There’s a dreaminess to Gates’ Parallel Lives that threatens to withdrawal into a kind of pleasant white noise. It’s an album that requires attention, otherwise it gets lost — at least upon the first listen. If I hadn’t seen for myself, when recently they opened up for Thrice, the muscle they throw behind each cinematic note I may have brushed this record aside favoring instead Nothing’s Tired of Tomorrow when I was craving mellow and textural emotive rock.
And while I’m still head over heels in love with the Nothing record, this Gates release has got an undeniable pull that, with repeated listens, wraps a soft blanket around my shoulders and just makes me feel cozy. Not in a sleepy, Grandma needs a cup o’ tea kind of snoozefest, but in a comforting, kicking back on the couch kind of way. It’s in the Thom Yorke-light vocals of Kevin Dye, and the confident experimentation with guitar effects that weave through unconventional beats. It’s in the way the music can shift from straight forward arena rock balladry (“Shiver”), with a song structure that owes a nod to U2 at their “All I Want Is You” finest, to celestial neck hair raising trips of epic panoramas of color and mood (“Left Behind”) with quiet ease.
The more these songs play, the stronger they sound. “Habit” becomes this gorgeous, atmospheric melody that makes my chest hurt with its beauty. “Eyes” swims through swells of regret and yearning, using music more so than lyrics and does it all with subtle brilliance. What once sounded dreamy, soon sounds like a dream you want to stay inside of a little bit longer. There’s some fat that could’ve been cut, with the middle few tracks sounding like B-sides when compared to the strong start and finish of the album, but that’s what playlists and “skip” buttons were designed for.
Five years is a long time to wait for new music by a band you love. It’s countless hours given over to revisiting their previous offerings which, in the case of Thrice, means 8 full length albums and a couple of live recordings. It’s in this nostalgic audio trip that the sickness can arise: the mythical elevation of a band’s music, the intense attachment to songs now forever frozen in time because the band is “on hiatus.” It’s in these 5 years of private listening that the expectation for what a 9th album would bring can swell to unreasonable levels.
What band could live up to such expectation? Against all odds, Thrice has. To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere doesn’t pick up where 2011’s Major/Minor left off, nor does it sound like 5 years worth of ideas crammed into an overindulgent studio session. It sounds like a band that set out for a different path, away from the stage, only to find that it was leading them right back to each other.
The slow evolution of Thrice has found them transforming from a screamo/melodic hardcore band that sailed the seas with like minded bands like Thursday and UnderOath at the turn of the 21st century into the experimental band they are today that incorporates electronic elements and unexpected song structures into a heavy musical style that weaves folk-inspired melodies and philosophical lyrics into the final mix. They have expanded into something far greater than the band they once were, but haven’t lost the urgency of the early days.
“Blood On The Sand,” the first new Thrice recording post hiatus, is a raging denouncement of the culture of fear and hate that stains the world performed with the same kind of explosive zeal as classics like “The Artist in the Ambulance” or “Image of the Invisible.” On its surface, it’s a brand new pit-burner, but lyrically it’s a frustrated commentary on the state of the world. The themes of “Hurricane” touch upon similar feelings of hopelessness of watching the world downward spiral, but is presented with the band’s familiar fiery assault.
Thrice’s secret weapon has always been there slow-to-burst dynamic ballads and both “Wake Up” and “Death From Above” nail that perfect balance between a slow burn and a raging inferno. Singer Dustin Kensrue doesn’t go so much from quiet to loud, as from sensitive to infuriated and back again. It’s a delicate cut to make and few do so with such precision as he.
In the middle of the album is a minute long instrumental (“Seneca”) that reminds me of “Night Diving” off of The Alchemy Index: Vol. 2 – Water and begs the question: Why haven’t Thrice made an all instrumental record yet?
Closing out this don’t-call-it-a-comeback album is an ethereal stretching of the legs, “Salt and Shadow.” The ambient piano ballad paints circles through the night sky and embodies all of the Earthly elements Thrice so eloquently explore, but mostly it feels like Water. And I could drown in its beauty.
