The Black Market review by Rise Against

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  • Released: Jul 15, 2014
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 7.7 (51 votes)
Rise Against: The Black Market

Sound — 8
Rise Against is a popular American punk band from Chicago. Since the release of their first album in 2001, it seems like their popularity has only risen over time; their last two albums were their biggest hits. There is a good probability that the band's growing popularity is due to the recent stability in their lineup; since 2007 there have been no lineup changes. The band's stability might have allowed them to write music with a more focused sound. It is also somewhat possible that Rise Against's popularity is due to the global economic recession, which started around the same time that stability arrived in the band. Considering their leftist views, which have ostensibly become more popular since the start of the recession, it is not too far-fetched to believe that Rise Against's fan base grows as does the number of people who share their views.

Regardless of how they got their popularity, it is impossible to deny that Rise Against is the premier punk rock band of recent memory. Considering that "Endgame," the band's last record, went to #2 in the USA, Rise Against do something pretty spectacular to continue the trend and get the #1 spot.

In my opinion, they've done it. Well, kind of. I believe that the album will reach #1 or at least beat the first week sales of "Endgame." But, if it happens, it will not be due to Rise Against writing an incredible album. It will be due to their increasing popularity as a whole. 

In short, this album is a logical step in Rise Against's career. It displays a slightly more polished and well thought out version of the Rise Against that fans know. In terms of guitar work, there is slow but steady improvement. Maybe, as Zach Blair becomes more comfortable in the band, he feels he can think outside the box more. Of course, he has not turned into some sort of John Petrucci, but he has become a bit more creative. Specifically, there are more riffs that I can hum to myself after a couple of minutes of listening to the album periodically. In addition, though the vocals, as always, take center stage, the guitars play a comparatively larger role in driving the songs on this album. In essence, listeners may be intrigued enough to concentrate on the guitar work throughout the songs, not just the vocal melodies as was often the case before with Rise Against.

However, do not be mistaken, this album definitely sounds like traditional Rise Against. The songs are fast. There are a ton of power chords, octave chords, and predictable chord progressions. The vocals are hard-edged yet completely comprehensible. The most important part of each song is each's overarching message. For the most part, this album is just typical Rise Against. But there is a bit extra added, a little icing on the cake. Something that makes the album sound fresh and exciting even though the base vibe remains the same.

Perhaps the largest contributor(s) to Rise Against's slightly more refined sound is their production team. To be sure, this album is not some hastily thrown together mish-mash of punk demos recorded in a garage. No, the band and their team approached this album carefully. The guitars are layered with much more skill and complexity than one would have expected from a punk group. The vocals are recorded well, with the harmonies and group shouts adeptly incorporated into the mix.

Lyrics — 7
On the topic of vocals, they are exactly what one would have expected from Rise Against's lead vocalist, Tim McIlrath. They are powerful, driving, and above all, heartfelt. For anyone unfamiliar with Rise Against, McIlrath hails from the line of alternative and grunge singers that succeeded so well in the '90s. With this type of vocal style, it is almost a given that his vocals are powerful, driving, and heartfelt.

Yes, his style has been done, and done again. Moreover, McIlrath doesn't appear to have grown as a vocalist on this album. But with his performance, impassioned as ever, you would never know. From a critical standpoint, his voice has not depreciated. In summary, McIlrath refuses to back down.

Lyrically, McIlrath continues with the same themes that he has for some time, namely questioning society. The only critique I have of his lyrics is that they are fairly bland; there is rarely any specific substance to the lyrics. Nor is there any sort of call to action that has not been put forth by every anti-establishment punk band in history. Nevertheless, this album's lyrics are solid, solidifying the album as a whole.

Here are some sample lyrics from my favorite song, "Bridges":

"There's a place that I'd rather be.
There's a voice deep inside of me
Saying the progress we are making
Is not progress at all.

Into a world of promises
Is where we let ourselves been led

We built the bridges
We now sleep under.
We frame the door ways
We may not pass through.

The very same roads
That we now wander
Once you pass us by on
We paved with our bare hands."

Overall Impression — 7
In conclusion, though this album seems to be a logical step in the evolution of Rise Against, I hesitate to call it their best work. While "The Black Market" is a solid album, the revolution embodied in the Rise Against name is not as powerful as it once was when the band was just starting out. Rise Against's sound is as polished as ever before (even then, their sound is not too polished). Nevertheless, this approach may alienate fans who started to have problems with the band's sound the last album. 

