ALBUM REVIEW – “The Black Market” by Rise Against

Quietly and with remarkably little fanfare, Rise Against have ‘risen’ to become the pre-eminent punk band of a generation. Pointed and relentless in the integration of political and social commentary into their lyrics, their songs have always carried a sense of personal weight to them as well. Never has this touch of the intimate been more explicit than on The Black Market. The title track even goes meta in its exploration of the emotional baggage that crafting a soundtrack for the lives of millions inevitably creates – though with this being Rise Against, the darkness is wrapped in hugely palatable melodies. Similar to the Menzingers album released earlier this year, here is a collection of songs that ventures into the shadier side of the human condition wrapped in the safety blanket of Americana-tinged radio punk anthems.

Unlike 2011’s Endgame, however, there is a decent level of bite here to compliment the lyrical bark. Its deceptive orchestral intro aside, ‘The Great Die Off’ roars out of the traps with more energy than anything on the album that preceded this one; fans of the band’s earlier material who’ve missed its hardcore edge will rejoice in the screamed verses on ‘The Eco-Terrorist in Me’, a terse and hungry-sounding highlight. On the other hand, the sumptuous vocal lines and “feels like I’m walking in to the light” refrain of ‘Sudden Life’ showcases Tim McIlrath’s talent for writing beautiful melodies. Penultimate track ‘People Live Here’ goes as far as dropping the hammering electric guitars in favour of warm acoustics and uplifting strings, adopting a pessimistic yet widescreen view of the world framed through a chillingly personal perspective.

A veteran group such as this could compose stirring rock symphonies in their sleep, and thus at times The Black Market does feel too comfortable for its own good. Though it does contort itself unexpectedly compared to a lot of radio rock (the unpredictable time changes throughout ‘Zero Visibility’ a testament to this), there is still little evidence of Rise Against pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone. A sole, misjudged foray into All Time Low-esque pop punk on ‘Tragedy + Time’ suggests they perhaps shouldn’t, but it is hard to escape the fact that nothing on The Black Market couldn’t slot easily onto any of their records post-Siren Song of the Counter Culture. Moreover, while McIlrath’s voice remains as strong and impassioned as ever, and his willingness to express himself more through his lyrics can only be commended, his range does prove limited across the course of the entire 47 minutes of music here.

A more likeable and dynamic record than its predecessor, the latest Rise Against work does little to differentiate itself from what came before, but exploits the formula more effectively than anything the band have recorded since The Sufferer and the Witness. Having long since cemented their position in the history of punk, there is little left to achieve for a band with both great commercial success and considerable critical standing, and perhaps a wild deviation into uncharted musical territory would do more to risk derailing their legacy than anything else. Painful as its creation apparently was, the resulting songs on The Beautiful Black Market show a group that, for better or worse, know exactly what they’re doing.

Rating: 7 / 10

Michael Bird

‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore’



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