Rise Against have been well-established on the punk rock scene for some years now. Formed in 1999 releasing independent thrash-punk, it is no surprise that this band has evolved into an ambitious, politically-driven force to be reckoned with. After the undeniable success of their fifth and sixth studio albums Appeal to Reason and Endgame it looks as if they are set to continue the fight with the release of The Black Market, their seventh studio album.
It wasn’t always flowers and sunshine for the Chicago four-piece though. Their first few albums received mixed critical receptions: on the one hand being praised for the foresight and resonance of the songwriting while on the other being chastised for seeming to run before they could walk – Johnny Loftus of Allmusic, when commenting on Siren Song of the Counter Culture, said that “[the album]gets carried away with its own melodic urgency.” Despite this, Rise Against went on to play some big shows relatively early in their career (Warped Tour 2003, Reading and Leeds festivals in 2005 and several worldwide tours including stops off in the UK, Germany, Australia and Japan amongst others) both in a supporting role and as headline acts.
It was their fifth and sixth aforementioned studio albums, however, which propelled them to fame – the band were highly praised for refining the powerfully politicised music with which they had waged war against the immoral and corrupt society of the Western world. Now though, Rise Against have taken this furious ability to criticise and examine and turned it in on themselves, using The Black Market to face up to their own demons.
The single ‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore’ drips with a melancholic energy Rise Against have not fully utilised before. Here though, it works so well – reflected in the lead and rhythm guitar, this is something we see throughout the album, the presence of the anger and fury we expect of Rise Against but contained, refined. At times this anger is toned right down, so that the deep, underlying sense of loss and confusion which pervades the majority of this album is bare for all to see – nowhere is this more apparent than in the beautifully haunting acoustic ‘People Live Here’. A lot of the time though, our focus isn’t on this confusion, rather we should be looking at a restrained anger which turns into righteous conviction the more you listen. ‘Tragedy + Time’ puts this sentiment across in forthright fashion, and ‘The Eco-Terrorist In Me’ quickly follows baring the branded and recognisable Rise Against political cannons. This is an exception to the style of the rest of the album though. Let it be noted that this is not a furious political album, but that’s okay because it doesn’t feel like it was meant to be. It feels like a movement, a moment of clarity.
Musically the album is consistent, but not mindblowing. The lead riffs are good and simple, even playful at times (evident in ‘Sudden Life’), but never give the “oomph” factor fans will be expecting. The star of the show has to be the rhythm guitar, which is gravelly and chunky throughout in its support of Tim McIlrath’s vocals, rife with pangs of anger and hurt. It marks a reduction in pace from ‘Endgame’ and yet still feels like an appropriate extension of that style – it shows that Rise Against has room for emotions other than outrage.
A note for the die-hard fan – this is NOT the furiously politicised album that you want. What this feels like is a self-reflexive examination, a plunge into the dark, painful core of Rise Against to achieve an understanding of what is required to make music which will insight others to get up and take the fight to the corrupt world we live in: this will not be one of their greatest albums, but be damn sure that this is what they needed.
The Black Market is available now on DGC/Interscope Records. Watch the lyric video for ‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore’ below.