With "The Black Market," it seems that Rise Against has reached a creative crossroads. For their next album, Rise Against will have to decide whether to turn toward their old school punk roots or forward toward the more mainstream brand of rock that has vaguely promulgated itself on this album.

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Rise Against are just one of those bands that get better and better, but don't change in style at all. Long term fans can hear this the easiest.
    greif hammer
    This album is a grower. I didn't click with it straight away like I did with the previous two, but after a few more listens, songs like Awake Too Long, A Beautiful Indifference and Bridges really caught my attention. It is a bit samey to the previous two albums, but I think it's just a result of the band finding their sound after all their years together. These new songs do sound familiar, but there is definitely a progression, you just have to listen to the songs a few times to pick up on it.
    Everyone is really apathetic about this album. I don't think its a disappointment like most people claim. It just takes a few listens of the songs to get into it, I'm sure most people feel this when they hear a new album. Methadone and People Live Here were really good tracks on the album. I think a 7.5 is fair enough.
    It took a few listens for me but it's growing on me. It won't be my favourite album of the year but it's pretty decent.
    It's not super disappointing, no, but Tim needs to write more stuff like Zero Visibility and the title track or Rise Against is going to become very boring very quickly
    spot on! I was VERY sceptical about this before having a good listen. Whilst it doesn't have any great individual songs, it has a different sound to some extent to all their other work. I like the odd tempo changes.
    Rise Against has basically been making the same album over and over since "The Suffer and the Witness". I love Rise Against, but it's gotten boring by now.
    I've seen this statement made multiple places now and it still confuses me. I felt that Appeal to Reason was a pretty big change in sound after The Sufferer & The Witness. I also feel like Sufferer & The Witness was stylistically more similar to Siren Song of the Counter Culture than it was to Endgame. I can't argue that this album doesn't sound like S&W watered down a bit, but I don't understand why people keep saying they've made the same album over and over. Black Market feels like the first time they haven't progressed and have actually regressed a little bit.
    I agree with you when you say they've changed their sound. They have experimented and changed their music, but they have still managed to keep their sound, something many other bands lose when they experiment. Their 'regression' could be partly because Tim's voice can't keep up the screaming like in their older albums, I don't know. I don't feel like they've regressed, more of an exploration into a more rock sound (this is possibly their lightest album released).
    IMO the reason for regression was the songwriting. There's a lot of weird tempo changes that don't work well, and the song structure is the old "verse chorus verse blah blah" with those tempo changes you expect from Rise Against (fast paced verses, slow chorus). The riffs sound bland and it irks me that Tragedy + Time and I Don't Wanna Be Here Anymore have identical riffs. Brandon's an awesome drummer, but it doesn't show here in that they've moved into a softer direction. Tim has definitely improved in his vocals though.
    Tragedy + Time and I Don't Want To Be Here Anymore DON'T have the same riff...they're not even similar aside from the up-down sound. Tragedy + Time's riff is: Bb, Bb, Eb, Eb, D, D, Eb, Eb etc. IDWBHA's riff: Db, Gb, A, B etc. Aside from that, they're TOTALLY different songs with completely different tones. Lol.
    I agree. I'm glad they're having great success, and I think they're a solid band, but for those of us who have been around the block with them, it is getting a tad stale.
    I enjoyed Endgame the most since Siren Songs but The Suffer got way to over played which could be a large reason I shy away from it.
    I don't agree that they've been making the same stuff over and over again. The only song that reminded me of their past songs was the single 'I Don't Want To Live Here Anymore'. However, the other songs are different; Sudden Life sounds more like a Foo Fighters song, People Live Here is a more atmospheric (for want of a better word) song for their acoustic pieces, etc. They've experimented more in this album than before, and, although the aggression isn't their like their older stuff, it's still very good.
    I honestly thought Sudden Life sounded a bit like U@ (Tim's vocals and Zach's guitar correspond a lot like Bono and The Edge)but I though The Eco Terrorist In Me sounded a lot like RPM more than anything.
    Couldn't agree more. Honestly Siren Song was their last "great" album. Their other albums were good, but just boring compared to Siren Song.
    this seems to happen far too often with punk bands that find a formula that works, (Green Day, Blink-182, The Offspring etc.)
    Shocked to see that over 30 people agree with you. Appeal to Reason had a very distinct sound that was very different from Endgame. Collapse and Architects, the opener songs, are totally different. Appeal to Reason did some weird experimentation with their guitar tones (I'm thinking Whereabouts Unknown specifically) and Endgame didn't. The lyrical themes were different. As for Black Market, it's even farther removed from anything they've done. So I fail to see how someone could accuse them of doing the same thing over and over again
