Rise Against, Wolves

Rise Against

(Virgin Records)
Release Date: June 9, 2017



Staying True
Written by Silas Valentino

Earlier this spring, Chicagoan melodic hardcore quartet Rise Against were set to shoot the music video for their new single “The Violence.” A song, as described by the band, about “whether violence is an inevitability of the human condition, or whether it’s a choice we make, and therefore, can reject.” The video was to be filmed in a field filled with presidential busts representing Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington and so forth but the band was blocked from filming by the location’s owners and then labeled “antigovernment.”

To question one’s government is the true test of patriotism and as exhibited in their newest LP Wolves, Rise Against are straight-A scholars.

The band was looking for a theme to help with writing their new album following 2014’s The Black Market and they found it in the 2016 presidential election. Throughout Wolves’ 11 tracks are seething political disrupt with lyrical firepower and melodic hooks that guide their message smoothly into the ears of their dedicated fan base.

Wolves wastes no time to let listeners know their intent with the new album. Opening the record is title track that begins with singer Tim McIlrath howling, “Light up the torches and wake up the King/The smoke you’ve ignored is a flame you can’t contain.” The song is swiftly carried by the thunderous cracklings of Brandon Barnes’ drumming and pretty soon the band’s trademark motif of crafting stirring and aggressive rock songs that don’t sacrifice catchy melodies is born. “Wolves” serves as the band’s rallying cry to drum up support in community. A political revolution can’t sustain on the backs of just one and Rise Against are summoning their army.

Fears of World War III stroke the flames of “The Violence.” It begins with a crunchy guitar riff that thrusts and throttles like a cousin to a beastly Iron Maiden number. There’s a sense of urgency throughout Wolves but no other song quite encapsulates this mode like “The Violence.” The verses build as McIlrath warns of bombs closing in and war at the doorstep. Finally, the chorus rushes in like a flame retardant to silence such worries with head-banging queries (“Is the violence in our nature just the image of our maker?”) but the calamity fully subsides during the song’s bridge when Rise Against urge us to sidestep the shadows for the light.

In a video interview leading up to last year’s election, McIlrath said that climate change denial was the most pressing issue of our times. He addressed this matter, its apathy and a call for action in the pulverizing “Parts Per Million.” Its title, after all, reflects a measurement of carbon dioxide. McIlrath begins to make the argument that it’s not that some people don’t believe in climate change, rather, that they don’t understand it. “Somewhere beyond the lives we burn/Lies the point of no return/Like the sand within an hourglass,” he warns. Amid a track of deathly uncertainty, McIlrath appears to find saving grace in the eyes of a loved one which pulls him together.

The following track is “Mourning In Amerika” which was originally going to be the name of the album until the band decided against using such a melancholy foundation. Even though the title suggests grief, the chorus features a similar note-for-note callback to Neil Diamond’s “America.” You can’t be too bummed when the Diamonds coming through the speaker. Rise Against lighten up and ride it out the rest of Wolves on an optimistic note.

Resisting political leaders isn’t a new look for Rise Against (they contributed to the ‘Rock Against Bush” compilations of the mid 2000s) but they’re veterans of dissidence and they wear it well.

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