Rise Against

Endgame

Written by: PP on 22/03/2011 06:50:55

Short of a new NOFX album coming out this year (according to rumours, it's possible), "Endgame", the sixth studio album by melodic hardcore kings Rise Against, has been my most anticipated album of 2011. I believe I'm not alone, considering the meteoric rise to mainstream success the band has experienced in the last three or four years. Though previous album "Appeal To Reason" toyed with pop elements more so than ever before during their illustrious career, it'd be unfair to lump Rise Against together with bands like Green Day, because they've always maintained a rough, melodic hardcore edge to their music despite stretching that particular envelope as much towards pop as possible.

In that sense, "Endgame" is an interesting follow-up, because it simultaneously increases and tones down the pop element. While the songs are certainly faster and have a less polished, rougher edge akin to that found on "The Sufferer & The Witness", they also have more high pitch choir-esque backing vocals one normally encounters on major label produced mainstream rock albums. Bad Religion, whom Rise Against continue to be inspired by, have always relied on a similar approach, but here it is much more distinctly pop, whereas Bad Religion's can be better characterized as a punk rock chant-along (think "Sorrow" for instance). It's not necessarily a bad thing, as you'll hear on album openers "Architects" and "Help Is On The Way", but occasionally it strikes as little odd on otherwise d-beat punk rockers like "Disparity By Design". I know I'm just nit-picking, but that's the sort of expectations a fan has to one of his favorite bands, right?

The political leaning is also slightly more pointed this time around, probably a direct consequence of the financial meltdown and other international crises we've faced since 2008. "Survivor Guilt", for instance, opens with a sample from Catch-22 (the movie) saying "What are you talking about? America is not going to be destroyed?" to which a voice replies: "never? Rome was destroyed. Greece was destroyed. Persia was destroyed. Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours?". It reflects the overall lyrical universe of "Endgame", as the songs deal with how America is heading to the wrong direction where it will eventually collapse on itself due to corporate power. As usual, the rhetoric is delivered through sweeping guitar melodies and soaring choruses that once again establish Tim McIlrath as one of the best vocalists in punk rock.

But as good of an album "Endgame" is by all measures, punk rock or otherwise, as a long-term fan a frightening afterthought is starting to creep up the longer I listen to the album: the record is essentially a re-make of the previous two albums, a mish-mash of styles and elements from both. While this is normal in the genre, Rise Against are making subtle changes album-by-album that feel like a transition into a less-melodic hardcore, more mainstream punk band, instead of Bad Religioning their way through the albums by staying punk-as-fuck. The big money production has a lot to do with that fear, I suppose, but it leaves a fan wondering how the band will sound like three albums down the line. For now, it's nothing to worry about though, as you have a sweet, sweet, album in front of you with twelve examples of how to play awesome melodic hardcore and still be accessible to the non-punk fans.

8

Download: Architects, Disparity By Design, Help Is On The Way
For the fans of: Bad Religion, Templeton Pek, Strike Anywhere
Listen: Myspace

Release date 15.03.2011
DGC / Interscope

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