Rise Against Ė 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 Iíve listened to before. I picked up a copy of 2011ís Endgame at a local Best Buy for about $5 last fall, part of a back to school sale they had going on. I figured Iíd take advantage of it, because I didnít really know the band that well, and Iíve 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. Thatís surprising, because that is a rather melodic record; the more ďhardcoreĒ leanings of their sound were diminishing, and in place for ďcleanerĒ songs, per se. Thatís 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 Stumpís vocals and Pete Wentzís lyrics being the focal points of the record. All in all, they went from being a pop-punk band to a pop-rock powerhouse.
Thatís not what happened to Rise Against, but they have changed, so listening to 2006ís 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 Iím sure a lot of people complained about Rise Againstís newer stuff being terrible and boring, but that happens with almost every band that progresses, and it seems to be a paradox within music Ė if a band changes their sound, fans get mad, but if a band doesnít, they also get mad. In all honesty, I donít expect band members to be exactly the same people they were when they released their first record. Itís a daft assumption to make, because people do grow, and they mature. It happens. Deal with it. Most music fans canít, sadly. The point Iím making here is that 2006ís 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, itís still the same as Endgame (which is the only other record by theirs Iíve 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 Iím 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 itís ďdifferent from their older stuff,Ē but because the rawness and aggression really show much more and itís out in full force. The melodic side of them really works on this record much more mainly because itís only sprinkled throughout the record, and when it shows up, itís a stark contrast, so itís much of a strength on this record. But Iím rambling now, so letís look at this record much more in depth, shall we? Iíd make a pun on the album title, but youíd be the sufferer and Iíd be the witness.
The record begins with ďIntro/Chamber the Cartridge,Ē and thatís exactly what it is; immediately, the track begins with such aggression and passion that itís hard to ignore. Vocalist Tim McIlrath steals the show with his raw and powerful vocals. His voice doesnít have much range, but thatís the thing about punk/hardcore, as in the vocals usually are not the prime focus. Itís usually the fast-paced instrumentation, and the lyrics that are the focus. And thatís 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 ďInjectionĒ 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 arenít that great, especially on this record, but they do add some variety, nonetheless. Third track ďReady to FallĒ 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 donít switch things up every so often. Fourth track ďBricksĒ is the shortest song on the record, but this is the most ďpunkĒ song of the record at a minute and a half, and itís just nonstop aggression, which does switch things up a bit.
Sixth track ďPrayer of the RefugeeĒ is one of the bandís 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. Itís easily one of the highlights of the record, and one of the best songs by the band Iíve 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 youíre 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 itís a nice contrast from the rest of the record, and itís worth listening to the tracks that donít really do much in terms of adding anything to the overall record. Eighth track ďThe Approaching CurveĒ 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 itís 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 itís so much slower, and it doesnít really fit with the rest of the record. But it works very well, because it doesnít slow it down too much. The track right after ďWorth Dying ForĒ 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 ďRoadside,Ē because this is what I meant by the ďmelodicĒ tracks, as in itís 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. Itís a very stripped down track, and easily my favorite on here. I kind of wish this was the last song, because it wouldíve ended the album nicely, but thatís a minor nitpick, however. Thereís a couple songs left, and these songs follow the rest of the songs on the record, as in theyíre 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 youíre 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 thatís 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 canít help but admire. That rhymed, but that was not intentional. Either way, I wasnít surprised I enjoyed this record, but very surprised at just how much.