An album review on Wolves, the 8th full album from Chicago’s Rise Against.
Long lasting hardcore and punk rock bands from the early 2000’s are becoming rare. Over the past 18 years Rise Against have been giving their fierce view on politics and life while becoming more mature in their sound as they transition from stage destruction to more emotional and affirming themes. Wolves, the band’s eight full album is a definite continuation of Rise Against’s view of the world.
Through the past decade, the ferocious intensity of Rise Against has not so much mellowed as it has become more focused and direct. It’s the same strong writing from creative minds that want to get a point across clearer as their priority, as opposed to destroying a stage and smashing guitars. Which version of Rise Against you prefer is up to you, but it should be noted that Chicago’s own has done both of these styles quite well. The album Wolves is a unique entity in that it is trying to offer a bit more of the original Chicago punk days while still offering other serious tracks ranging from love to the current political power in the United States. And within the lyric writing of this album is the intent to not beat around the bush. In an interview with The Shrine Auditorium, Tim McIlrath said: “Wolves isn’t about creating a safe space, it’s about creating a space that’s dangerous for injustice”.
Punk rock historically is supposed to fight the machine while being fast and loud. While age and maturity come for every band, Rise Against have been able to grow as people while still holding to their ideals. Like I said before, whether you prefer the intense and wild early 2000’s style or their honed in and rock style of Appeal To Reason and beyond, Rise Against has stood the test of time in consistently delivering.
“The Violence” is the song that Rise Against released to highlight Wolves and it’s a good baseline for what to expect in energy. I say baseline because there are tracks that get much louder than “The Violence” and other songs that are slower paced but lyrically more direct. In other words, “The Violence” captures is the overall sound and style of the band’s eight album. Over the past few weeks I have listened to “The Violence” over a dozen times. The opening of the chorus “We’re not good enough” is memorable and helps highlight the song. It’s a song that I like, but I admit I don’t love. It’s hard to explain why “The Violence” didn’t hook me. After hearing the rest of the album, I truly feel that there is many more memorable songs on Wolves.
Like I said with “The Violence” being the baseline in volume and style, the standout tracks in my opinion are the louder and faster paced songs. The album opening title-track and “Welcome To The Breakdown” from beginning to end are the amazing songs that made me remember why I love Rise Against. The drumlines, the riffs and short hooks make these songs stand out like gems when compared to the singles “The Violence” and “House On Fire”. Those singles are good songs but there is so much more on this album that is worth diving into that it will make you completely forget them after a full listen of Wolves.
It’s hard to sit still when listening to songs like “Welcome To The Breakdown” and “Bulls***”. There is an anger in the delivery along with some great lyrics that are easy to connect with the listener. The choruses get stuck in your head in a good way and it makes you want to listen more and also see these songs performed live. The album is not a top to bottom masterpiece. Songs like “Parts Per Million” could be completely omitted from not having any impact and “Mourning In Amerika”, while lyrically strong, doesn’t have much impact in the music. But with the remainder of the songs on Wolves ranging from good to great, some of which even including direct statements to the 45th President, it’s hard not to get involved with the album.
While there are two to three tracks that caused me to lose my energy and focus with the album, I can’t deny just how much I got out of a listening experience from Rise Against, again. I say “again”, because since I discovered this band in the late 2000’s, I have not been disappointed with any album they have released and Wolves continues that feeling. Overall, Wolves once again proves that the fire in Rise Against hasn’t died out. Regardless of your political stance or which style of punk rock speed you prefer, this album has songs that will make you remember why you enjoy music in the most while giving you lyrics to remember.