Sound — 8
On its sixth studio record Endgame, Rise Against doesn't mince words when it comes to delivering honest social and political commentary which is exactly what you'd hope for from any of today's contemporary punk bands. The album arrives at a sadly appropriate time between the chaos that's occurred recently in Egypt and the horrific earthquake/tsunami in Japan, even though the band members were garnering inspiration from a bevy of other world incidents (Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill, etc.) while writing the lyrical content for Endgame. Although the band has confirmed that Endgame is most definitely not a concept album in the traditional sense, its dismal-yet-real reflections do make an impact as a whole.
In terms of the musical content, Rise Against continues in the melodically driven punk sounds of bands like Bad Religion, who coincidentally they will be touring with this year. The band isn't reinventing the wheel with their 11 new tracks, but the energy and catchy melodies (all delivered with a subtle dose of aggression) make for an engaging listen. The first single off the record Help Is On The Way is easily the most memorable, from its infectious intro to its varied musical transitions. That particularly song also features one of the few moments where vocalist Tim McIlrath veers into screamo territory albeit briefly.
There are quite a few tracks that revolve around that key vibrant energy and steady, sharp strumming from guitarist Zach Blair (Endgame marks his second Rise Against record). Broken Mirrors and Midnight Hands are standouts in terms of the guitar work, with the latter broaching an all-out metal genre. The band tackles metal so well with Midnight Hands, in fact, this particular reviewer hopes they'll explore that side a bit more in the future. Survivors Guilt features a more retrained guitar part, but the pick work is still effective. The strength of A Gentlemen's Coup lies within its more stagnated phrasing of the vocals and guitar, while Architects sounds like it is a shoe-in for the next single thanks to its sing-along chorus.
Lyrics — 9
There is enough vagueness to the lyrical content on Endgame that you could associate the songs with pretty much any natural or human-caused strife/disaster occurring in the world today. This is an album that steers clear of relationship or love talk, and in many ways that is one of the most refreshing aspects of Endgame. Granted, that means there aren't many soft-and-cuddly moments, but that was probably the point. Whether it's the calamity-filled reflection in Midnight Hands (Eyes open slowly as the dust is shaken off; To gaze upon the wreckage; That the midnight hands have wrought) or the equally bleak title track (When they're burning signal fires; To guide us to the fields; We're building funeral pyres; They all commit a final appeal), the members of Rise Against keep the conversation heavy which again, is what one would expect from a socially conscious punk band.
Overall Impression — 8
There is a straightforward nature to most of the track that doesn't necessarily stray from your traditional rock/punk arrangements, but the passion within Rise Against's delivery is ultimately the selling point. Endgame often incorporates several different musical transitions within the course of one song, which keeps listeners' attention a bit more than if they were to pen a verse-chorus-verse and be done with it. Midnight Hands with its metal-oriented riff work possibly delivers the biggest payoff, but contemporary punk purists should find plenty of satisfying material elsewhere on Endgame.