CD Review: Rise Against / Endgame
Reviewed by: Ryan Labbe
Rise Against’s last album Appeal to Reason was a bit of a departure from the band’s usual melodic, somewhat raw, punk rock fare, and many fans were skeptical of which direction Rise Against would take their next album. Would this be the point in the band’s career where they begin churning out mainstream rock, gaining new fans, while leaving the faithful behind, as many bands have done before? I am happy to say that this is not the case. While Rise Against (comprised of vocalist and guitarist Tim McIlrath, bassist Joe Principe, drummer Brandon Barnes and guitarist Zach Blair) may not sound like the band of seven or eight years ago, and some the rawness of their earlier work has given way to a more polished sound, Endgame is a solid energetic rock album from start to finish, that will win praise from old fans and win some new fans along the way.
The album’s opening track, and latest single “Architects” is a strong out of the gate; a fast-paced paced rocker with punk overtones, as singer Time McIlrrath tells the story of someone who’s lost the passion or drive they once had, which may or not be directed at another band in the genre. Sings McIlrath, “Our heroes are icons of mellow with age/Following rules that they once disobeyed/Now being led when they used to lead the way.” The chorus is infectious, and “Architects” proves to be a standout track and worthy opener. The lyrical highlight of the song comes during the breakdown, as McIlrath asks, “Don’t you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire? Somewhere, deep down, I know you do.”
The next track on the album, “Help Is On The Way” was the album’s first single. The song, inspired by a trip McIlrath took to a post-Katrina New Orleans was the product of what he took away from that experience. The intro to the song sounds likes something we’ve heard from any number of bands over the past few years. It’s not the most creative riff, but it works for the song. The verse is a subdued bass driven melody, but explodes as McIlrtah brings the hook, and the backing vocals provide the harmonies. It’s a radio-friendly rock track and the airplay could garner some new fans, but it’s certainly far from Endgame’s best track. As the album progresses, some of the songs towards the middle of the album tend to blend together, not to say that’s totally a bad thing. Songs like “Broken Mirrors”, “This is Letting Go” and “A Gentleman’s Coup” are rife with punk rock flavor, big choruses, and lyrics that are dismal at times, yet well crafted. McItrath’s voice is flawless, and that’s one of the major positives to this album. While is voice still retains that edge that fans have come to love, it’s much smoother, more robust and reminds me very much of Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle fame.
The album ends with the title track. “Endgame” leads off with dirty bass riff that gives way to an energetic up-beat tempo. The song slows just a notch for the chorus, and I found myself humming along with a melody that sort of brings to mind Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” with a modern twist. It’s fitting that this song was the last track because in a way it’s about a new start. McIlrath on the song ““What if the life that we’re living right now is this unsustainable bubble that cannot go on and perhaps does not deserve to go on? What if the world we created is a place that is so unnatural and ugly that it is a world that needs to come to an end, so that we could have a world that is better for everybody? It sounds very utopian, but it’s not about a perfect place, but maybe some of these things we’re doing, they need to come to an end.” The song definitely leaves one to contemplate the world around them.
While a lot of the songs initially feel politically driven, there’s a lot more too them once you scratch the surface. “We try to step up our game on each record and create something that’s relevant, new and fresh, and is still Rise Against.” states Mc McIlrath “I want to give my perspective, and from the punk community, take in what’s happening, interpret that and put it into a song, letting the world know how we feel about it. That’s the goal behind a lot of the music.”
All told, Endgame is an enjoyable album that expands beyond their noted genre. Rise Against have put together a collection of up-tempo songs that straddle the line between punk and hard rock, staying true to their roots while showing that the band has evolved and grown both as songwriters and musicians.
Go behind the scenes during the recording process with Rise Against in their latest webisode: