Wolves review by Rise Against

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  • Released: Jun 9, 2017
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 6.7 Neat
  • Users' score: 6.8 (28 votes)
Rise Against: Wolves
4

Sound — 6
Though their breakthrough period with 2004's "Siren Song of the Counter Culture" and 2006's "The Sufferer & The Witness" more or less lumped Rise Against in with the trends of post-hardcore/emo (whether by timing, similar sound, or both), the Chicago quartet always made the effort to stick to their primary calling card: politically-conscious music. Even as they grew more commercially successful, with their past three albums all placing within the top five of the Billboard 200, the melodic punkers have never watered down the serious topics they touch on in their music, whether it's human trafficking, LGBT rights, ecological disasters, unjust military action, or class warfare.

That subject matter holding strong may be a testament to Rise Against staying true to their artistic core, but their sound has had to endure being between a rock and a hard place of expansion and expectation. With 2008's "Appeal to Reason" facing listener critique for not being as upbeat as previous Rise Against records (its lower tempos vaguely veering into alt rock territory), Rise Against kicked back into higher gear with their sixth album, 2011's "Endgame," though it ended up suffering from moments of sonic déjà vu. However, the band would find the sweet spot between old sounds and new in their seventh album, 2014's "The Black Market," which ranged from dabbling with hard rock and pop punk, to hardcore-style songs that acted as throwbacks to Rise Against's early albums.

A few things are different now that Rise Against release their eighth album, "Wolves." Parting ways with Interscope Records for the equally major label Virgin Records, the band also part ways with long-time producer and punk legend Bill Stevenson and unite with producer Nick Raskulinecz (who has produced albums for Deftones, Korn, and The Hold Steady). Despite these changes behind the curtain, Rise Against's sound doesn't change further from the previous album, but rather, narrows its sonic scope on the band's home range. Only a few minor deviations from their bag of regular tricks are heard, whether it's the cheery pop punker "Mourning in Amerika," the defined guitar solo in the opening eponymous track, the notable increase of harsh vocals, or the legitimate breakdowns used in "How Many Walls" and the more riff-adept "Miracle."

But with the band keeping things close to their recipe book of melodic hardcore, most songs in "Wolves" are built with the expected parts of well-layered guitars, scintillating basslines (Joe Principe continues to be the MVP of the band), and an excess of Bad Religion-style "oozin' aahs," heard in fit-to-form tracks like "The Violence," "Welcome to the Breakdown," "Bullshit," and "Parts Per Million." Sometimes the expected works well, like the band's guitar harmonics motif that pops up once again in "Politics of Love," and other times it accentuates the meager moments, like the dull vocal melody in the chorus of "House on Fire," or the vocal melody in "Far From Perfect" sounding recycled from the "Endgame" song "This Is Letting Go," but it generally maintains an average that doesn't remarkably disappoint nor impress.

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Lyrics — 7
Given the circumstances of politics today, one would figure Tim McIlrath has plenty of source material to pull from for his lyrics in "Wolves," but he only really refers to the most obvious target of the current president and his voter base a couple of times, heard in "Welcome To The Breakdown" ("All hail, the jester has landed / In flyover country he sings") and "How Many Walls" ("How many walls can you put up? / How many guns until you feel safe"). Instead, McIlrath doesn't make the album just about current events, but about the problems that have persisted much longer than what's been in the headlines. This non-evergreen approach makes for lyrics that wield more universal themes, whether it's the endless cycle of violence in "The Violence" ("Are we not brave enough? To become something greater / Than the violence in our nature"), the docile thrall of consumerism culture in "Mourning In Amerika" ("Under moonlit skies and surveillance / As we cheer from the stands in the stadiums / On a jumbotron we all sing to escape"), and the danger of political apathy in "Bullshit" ("Thank you for your silence, your continuing compliance / It's your buried head so deep in sand that ushered in the virus"), though it also results in some retreading of topics, like global warming glossed over in "Parts Per Million" ("There's something wrong, and the temperature is rising / Ignoring every siren as we're marching towards a cliff"), and the rallying cry of the downtrodden masses in the eponymous song ("We are the wolves at the gate / Our numbers are growing every day").

Overall Impression — 7
"Wolves" is an example of how consistency can be both a blessing and a curse. Opting to keep their sound close to their trademark formula of melodic hardcore with few differences, Rise Against sit on a plateau that maintains an average satisfaction just fine, but doesn't strive beyond that. Compared to the previous album's willingness to try some new things, "Wolves" takes a safer route that, for album number eight, isn't much to get excited about, but as a re-up of Rise Against-style punk, it gets the job done.

