Review of Rise Against’s latest album Appeal to Reason

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Two years after their last album The Sufferer & The Witness, Rise Against return with their new album Appeal to Reason. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this album since it was announced in May 2007 that Rise Against planned to head back to the studio. I expected a great album full of heavy, fast songs that Rise Against are known for. Did the album meet those expectations? Kind of.

Let me explain. I heard the lead single Re-Education (Through Labor) some time before the album came out, and I began to have my doubts about the album, as it was a lot slower than the songs from The Sufferer & The Witness. The songs later began to grow on me, but that’s not the point. A few other songs were leaked a week or so before the album came out, and two of the three of these songs only fed my doubts about Appeal to Reason.

The entire album leaked a few days before the release and so I downloaded and listened to it (I still bought the album anyway, so don’t start on me about supporting the band and such). The overall impression that I was left with was that some songs are just brilliant, but the album is still dotted with the other songs that don’t measure up to the standard that Rise Against set with their last album. You can read my views of each song below, to see which songs were the brilliant ones.

Collapse (Post Amerika)
A great starter for the album, and a relatively good indication of the rest of the songs of the album. A fast, pounding song with a great guitar riff and solo. It would really get the crowd going when played live. The lyrics show clearly Rise Against’s ever increasing environmental awareness.

Long Forgotten Songs
Not one of my personal favourites, but still good. The song as a whole is a lot slower than you might expect from Rise Against, but it picks up a bit in the chorus. It’s also not as heavy in the verses as a typical Rise Against song, but that makes the chorus seem better in contrast. The last chorus starts off quiet and slow, and when the instruments kick in again, it all sounds that much faster and louder.

Re-Education (Through Labor)
The lead single from the album, and one of my favourites of the album. Slowly crescendoing intro, and a brilliant guitar riff start the song. The chorus is surprisingly slow considering the rest of the song, and some may find the sudden half time a bit unnecessary, but I think it works. The lyrics are about oppression and, later, rebellion. The video to the song is a bit worrying, actually (go see for yourself, if you don’t believe me).

The Dirt Whispered
A very unexpected song from Rise Against! I mean, it’s practically pop-punk! It just doesn’t match up to the rest of the album, and Rise Against’s general sound. It’s a good song in itself, but I just can’t get over the fact that it’s Rise Against doing pop-punk. All the same, it’s very catchy and sing-along-ish.

Kotov Syndrome
Back to the heavier stuff! This song is a lot more like the songs you find on their previous album The Sufferer and the Witness. Typical hardcore drumming, along with guitars and bass to match, all combine to make this one of the better songs of the album, even if not one of my personal favourites. There’s a section in the middle that’s softer and more rock than hardcore of any sort.

From Heads Unworthy
Another slower song from Rise Against, that I’m not too fond of, myself. In fact, if it was done by a different band (particularly one without Tim McIlrath’s vocals, and softer vocals instead), this song might end up being alternative rock, if it weren’t for one relatively heavy half of the chorus.

The Strength To Go On
This song is very varied within itself. The different sections all have different sounds, and the speed changes a lot throughout the song too. I don’t really find this song to be particularly catchy, so I don’t really like it. However, it does show Rise Against’s flexibility in a single song, and I like the concept of showing your different abilities in the space of a few minutes.

Audience Of One
Another song that would definitely turn out as an alternative rock song if it wasn’t Rise Against. In fact, I’m not sure that it isn’t heading that way as it is. This song has particularly great lyrics (I just love the line “Maybe we’ve outgrown all the things that we once loved”). It’s a catchy song, even if it doesn’t quite satisfy some of the veteran Rise Against fans who expected melodic hardcore.

Entertainment
An …interesting… song. The lyrics are about how the members of Rise Against are making money, but don’t have a stable life and can see that one day it will all end. The first two minutes or so are great, but then, for no apparent reason, the song switches into ¾ time signature and basically changes a waltz. Circus music, really. It then switches back after a bit, but it’ll still leave you confused. Personally, I decided that they’re trying to show that they think people come to see them like they are circus animals, and they’re expected to perform for the crowd regardless.

Hero Of War
The acoustic song of the album. The first time I heard this song, it literally reduced me to tears. The lyrics and the soft guitar come together perfectly. The lyrics were based off stories about soldiers fighting in Iraq, and knowing that there’s truth behind these words makes them that much more beautiful. A militaristic snare drum comes in towards the end, but cuts out for the last chorus where the lyrics change, making the song yet more powerful.

Savior
My favourite song of the entire album. It starts off quiet, to let you get over Hero Of War, and then everything kicks in and the impression you’re left with is just “Wow.” The drums are infallible, and the guitars have a great chord progression. The guitar riff of the song isn’t as good as some of the others on the album, but it does enough to contribute to this already amazing song. About two and a half minutes into the song, there’s a breakdown where everything stops except for the vocals and a clean (maybe even acoustic?) guitar and I really like this. The listener is left with the final hard-hitting line “I don’t hate you”.

Hairline Fracture
The intro is in a major key and very happy sounding, which is unusual for Rise Against, but the rest of the song sounds more like a typical Rise Against song. This song has the most prominent backing vocals in the album, as half of the chorus is done as backing vocals, overlapping with Tim McIlrath’s vocals. Another breakdown half way through, and this seems to be a very common element of the album.

Whereabouts Unknown
Final song of the album, and compared to some of the other songs in the album, it’s a bit of an anti-climax. In the verses, it tries to be heavy and slow simultaneously, and I just don’t think it works. This problem is fixed during the chorus, and you don’t notice anything wrong. There’s a bit of a breakdown, with an unexpected drum solo-type thing, which I quite like, being a drummer myself. This song is notable for being the song containing the most screaming vocals, as most of the other songs have no screaming, or just a few words screamed.

The album has various difference bonus tracks depending on where you got it (my copy has the song Historia Calamitatum with it, as I live in the UK). There’s also a b-side that is a Minor Threat cover.

My overall view of the album
Rise Against have come up with another great album, but not quite as great as their last album. Some songs are amazing, but the album is let down by other songs that either show where Rise Against is headed next, or are just filler songs (can’t tell until their next album!). Either way, this Rise Against fan was slightly let down, but not enough to stop Rise Against being their favourite band. So I will faithfully wait however long it is until their next album.

I would actually give this album 3.5 stars if I could. I didn’t quite like it enough for 4 stars, but it definitely doesn’t deserve only 3 stars either. So I gave it 4 stars, because I was closer to giving it 4 stars than 3 stars (and 3.5 rounds up!).

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