    Shocked to see that over 30 people agree with you. Appeal to Reason had a very distinct sound that was very different from Endgame. Collapse and Architects, the opener songs, are totally different. Appeal to Reason did some weird experimentation with their guitar tones (I'm thinking Whereabouts Unknown specifically) and Endgame didn't. The lyrical themes were different. As for Black Market, it's even farther removed from anything they've done. So I fail to see how someone could accuse them of doing the same thing over and over again
    Big time. I love rise against too and I'm not trying to cut them down just because they are successful, but their music just isn't exciting anymore. They've gone from being a punk band to being a stadium rock band. Full credit to them, they have a formula and it works, but I think a lot of their original fans have lost interest.
    I think that they have made the same since Appeal to reason,not bad albums, but pretty much the same
    Shocked to see that over 30 people agree with you. Appeal to Reason had a very distinct sound that was very different from Endgame. Collapse and Architects, the opener songs, are totally different. Appeal to Reason did some weird experimentation with their guitar tones (I'm thinking Whereabouts Unknown specifically) and Endgame didn't. The lyrical themes were different. As for Black Market, it's even farther removed from anything they've done. So I fail to see how someone could accuse them of doing the same thing over and over again
    I believe the rating is low and slightly unfair. The comments that suggest that the production and sounds of the records, however, are substantial. The producing, engineering, and mastering credits have been the same since The Sufferer and The Witness. It can be viewed as consistency, or redundancy, depending on your perception of the band. Based on the content of the album though, I believe it stands stronger than Endgame, and even Appeal to Reason. Rise Against is making a different statement with this album, and I've taken a shine to it. I enjoy the sound of this band, and admire that they have stuck to their guns.
    This album was a disappointment for me, and I liked Endgame and Appeal to Reason. Can people really say they love the album a year from now?
    That's the problem I'm finding with Endgame right now. It doesn't hold up the way their other stuff does. I still love Wait for Me and Broken Mirrors and a few others but otherwise idk. I'm sure this album will be the same
    What a great album, fantastic lyrics and great musical accompaniment. People would complain that the band has "changed" if they differed there sound. Rise against took there successful sound from sufferer and have run with it. To great success and they sound great live and have a lot of energy. I cant wait for november in the UK. The best touring band going (in my opinion)
    This album isnt horrible, but to me all the songs sounds so similar. Its rather dull and boring compared to past albums
    I hate to admit it, but this is the album that got me into Rise Against (I come from a realm of metal and random alt. rock). I first heard it I believe in August last year and honestly, after getting into them and hearing all they've done, I can't rank this album lower than 3rd best of their discography. Yes, it's kind of 'polished' and whatever; I've long decided I don't give much of a shit about production as long as the music itself is good. Tim is an excellent song writer. IDWTBHA, The Eco-Terrorist in Me, Zero Visibility, and People Live here are fantastic songs (and obviously my favourites from the album). It did take a little while to grow on me, but I'm so glad it did. To me it's definitely most comparable to Endgame, but it's better. I like the tempo changes; once you've heard them a few times before and know their coming, they're great for changing up the song a bit. The bottom line is when you take the top songs from this album and compare them to the top songs of any of their other albums, they not far off from being on par by any means. Plus the songs that would be considered the 'depth' of the album are good too. It's not like they've become cheesy cock-rock or anything, and they should remain respected for such. They're playing what they want to play, and I love what they're playing.
    They just sound so, so genuinely tired and uninspired and it makes me very sad. I really wish Tim would step out of his comfort zone for more than 2 or 3 songs an album. If every song on this album was like Zero Visibility (by far the best song) and The Black Market this album would be top notch. Instead they're putting out stuff like Tragedy + Time (which is literally just Audience of One). It's not a bad album, it's just almost all exactly what they've been doing with Appeal and Endgame and it's stale and boring now.
    Their albums have all been the same since Sufferer. I didn't really mind for Appeal to Reason and End Game but this album just hasn't got me excited yet. Maybe I've just grown out of the style and the old Rise Against is just nostalgia at work. Though I suppose End Game had a few tracks that stood out from the regular
    I really thoroughly enjoyed Endgame, even more than Appeal to Reason but not as much as S&W, but this came off as stale to me. They are still one of my favorite bands and I'm sure this will grow on me due to my persistence and overall love for the band but color me nonplussed (what color would that be? maybe beige). Still one of the best live bands I've ever seen.