Following its hit release “The Sufferer & The Witness,” Rise Against bursts with political angst with its fifth studio album “Appeal to Reason.”
The new album takes a step towards a mainstream, faux-punk sound and a leap away from what the indie-punk band once was after the release of “Transistor Revolt.” Even though Rise Against’s musical transition has been heavily criticized by many of its older fans, the Chicago natives made a good decision. “Appeal to Reason” definitely has its low points and may be far from mainstream approval, but it still stays strong.
The first track, “Collapse (Post Amerika),” opens with a brief, flaring guitar solo from new lead guitarist Zach Blair before entering into a spell of rambunctious drumming, captivating vocals and, of course, an infectious melody, which Rise Against is known for. The track also sets the tone not only for the quality of the album, but the content as well. Tim McIlrath shouts, “Of a world too proud to admit our mistakes / We’re crashing into the ground as all fall from grace,” criticizing the negative effects industrial society has on the earth.
However, Rise Against doesn’t stop at environmental issues. “Appeal to Reason” continuously pushes the politcal envelope from one issue to another. In the upbeat anthem “Kotov Syndrome,” Rise Against exposes the rushed judgment and crucial mistakes the Bush Administration has made during its time in office.
However, the most politically moving track on “Appeal for Reason” is an acoustic folk ballad called “Hero of War,” a track based on true testimonies of a soldier’s harsh experiences during war. The simplistic sound of the ballad powerfully amplifies the band’s own disapproval. As one of the most poignant criticisms Rise Against has ever made, the band gives a heart-wrenching account of soldiers’ treatment toward prisoners of war. “They took off his clothes / They pissed in his hands / I told them to stop / Then I joined in.”
The definite high point of the album is the anticipated second single, entitled “Savior.” What makes this sad love song remarkable is the coherent sound of the chorus. The up-tempo baselines, frantic pounding of the drums and the band’s back-up vocals all perfectly sync with McIlrath’s passionate voice.
Yet, “Appeal to Reason” is not all political angst and melodic anthems. There are clear weaknesses in the album such as “Hairline Fracture” and “The Strength to Go On,” which are simply too plain. The vocals lack enthusiasm, and the sound somewhat lacks the punk roots that make Rise Against’s music so enjoyable. Then there is the atrocious “Entertainment,” which is not only lackluster in sound, but also includes a slow, poorly constructed bridge that completely demolishes any interest in finishing the track.
All in all, “Appeal to Reason” is a good transitional album into mainstream, radio-play rock. The album may be lacking in certain areas, but the strengths by far outweigh the album’s weaknesses. Hopefully, the success of this album will silence all of those who are concerned with Rise Against moving toward a sound better geared for the radio.