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21 comments sorted by best / new / date

    SSympathy
    I don't really have much of a comment on this album seeing as I don't listen to the band too much, but the critique about Appeal to Reason really surprised me. I thought that was easily their best album from what I have heard. 
    Funnyname99
    Siren song and Endgame for me..... But this band is quite divisive in its best to worst. I suppose it's more interesting than everyone saying "master of puppets", or "number of the beast" (both certainly are not their respective bests)
    CatWithAMustach
    I find that this addition to Rise Against's discography added much more alternative style songs, instead of their more punk style that they are known for. I honestly thought I was listening to Against Me! with the track 'Mourning in Amerika'. I enjoyed the extending catalog, and I love 'Miracle', even though it is quite turned down from their punk styles.
    Funnyname99
    Agreed; the feeilng I generally get is "It's 'aight". Then I think something else. I think they could have doubled down and really pushed the dials on this one - there's not much competition these days for the political observation in hard rock, so if you're going to make a record like that, why not go all or nothing.
    ThatSerbDude
    Exactly my thoughts about that. It seems rock musicians lost their edge. Or they got old and no replacements came along (mainstream-wise).
    Funnyname99
    Maybe every rock band has to do two shifts s month in a fast food joint to keep them grounded... Like athletes, they're always in mental training too.....
    ThatSerbDude
    Really doubt that's the case with Rise Against. Also, I believe rock musicians back in the 60s and 70s also had to have a 'day job'. Didn't stop them from making more meaningful music and actually having an impact on political world.
    MetalRock4ever
    I'd say it is an improvement on Black Market, that album didn't feel that special to me (only one song stood out, and that was People Live Here)
    SG6578
    The Black Market was a pretty good album in my opinion. "Awake too long" has some SUPER fast octaves played during the intro that sound amazing. I actually like that album quite a bit....but then again I like every RA album as well. 
    MetalRock4ever
    And I respect your opinion of it I thought it was a good album too, but it didn't have as much of an impact as the others, which is why it did not stand out that much for me.
    sokpupet
    Endgame was a slog. It's the only album of theirs I can't ever get into, what with every song being so damned slow and plodding. The Black Market was definitely a return to their faster pace, though there were a handful of tracks that felt more filler-ish than genuine. Wolves caught on quick for me, though further listening has sort of exposed what could be described as a cheapness to some of the tracks; shoddy lyrics, uninspired (yet still mechanically catchy) riffs, and bland delivery. It's got dozens more play-throughs in it for me, but I don't see it being something I return to regularly like Siren Song... or The Black Market.
    FlyingPirahna
    This album officially proves that this band is irredeemably out of ideas. I love a lot of their stuff, but it's clear at this point that they have virtually no desire to ever grow or evolve musically. I felt like I've heard every one of the songs on this album at some other point in their discography.
    DissonantTimbre
    expecting a punk band to "grow or evolve musically" hahahahahahahahahaha
    FlyingPirahna
    Meh, they've been an alt rock band longer than they were ever punk. They showed flashes of maturity and evolution when they were doing acoustic songs and spoken word shit but yeah. Hoped they might be better than this.
    GR84
    Rise Against are a solid band, one of those bands where you know what your gonna get with a new release. I have enjoyed this one, i find it heavy, melodic, and without filler. Solid release from a solid band.
    rakexufe
    my friend's mom makes 80 an hour from home and she has been out of work for twelve months but last month her payoff was 12101 just working on the internet two hours a day.. check out this site+++++[url="http://www.mlbcash.com/"]www.mlbcash.com[/url]  
    SG6578
    I've loved this band ever since Siren Song came out....and "Give It All" was featured on Need for Speed Underground 2 for the original XBOX (yes I'm that old now). I actually have their logo tattooed on the back of my leg.  I still love their music and Mr. McIlrath is an incredible songwriter who can really master the art of the melodic scale if given enough time. As you get older however, you mature and unfortunately I can't really relate or agree with their politics and way of thinking anymore. What I'm trying to say is that I love the music and don't agree with the message, but that's ok I guess. 
    jmorguitar
    The last record of theirs that I truly enjoyed was Endgame. Between the theme of nations falling and the stories of dealing with the fallout on a broad and individual standpoint coupled with some great guitar riffs and lyrics, it spent(and still is a frequent visitor) a lot of time in my car stereo. Yes, I still buy CD's. Black Market grew on me after a few listens, but when that came out I honestly remember enjoying Linkin Park's The Hunting Party more that year. This record, to me, was a bit of a let down. It's a solid effort, but I guess I just expected more based on all the stuff going on in the US.