Rise Against are one of those bands you ask, “they’re still around?” when I offer to listen to their forthcoming eighth studio album, Wolves, in 2017. They have quite the history as one of music’s most politically active artists; in 2003 releasing Revolutions Per Minute giving the band exposure to later be signed with Geffen Records in 2005 to release their major label debut Siren Song Of The Counter Culture. Since 2006’s The Sufferer and the Witness, the band have turned off a lot of their fans after Appeal To Reason was more melodic and Endgame was severely disappointing. Don’t even get me started on 2014’s The Black Market. I liked a total of eight Rise Against songs released in over a decade, one of them being a b-side put on an Avengers soundtrack – “Dirt and Roses.” So let’s talk about Wolves and why I actually care.
Much of Wolves is definitely not as different in sound from what Rise Against is used to. These songs could exist as well ten years ago, as they do now, and probably could another decade from now. It’s hard enough for punk bands to change their sound at all and make it pleasurable and sell tickets to their set of fans who probably found them playing a set at Warped Tour, or something. I mean, take away arena-sized acts Green Day and blink-182, and Rise Against likely becomes the biggest punk band in the world. Even stacked up against similarly sized ’90s punks the Offspring and Rise Against’s catalog is certainly more impressive.
The sound itself is doable and much better than 2014’s The Black Market which was easily one of the most forgettable albums of that year. The band found a more melodic sound, one that fit the mood of the record, but also a sound that doesn’t fit Rise Against themselves. In 2017, their sound has evolved back to 2006 since Endgame and Appeal To Reason felt like such a void. Some of the songs are more powerful in their structure (“House On Fire,” “The Violence,” “Politics Of Love”) providing ample alternative radio play. Few songs are angrier, more specifically on the song “Welcome to the Breakdown,” a nasty confrontation with United States President Donald Trump, which led me to think, shouldn’t all Rise Against songs sound like this? Why not? For a punk band who claims to be so much against America’s political system and current President Trump, why are most of the songs on one of the first big Trump-era political records very weak and unexciting? If you’re angry, prove it.
The rest of the songs are just not good, for the most part. Obviously, tracks like “Far From Perfect” follows “Welcome to the Breakdown” and is also fuming with angst. “Mourning In Amerika” is one of my favorite cuts from the album and “How Many Walls” has a message directed more specifically at President Trump. Even “Parts Per Million” and “Miracle” are listenable, but not enough to stand out very much. And on “Bullshit,” I want to offer the band a direct message regarding when they should involve ska in their music: never again.
It’s obvious that a band like Rise Against isn’t going to evolve very much past their current sound, but it’d be nice if the message could be said without feeling pointless.
Rise Against – Wolves
Release: June 9, 2017 – Virgin Records
Rating: 7/10 – Brad LaPlante
Replay: “House On Fire”
Buy it, Stream it, or Skip it?: Stream it. There are songs from this that you might like, but not likable enough to buy it.