Chicagoan punk rockers Rise Against have been established as a force in the rock world for years now, their breakout album The Sufferer & The Witness being released back in 2006. Putting out a further five albums since then (including the one being reviewed here), the band has continued with their solid, fantastic releases, having huge singles like Saviour, Satellite, and The Violence. However, despite that, for some reason in the UK, they have never quite reached the pinnacle of the scene. I’ve been a fan of them since hearing Saviour on Kerrang!, Appeal to Reason being one of the first few albums I brought soon after. I have been a fan of the band ever since; they are some of the best lyric writers in the game right now and their brand of punk is awesome. So, it’s safe to say I’m pretty excited for this one. Let’s get into it!
One of the album’s singles, ‘The Numbers’, is up first. Starting with some distorted, distant-sounding pre-war song, it soon fades out into a quite beautiful clean guitar chord progression. It doesn’t last long, though, soon bursting into a fantastic and very Rise Against-y riff, the chords and lead parts working perfectly together. The pace keeps pretty quick, Tim McIlrath’s distinctive vocals already coming in with some great lyrics that sound like more revolution ‘call to arms’ types. They follow the formula that has worked so well for them until this point, a fast yet catchy pre that gives way to a slower, more open chorus, the vocals soaring through their catchy melody and the lead instrumentation behind them only adding to the epic feel. It strips back a little after the second chorus, dropping down to just bass and vocals for a bit before slowly building up more and more as more instruments come back. The analogy of us being horses oppressed by our owners was fantastic here and so masterfully written. My god, I’m going to gush about the lyrics a lot. Sorry in advance! I just love the whole anti-establishment style that punk has lost so much of recently outside of these guys. “Fuck what you call normal” is just such a fantastic line, and delivered with such anger and emotion. It all builds into a great little riff before launching into a massive final chorus. This was a great song and album opener. It was formulaic for the band at this point, but any time we get new music by them I can’t help but enjoy it. This easily made the playlist.
‘Sudden Urge’ opened on another great yet pretty simple riff. The pace is much slower here, a nice change from the breakneck speed of the opener. The vocals and lyrics are still great, and the guitar chords behind them sounded good. The pace picks up heading into the pre before we get a middle-of-the-road chorus. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t quite as good as the previous one, in my opinion. I actually thought that the second verse was catchier and better written than the chorus, which is always a little odd. The bridges were enjoyable again but not as memorable as the previous song’s. The song as a whole was good, a good album track, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to listen to it on its own.
The lead single and the album’s title track is up next. It opens on just vocals and a simple guitar chord progression and it sounds awesome. There are some more fantastic lyrics, the same ones that make up the chorus, more talk of being the outcasts of society, and it just fits the genre perfectly. The verses sound almost a little bland after just how great and catchy the chorus is, but that’s kind of the point of them, no? There isn’t too much of a bridge in the middle but the even more stripped-back chorus afterwards was fantastic, adding some great dynamics to a genre of music that is notoriously hard to do that to. Also, I have to give some love to the backing vocals, which have been on point throughout this. I cannot praise this song enough, it’s easily playlisted. Check it out if you like catchier, slightly slower songs.
The album’s most recent single, ‘Talking to Ourselves’, is next. Bursting straight in with an almost pop-punk riff was interesting, but it soon slows down again heading into the verse. There isn’t too much I can say about the verses and choruses, it follows a very similar formula to the first couple of songs. It’s all massively catchy and there are some more great lyrics scattered throughout. A good song in its own right, there just isn’t really anything special about this song like the other singles so far have shown. It feels more of an album track to me, which is probably why it was only released a week or so before the album was. A good song, but not quite as good as the others so far.
The final single on the album, ‘Broken Dreams, Inc’, opens on a few seconds of a pretty cool bass riff before the guitar comes in to drown it out a little. It again slows down for the first half of the verse before speeding back up again. It’s another good, fast punk rock song, the chorus being the fastest part of the song this time. It was a nice change from the slower, epic feeling choruses that we’ve had so far, but it did result in it feeling a little less catchy. The breakdown after the bridge was nice, but that might be me being bias as it was just bass and vocals. The final chorus felt a little catchier with the backing vocals doing the call and response thing, but it still didn’t do a whole lot for me. Another album track, for me.
‘Forfeit’ was an immediate change of pace, Tim and his guitar starting off the track slowly and calmly with some beautiful vocals and picking work. It builds and builds so much while it’s still just him, his vocals soaring in the very catchy chorus and the guitar playing solid chords behind them. There wasn’t much to this, and it was perfect. I think the band does just as good at the slow, emotional ballads as they do with their faster, punky stuff. The emotion rings through so well, it being maybe my favourite slower song by them since Hero of War. This would be one I would LOVE to see live, and has easily made the playlist!
‘Monarch’ immediately picks up the pace again, a blisteringly quick drumbeat driving through the whole song, it barely slowing aside for a little bit in the chorus. Having this after the slower song was a great choice as I felt there wasn’t much particularly special about this song again, aside from some more great lyrics and an awesome guitar riff around the middle, but I found myself enjoying this a lot more than a couple of the other songs on this album so far. I also loved that it had a few faint noises as an outro which then led immediately into the next song, something I always love when albums do.
‘Sounds Like’ has some great lyrics throughout again, but outside of that feels like another fairly standard Rise Against song at this point. However, ‘Sooner or Later’ is another slower song, opening on some distorted keys before drums and vocals come in over the top. It’s pretty beautiful, especially some more great, profound lyrics. It doesn’t pick up the pace much, just in the slightly bigger, very catchy chorus. There isn’t much to the song but it is really great, catchy, and even features a scream from Tim at one point, something I feel like I haven’t heard in a long time! It’s another that made the playlist!
Unfortunately, the last couple of tracks, ‘Middle of a Dream’ and ‘Rules of Play’ fall into the same sort of formula that I have spoken about before. Both are again very good, enjoyable songs, and the latter has a damn good, catchy chorus, but neither piqued my interest quite as much as a few others on here. It’s a shame the album didn’t end with one of the biggest hitters it has, but Rules was still a damn good song, and at least it was pretty fast-paced!
Overall: I loved this. Rise Against always impress me and while it wasn’t necessarily a ground-breaking song for the band in terms of the sound, it was still a damn enjoyable one filled to the brim with good to great songs. There are a few here that I will be listening to a lot over the coming weeks and months, and the whole album as a whole will get listened to again more than a few times!
The Score: 8/10