By: Brad Ozuk
2017 was eventful for people of all paths, regardless of how they felt about it. Due to various political happenings in America, the timing for Rise Against’s eighth studio album “Wolves” was perfect. Having been around since 1999, Rise Against is a band that is listed as “melodic hardcore,” but I consider them to have a more punk approach to the creation of their songs. The sound and feel of their songs definitely emanate hard rock music, and that’s not something I plan on denying. However, lead singer Tim McIlrath has a very unique voice that can make songs sound like an entirely separate genre from the instruments behind him.
While the music itself is highly unique, it is still not the selling point for the band. What has made Rise Against different from all the other bands of their kind over the years was their ability to incorporate political and social issues into their music. It’s not just for show, either. All members excluding drummer Brandon Barnes are considered straight-edge, a term used to describe those who are against drinking alcohol, smoking and using recreational drugs. On top of this, the band promotes animal rights and most of them are vegetarian as well. While some people consider music to be a form of escape and don’t like artists bringing in politics, Rise Against are able to shift their beliefs into more acceptable lyrics. An example for this is their consistence in bringing up the parts of war that those going in might not be totally aware of, but they still send the message that we as people must carry on.
“Wolves” seemed to carry many elements from their hard-sounding earlier works, as well as integrating some of the more melodious qualities from their newer songs. “Wolves” starts strong with a song of the same name and I immediately was able to recognize the same Rise Against that people have been listening to for years. The titular track consists of McIlrath’s signature vocal delivery accompanied with consistent guitar riffs and drum beats that allow the vocals to shine. This is shown in several songs throughout the album, such as “Mourning in Amerika,” “Parts Per Million” and “Welcome to the Breakdown.” They are songs that I listen to because they sound good, but the substance keeps me coming back. McIlrath is quoted as saying, “We stand out simply because I think there are bands that are avoiding the question.” This is in reference to him not believing his band to be truly political, and he expands by saying that the problems the world is a part of make up a bigger picture than any specific political happenings, and that he wants people to be able to relate to that.
Not all the songs on the album trespass into political territory. “Far From Perfect” is probably my favorite song on the album because of the picture it paints. It takes a step back from what’s happening to say we are all struggling, but we are still alive and we are still moving on. This builds up to the chorus, where the music abruptly slows down and McIlrath’s words practically echo in my ears. “We are far from perfect, but perfect as we are. We are bruised, we are broken but we are goddamn works of art.” “Politics of Love” takes it one step further and seems to directly address the issues in losing people we care about.
Rise Against has perfected their style of music. While they don’t take risks in experimenting with what they can be, their music is designed to last the test of time. No matter who’s listening, they will be able to relate to some of the messages Rise Against tries to get across, not only in “Wolves,” but their other albums as well.