. "Long Forgotten Songs" is one of the first tracks where the band actually takes proper use of the fact that they have two guitarists; rhythm guitar is solidly strumming away while the lead guitar delivers a bouncy intro riff that's instantly Rise Against recognizable. Perhaps Rise Against have (yet again) improved as songwriters, or maybe the production has been upped a notch from "The Sufferer & The Witness". Either way, it sounds bombastic. "Re-Education Through Labor" starts with pounding drums and a lyric that's probably the single most memorable moment on the album: "To the sound of a heartbeat pounding awaaaaaaaaaaay" is a line I find myself reciting on a day to day basis, and that's a good starting point to introduce you guys to "Kotov Syndrome", a serious contender for the title of the best Rise Against song to date. It's catchy as hell, and the chorus "Spin out of controooooooooool" is a brilliant example of why Rise Against are so highly regarded by both the elitists and casual listeners alike.

Thus far, all the songs I've described have been more or less extensions of "The Sufferer & The Witness", albeit slightly slower in pace and with a little more focus on the lead guitar, so now's probably as good time as ever to tell you where the band deviates from the formula. "The Dirt Whispered" is the brightest song the band has written, and by bright I mean joyful, happy, cheerful and all those colorful adjectives; it's a rarity to hear Tim not sound pissed off on a studio recording.

Lyrically, "Appeal To Reason" might just be the strongest Rise Against album to date. There are plenty of back-chilling moments scattered around, consider these for examples: "Welcome home, while away, they have tampered with the locks, and your things, they re-arranged" is sung with unmatchable despair on "The Strength To Go On", but perhaps the best of all is found on the ballad "Hero Of War", which, against all my preconceptions against slow ballads in general, turns out to be one of the best tracks on the CD because of the lyrics:

"He said son, have you seen the world? Well what would you say if I said that you could? Just carry this gun, you'll even get paid, I said that sounds pretty good [...] I kicked in the door, I yelled my commands, the children, they cried, but I got my man, we took him away, a bag over his face, from his family and his friends [...] They took off his clothes, they pissed in his hands, I told them to stop, but then I joined in, we beat him with guns and batons not just once..."

That's hands down the most brilliant criticism of the Iraq War I've seen in a song to date. And when McIlrath sings the last couple of "hero of war, yeah that's what I'll be, when I come home, they'll be damn proud of me" choruses with increasing angst, despair and disgust, I guarantee you there isn't a single human being who can't connect with him right then and there.

It is this type of brutally honest, accurate criticism of "the system" what makes Rise Against stand miles above their contemporaries. Well, that and their ability to write stupendously good songs that are the perfect representatives of the flourishing punk rock scene to the mainstream audience. A modern day Bad Religion in the making? That might be an understatement.

Download: Hero Of War, Kotov Syndrome, Collapse (Post-Amerika)
For the fans of: Bad Religion, Anti-Flag, Propagandhi, A Wilhelm Scream
Listen: Myspace

Release date 06.10.2008
Geffen Records

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