Rise Against – The Sufferer and the Witness
Record Label: Geffen Records
Release Date: July 4th 2006
My experiences with the punk band Rise Against are rather minimal, as with a lot of bands and artists that I’ve listened to before. I picked up a copy of 2011’s Endgame at a local Best Buy for about $5 last fall, part of a back to school sale they had going on. I figured I’d take advantage of it, because I didn’t really know the band that well, and I’ve heard of them everywhere, but for whatever reason, I never got into them. This record took a while to grow on me, because it was a bit different from what I normally enjoy, which is rather softer music, I guess you could say. That’s surprising, because that is a rather melodic record; the more “hardcore” leanings of their sound were diminishing, and in place for “cleaner” songs, per se. That’s not a bad thing, and I actually enjoyed that, so I managed to pick up a copy of a record that came out five years before that, and five years can really make a difference. Look at the band Fall Out Boy. Five years before Folie a Deux was released, they released Take This to Your Grave. The former is a pop-rock record with a LOT of experimentation, and a lot of new ground for the band, while the latter is a straightforward pop-punk record with Patrick Stump’s vocals and Pete Wentz’s lyrics being the focal points of the record. All in all, they went from being a pop-punk band to a pop-rock powerhouse.
That’s not what happened to Rise Against, but they have changed, so listening to 2006’s The Sufferer and the Witness is almost like stepping in a TARDIS and listening to a band at a much different point in their career. This is what progression is all about, and I’m sure a lot of people complained about Rise Against’s newer stuff being terrible and boring, but that happens with almost every band that progresses, and it seems to be a paradox within music – if a band changes their sound, fans get mad, but if a band doesn’t, they also get mad. In all honesty, I don’t expect band members to be exactly the same people they were when they released their first record. It’s a daft assumption to make, because people do grow, and they mature. It happens. Deal with it. Most music fans can’t, sadly. The point I’m making here is that 2006’s The Sufferer and the Witness is a lot less melodic (with the exception of a few tracks here and there), with a lot more aggression and rawness into their sound. Lyrically, it’s still the same as Endgame (which is the only other record by theirs I’ve heard), and vocally, Tim McIlrath actually screams a bit more on this record, despite screaming a bit on Endgame, but not very much. So I do like he screams a bit more, despite the fact I’m not really into that kind of music anymore. I will say this record does have a bit of an edge over Endgame, and not because it’s “different from their older stuff,” but because the rawness and aggression really show much more and it’s out in full force. The melodic side of them really works on this record much more mainly because it’s only sprinkled throughout the record, and when it shows up, it’s a stark contrast, so it’s much of a strength on this record. But I’m rambling now, so let’s look at this record much more in depth, shall we? I’d make a pun on the album title, but you’d be the sufferer and I’d be the witness.
The record begins with “Intro/Chamber the Cartridge,” and that’s exactly what it is; immediately, the track begins with such aggression and passion that it’s hard to ignore. Vocalist Tim McIlrath steals the show with his raw and powerful vocals. His voice doesn’t have much range, but that’s the thing about punk/hardcore, as in the vocals usually are not the prime focus. It’s usually the fast-paced instrumentation, and the lyrics that are the focus. And that’s what the band really focuses on. The only problem is that the songs do tend to run together after awhile. The intro track is an important track, however, just because it sets up the entire record. Second track “Injection” continues the pummeling and fast paced instrumentation along with passionate vocals by McIlrath. There are also some screams on this song during the bridge, which really makes the song stand out among the others. His screams aren’t that great, especially on this record, but they do add some variety, nonetheless. Third track “Ready to Fall” follows this same formula, and like I said, this is what bothers me about this band, and records like this, because the instrumentation may be awesome, but the songs tend to run together if they don’t switch things up every so often. Fourth track “Bricks” is the shortest song on the record, but this is the most “punk” song of the record at a minute and a half, and it’s just nonstop aggression, which does switch things up a bit.
Sixth track “Prayer of the Refugee” is one of the band’s most popular tracks, and for good reason. This is good old-fashioned Rise Against, and it takes everything that makes this record (and band) great and kicks it up a notch. It’s easily one of the highlights of the record, and one of the best songs by the band I’ve heard so far. That does lead me to what I was talking about before about how the overall sound is awesome, but it does sound similar throughout the entire record. The songs can run together if you’re just casually listening to the record. There are a few tracks that stand out, though, and they appear towards the end of the record, which is nice, because it’s a nice contrast from the rest of the record, and it’s worth listening to the tracks that don’t really do much in terms of adding anything to the overall record. Eighth track “The Approaching Curve” features some spoken word in the beginning from McIlrath, almost like a bit of an interlude before the song actually starts. This song is much more melodic overall, which is really interesting, because it’s almost like the band is taking a bit of a breather for this track, and going a bit slower, so they have more energy for the end. In fact, this song seems like an interlude, because it’s so much slower, and it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the record. But it works very well, because it doesn’t slow it down too much. The track right after “Worth Dying For” is one of the most aggressive tracks on the record, and it provides even more contrast.
My favorite track on the record is tenth track “Roadside,” because this is what I meant by the “melodic” tracks, as in it’s very somber, quiet, and shows McIlrath at a very vulnerable place. It also features female vocals as well, and it makes the track stand out even more. It’s a very stripped down track, and easily my favorite on here. I kind of wish this was the last song, because it would’ve ended the album nicely, but that’s a minor nitpick, however. There’s a couple songs left, and these songs follow the rest of the songs on the record, as in they’re loud, aggressive, and raw. So, it does end the album the way it started, which is good, because it comes full circle. The record as a whole is a wonderful 42 minutes, especially if you’re a fan of punk, pop-punk, or melodic hardcore. The melodic hardcore influence is still here at a few points, but this is when it started to disappear, and this record is a lot different compared to Endgame, because that record is a lot more melodic, compared to this one. This is a lot more raw, but that’s not a bad thing. This record I like a bit more than Endgame, despite liking the melodic stuff a bit more, because this just has a passion and a fire that I just can’t help but admire. That rhymed, but that was not intentional. Either way, I wasn’t surprised I enjoyed this record, but very surprised at just how much.