Rise Against, Restoring Political Punk
Rise Against have been principal members of 21st century rock since songs like “Savior” and “Swing Life Away” hit the mainstream. The Chicago-based group, formed in 1999, are led by the instantly recognizable vocals of lead singer Tim McIlrath.
With their newest record, Wolves, the band are sticking to what they do best, which is putting out consistently quality hardcore punk. The title track, “Wolves,” kicks right into a thrashing anthem that starts the record off perfectly. The vocals of McIlrath, which are followed by a groovy guitar, ring perfectly before each chorus, in a manner that will satiate any hardcore Rise Against fan. A line like, “We are the wolves at your gates / our numbers growing every day, yeah / but you can’t fight us all,” shows the listener how McIlrath uses political lyrics in order to connect to modern-day themes. The song talks about the opposition gathering against a “king,” presumedly a symbol for today’s governmental regime. Even for new fans, the breakdown on this song — and many throughout Wolves — is so melodic that it is hard not to vibe to it. The screams that close the track show that the band have not slowed down a beat and have aged well.
In one of the singles for Wolves, “Welcome to the Breakdown,” McIlrath sings about following promising leaders who then turn on their supporters as soon as they obtain power. He shouts, “It’s a lie and you fell for it, hook line and sinker / a hand that you shook that then gave you the finger / a fraud and a fake / a cowardly king that lied to your face, but you still kiss the ring.” These shaming lyrics follow along to great drum work and power chords, making for a quality Rise Against track.
On “How Many Walls,” Rise Against stick behind their views on gun ownership and the demilitarization of our culture. “How many walls can you put up? / how many guns until you safe,” McIlrath screams as drummer Brandon Barnes hammers away at his kit. The record closes with “Miracle,” a track that starts with a more pop punk style, but ultimately builds up to Rise Against’s signature tone in the chorus with rhythmic guitars that resemble a breakdown. As a closer, it works in the context of the album, calling out listeners on their issues and past mistakes, as ultimately Wolves is about owning up to the reality that society has been avoiding.
A strongly political hardcore punk album like Wolves is something really appealing to Americans at this point in time. For months, hardcore punk fans have wanted to see a growth from the genre, based on opposition to the government just like during the times of Bad Brains and The Sex Pistols. Rise Against are great advocates for this step back towards political punk. This album sticks to everything that Rise Against are about, while also being in the right place at the right time. It will most likely be a somewhat underrated record this year, as the album does not break the wheel musically and instrumentally, but, if given a chance by punk fans, Wolves will surely be embraced.