It’s only been three years since Underoath officially disbanded, yet the fantastic frenzy on the part of the fans at their Rebirth Tour makes it seems as though it’s really been decades. Orlando was the final date for the Tampa-bred band and, like most every other date of the month long trek, was a total sell out. Not a surprise, since this town has always greeted screamo and metalcore with impressive fervor. What was surprising was how the band’s sound didn’t sound dated, even as they performed in their entirety a pair of albums written over a decade ago: They’re Only Chasing Safety from 2004, and it’s followup 2006’s Define The Great Line.
Another surprise: how quickly and completely they stole even my cynical “I thought I hated screamo” ears. It wasn’t the music so much as their performance passion and their connection with the fans that really sealed it for me at first, though eventually — as Gloria Estafan promised — the rhythm did get me.
An onslaught of guitars, pretty keyboard parts, and hardcore sounds fraught with melodies spin around the tornado of Spencer Chamberlain’s guttural lead and drummer Aaron Gillespie’s cleaner vocals creating an end product way more experimental and complex than expected. The cheese grater side of Chamberlain’s screams could be a turn-off were it not for the intelligent songwriting that surrounds it and what at first agitates soon becomes a platform from which to jump off into the strange post-hardcore hypnotic state that their live performance has the power to take you to.
Lucky for everyone in attendance, security at the Hard Rock Live relaxed enough to allow the continuous crowd surfing that began within the breath of the first song (“Young And Aspiring”). This wasn’t the boot-in-the-face kind of crowd tumblers, it was an elated wave of young fans so happy they seemed fit to crawl out of their skin. Despite the heaviness of the music, there wasn’t a feeling of danger or rebellion in the building, but a feeling of euphoria that even the band seemed to have felt.
Addressing the reunion of the band — which includes Gillespie who hasn’t played with the band since 2010 — Spencer Chamberlain went on to say, “…one thing I’ve learned is that time heals all wounds… as a band, we have never felt as happy as we have on this tour.” The frontman also went on to credit the fans for the reunion, “every single day you guys were talking (online) about how much you missed Underoath, so, thank you for getting our band back together!”
Opening the show was a band of equal awe-inducing measure, the instrumental post rock phenoms, Caspian. With epic songs that flow from gorgeous passages into loud crashing crescendos, the Massachusetts sextet shot the crowd through with the musical equivalent of a runner’s high. Like a vocal-less Thrice, Caspian’s song structures are rooted in post rock and screamo, but branch out into territories that artists like Radiohead and Bjork frequent. It’s both ethereal and hard hitting.
Rather than play their intricate compositions, without vocals, beneath boring white lights the group used an expressive light show (and often, total darkness) to create a mood as mind altering as a Pink Floyd laser light show at the planetarium. Their latest album Dust and Disquiet was practically being given away for a “pay what you can afford” price and the method worked, they were down to their last couple of copies before the show had yet ended.
So what’s in store for the future of Underoath? Almost immediately following this trans-formative tour closing set Chamberlain hopped online and tweeted, “God what a great first tour back, can’t wait for the next UO tour. See ya on the road with Underoath.”
First Thrice gave fans a heads up that they were “taking a break from being a full-time band.” Then they gave ’em a Farewell Tour… and let them choose the setlist via their website. As if Thrice hadn’t already done enough for their most loyal of loyalists, they recorded select dates of that tour and released them as a double disc live album, complete with a photo booklet of shots from the tour.
What a bunch of great guys! Of course, they could’ve just not broken up, or whatever they wanna call it; that would’ve pleased the fans too!
“We were on a breeeeaaaaak!” as Ross from Friends would put it.
Perhaps because of the imminent vacation from touring that loomed on the horizon like the last day of school, Thrice were at their peak for this final tour, and the audiences were ravenous for one last blowout. The resulting double album — their second live release, after 2008’s Live at the House of Blues — is nothing short of a Thrice fan’s feast.
