Rise Against: The Black MarketDate: July 24, 2014
By Adam Romero
About a week ago, Chicago native punk band Rise Against released their seventh studio album The Black Market. Over the past decade a common complaint for punk bands who have received any sort of critical acclaim (Against Me!, AFI, Green Day, Bad Religion) is that they have abandoned their punk roots in favor of a more pop friendly sound. It's hard to say that Rise Against does not fall into this category of punk bands. Ever since their debut studio album The Unraveling Rise Against has largely been critiqued for catering to a mainstream audience. While I have enjoyed every album that has been released by Rise Against, comparing The Black Market to any of their albums is harder than one might expect.
This is not to say that the The Black Market is a bad album. It is just clearly apparent that they have entered a different era in their music. They have not left diehard Rise Against fans entirely in the dark however. Certain tracks conjure memories of Sufferer and the Witness and Siren Songs of the Counter-Culture. The Eco-Terrorist in Me, the fifth track off the album, is the grittiest and most aggressive track off the album. The song displays the outright though often well-written political leanings of Rise Against's lyrics: "Hoods and bandanas make not an enemy, You can't define us, any way you please!" This track was a clear favorite for me off this album. The track Awake Too Long also evokes a nostalgia for earlier Rise Against albums. This track definitively proves why Rise Against can still be labeled as a punk band. While it does not have the gritty vocals that McIlrath displays on The Eco-Terrorist In Me, this song has the fastest tempo out of all the songs on the album. The seventh track off this album, A Beautiful Indifference, is also quite notable, it's impossible to not want to sing along to the hooks that frontman McIlrath puts out. The title track off this album is also quite enjoyable; crowd vocals and guitar riffs really punch McIlrath's lyrics home. The Black Market also has a very solid opener. The Great Die Off starts the album off on the right path with an unexpected violin opening. Guitarist Zach Blair then leads the charge into a familiar Rise Against progression without feeling tired or safe.
Unfortunately, I felt that outside of the tracks previously mentioned, much of this album felt very safe. I believe that Rise Against had found their sound in their last two studio releases, Endgame and Appeal to Reason, creating a reluctance to grow and explore different avenues. And who can blame them for not wanting to change? Those past two albums had a very clear and accessible political voice backing them. It's easy to agree with the causes Rise Against subscribes to (LGBT rights, saving the environment, animal rights), and their simple songs make them one of the few political artists the masses can latch onto. Due to these reasons, Rise Against had received large commercial success. This album however is much more introspective than political, many of the songs pondering a question I have touched upon a bit in this review: why Rise Against makes music. While this is not a bad topic for an album, and Rise Against can certainly write about whatever they damn well please, this album left me with more questions than answers. Rise Against, with their large popularity, led the charge for at least building a bridge for youth to get involved with the world around them, with the issues at hand. Heck, this band is a large reason why I personally started paying attention to current events. The Black Market puts Rise Against in the passenger seat. A majority of the tracks on this album are forgettable, and some contain songwriting that I have found to be insulting. Take the single off this album I Don't Want To Be Here Anymore. On a first run through any listener can predict what the song is going to sound like and what the vocalist is going to say before they even hear it. I feel like this track is the barebones blueprint for what a Rise Against song is. For a band as experienced as this one, I have grown to expect more. The track that follows, Tragedy + Time, falls to the same issues. Both of these tracks are catchy, but they fall victim to the same cheesy and tired quips: "Your paradise is something I've endured/ See I don't think I can fight this anymore/ I'm listening with one foot out the door." The rest of this album is largely forgettable and does not explore any realms that Rise Against have not already explored with previous releases.
For what it is The Black Market is a solid album. Rise Against is a band that has now ventured into a more alternative rock realm, save a few tracks that reminds listeners of their roots and justify their punk label. For fans expecting an Unraveling or Sufferer revival with this album, you will most likely be disappointed. For those looking for a decent rock release, The Black Market will suffice. So the question remains: why is Rise Against making music? For those paying attention to their music, it was always apparent that this band always knew why they did what they did. They opened their last studio release Endgame with the track Architects, a track that was a clear criticism of the band Against Me! for their song I Was A Teenage Anarchist. They answered Against Me!'s lyrics: "I was a teenage anarchist, the revolution was a lie./ Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire? " with: "And don't you remember when we were young, and we wanted to set the world on fire?/ 'Cause I still am, and I still do." This most recent release brings up and does not answer the question of whether this band still has the drive to light the world ablaze.
I am feeling a 6/10 on this album.