Welcome back to The Rock Show, where it’s all about the music! I’ve noticed that I’m always reviewing things I really like, so all my reviews tend to be glowing praise and very little criticism. So this time, I’ve decided to tackle an album by a band that I’ve never been a huge fan of: Rise Against. There have been a couple of tunes by them in the past that I’ve enjoyed (namely “Savior” and “Swing Life Away”), but for the most part I’ve not cared for their music. In addition, they are a very political band, which puts me off quite a bit whether I agree with the politics or not. Still, I decided to have a listen to their newest album, Endgame, and wound up getting it based on first impressions. Could this be the Rise Against album I’ve been waiting for?
The first track on the album is “Architects,” and it explodes right out of the gate. The song features a very punk sounding drum beat with some decent melodies over the verse part of the song, but the chorus is really where the song shines. As is very common throughout this album, the vocal melodies are very strong (not something I noticed too much in older Rise Against that I’ve heard). I’m so used to ignoring the lyrics that I really don’t know what any of the songs are about, but it is definitely easy to overlook the politics if you’re like me in that regard. That said, “Architects” is one of my favorite songs on the album and has a really good hard rock sound to it. The first single from the album, “Help is On the Way,” is next. The guitar is a hook right off the bat and the song grabs your attention as a single should. The staccato effect of the guitar works really well, and has always been a favorite technique for me. Same story here as far as catchiness is concerned – a decent effort in the verse, but outstanding in the chorus. My immediate impression after two songs in is that this album is significantly more melodic and medium-paced than their earlier work, which seems to be held strongly to the band’s punk rock roots – really fast, really loud, and really obnoxious. Glad to hear that out of this album, though I’m sure many longtime fans of the band would disagree.
The next song is the next single – “Make it Stop (September’s Children).” Some catchy choral vocals at the beginning with more catchy guitar and vocal melodies in the verse. The chorus is pretty decent, but it definitely isn’t as strong as the past two songs. One thing I’m not so keen on is the spoken words during the bridge section. I’m not really a fan of spoken words in music – it just seems to take away from the flow of the melody, which is really the most important part of a song. The ending is a bit too blunt, as well. Nonetheless, it’s easy to tell that Rise Against is good at crafting solid songs. The next track is “Disparity by Design,” and it opens with a nice, fast-paced drum beat and guitar riff. The lack of a really clear-cut vocal melody here is a striking difference from the first three tracks. Even the chorus seems a bit lacking in a strong melody – it tries, but I don’t think it works too well. As a punk song it definitely gets by, but going by the songwriting standard set up from the previous tracks, this song just doesn’t make the cut for me.
“Satellite” is the next song, and it opens slowly by comparison. The vocal melodies are back, which is great, and the chorus really pumps out the energy. The bridge is really strong here, too. This track is definitely a recovery from the previous one, and it’s really quite dynamic – something I’ve noticed in a lot of the songs on the album. The different parts of a lot of the songs are structured differently, if that makes sense. Anyway, “Midnight Hands” is next, with a hard rock opening full of guitar riffs and angry vocals. The song picks up nicely, but the chorus totally kills the momentum. The listener is expecting the pace of the song to keep up, but the chorus slows down significantly and really makes the song feel a bit choppy. It can be chalked up to the changing dynamics of the songs, but here I don’t think it works too well, especially after the awesome build-up. The bridge has a decent bit of screaming in it, too, which is a bit of a negative for me. Thankfully it doesn’t last long enough to take away too much. Overall it’s not a bad song, it just doesn’t flow well for me like a lot of the others do.
“Survivor Guilt” comes next with more spoken words in the opening, which is an instant turn-off. It’s also hard to ignore the political lyrics when their not hidden away in the melody. To be fair, when the song really kicks in, it rocks pretty hard. Again, though, the chorus changes the pace too much. The verse is full of fast-paced awesome rock, and then the chorus cuts the speed in half. Like the last track, it isn’t bad, it just doesn’t flow very well. The bridge, however, kicks everything up a few notches. It rocks pretty fast until it slows down again for more spoken words. For me, this song just goes all over the place without having a distinct direction, and it detracts from my liking of it quite a bit. Next, however, is “Broken Mirrors,” a song that rocks right out of the gate. Using a triplet construction, it bounces around quite a bit, and the vocals and guitar work very well together. The chorus is really strong here, which is a nice return to the standard set up at the beginning of the album. The bridge changes dynamics as usual, but here it flows very well and the melodies carry over quite well.
The next track is “Wait for Me,” which is really the first slow song on the the album at the outset. I find it lacking a bit in strong vocal melodies, but it works pretty well as a build-up. The chorus explodes with a very catchy melody and drum beat, which flows nicely into a harder version of the verse. Not really much else to say about this song – it’s pretty solid without getting fancy, and even though it’s pretty average it still beats some of the songs I mentioned above as being a bit weak. “A Gentlemen’s Coup” comes next, with very catchy guitar and drum hooks right away. The choppy music and vocals of the verse work pretty well, but the chorus just doesn’t do it. After a successful awkward structuring like the verse, I’d expect a more solid, structured chorus. The music is there, but the vocals still have some awkward timing that is a bit jarring for me. Overall, I think this song suffers a bit from its awkward vocal arrangement.
However, the next song is easliy my favorite off the record. “This is Letting Go” is definitely the best showcase of songwriting on the album. Here, listening to the lyrics is highly recommended, especially in the second verse where the lyrics are pure poetry. The chorus is insanely good, as well, and I guarantee it’ll stick in your head and never leave. This single song, in my opinion, makes up for many of the album’s shortcomings. The bridge changes things up like many of the songs do, but it flows well, and keeps the momentum in tact. The title track comes next with a catchy bass hook followed by some hard-rocking guitar. The sound here is nothing new – quite frankly, the sound of this album is pretty much the same all the way through. The chorus is pretty cool here, with some different music textures. It’s not a really catchy song, but the flow and the melodies are enough to keep it rocking pretty nicely.
“Lanterns” is the album closer, and it starts off with a slow build-up that doesn’t explode exactly as you might think it will. The tempo changes pretty quickly into a verse that has a nice beat and some solid vocals. The song doesn’t do anything new, it just essentially sums up the sonic textures of the album in a nice, neat little package.
Overall impression? Definitely the Rise Against album I’ve been waiting for. Easy to ignore the politics if that’s not your thing, and most of the songs are good quality and hard rocking. Lots of catchy melodies and great guitar, and very dynamic song structures. Is it flawless? No way. But it definitely makes me like the band a bit more. Am I going to dig back? I doubt it. Do I recommend Endgame? Yes I do. It’s without question one of the better albums of the year, which was a nice surprise. It definitely exceeded my expectations.
~The Rock Show, where it’s all about the music! Keep listening!