The setlist hits upon all of their eight albums, turning a 14-year career into a two-hour celebration of highlights. Every stage of Thrice’s career is present, from the early post-hardcore metal of “T & C,” a song that had long since been retired, but was “brought back for this tour, because you guys wanted to hear it,” through the experimental, conceptual period (“Daedalus,” “Digital Sea”) and the blues folk of “Come All You Weary.”
No Thrice performance would be complete without a good, solid collection of barn burners, and those are here in plenty. “Deadbolt,” “The Artist in the Ambulance,” “To Awake and Avenge the Dead,” “Phoenix Ignition” — you may not be able to see the sweat staining the floor, but you can practically smell it.
It’s a perfected setlist and a gorgeous compilation of performances, leaving little room for complaining… except for the whole hiatus thing. Where Dustin Kensrue, Teppei Teranishi, and Eddie and Riley Breckenridge will decide to funnel their musical energies in the future is anyone’s guess. So, I’ll just say it — what all we fans are thinking: when’s the reunion show scheduled to happen?
It’s a slippery slope from “hiatus” to “break-up,” but if that does end up being the fate of Thrice, at least they can say that they went out with a BANG!
Thrice say farewell.
After 14 years, the post hardcore-turned-experimental rock group has decided to take an indeterminate break “from being a full time band.” Rather than just surprise fans with the disappointing news and then ride off into the proverbial sunset, they’re making the rounds one last time on The Farewell Tour. AND they’ve compiled setlists based upon polls on their website, letting the fans choose what songs of their eight+ albums make the cut. The result is a sort of greatest hits, 24-song set that spans the many faces/phases of Thrice’s long and underrated career.
It’s too bad they didn’t let the fans choose the opening bands. O’Brother was decent, if not a little boring to watch, but their murky, grunge growls and nineties revamping never quite pulled together. The raw elements were there, but the Atlanta band just ran through the Pearl Jam and Tool-isms and soaked it in a marinade of Thrice’s melodic hardcore. The result was unoriginal.
Animals as Leaders’ Matt Garstka
For all the flaws I found in O’Brother, I would’ve gladly stood through another 30 minutes of them in exchange for having to wait through Animals as Leaders’ Dream Theater-y pretentiousness. As musicians, the instrumental trio are absurdly skilled. Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes both confuse the finish off of their eight-string guitars (because six strings aren’t enough for these guys!), and brand new drummer Matt Garstka is a freakin’ machine on the drums — actually, him, I could have watched and listened to without complaint. The trouble was that the pair of guitarists played like snobs, and appeared to be bored onstage. So you’re a wizard on the guitar, whoop-dee-do. Be a session player, don’t be in a band meant to entertain onstage if you really don’t want to put in the effort to even look like you want to be there.
Bring on the main attraction, already!
It’s a bittersweet evening, watching what will most likely be the last time seeing a band we’ve come to love over the course of a decade. It must be equally as difficult for Thrice, who have to essentially say “goodbye” every night for two months to a roomful of strangers who are emotionally attached to their auditory blood, sweat, and tears.
Frontman Dustin Kensrue has never been a real chatty fella onstage, and this time is no different. Beyond the occasional comment (as when he, ever so sarcastically, thanked an anonymous patron for tossing an empty beer can onstage), Kensrue, guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge and drummer Riley Breckenridge just ate their way through one monstrous fire starter to another.
For as many years as I’ve been following this band, even as their albums have taken on more subtle, experimental — even electronic — tones and become less screamo in their aggression, the old fans have always demanded the earlier, mosh-inducing works. So a setlist compiled with fans’ interests in mind is, of course, packed full of those nosebleed ragers.
“Image of the Invisible,” “Deadbolt,” “To Awake and Avenge the Dead,” “The Messenger” and “Silhouette,” were just a handful of the songs that got the sweat dripping off of those that passed over hands, heads, and happy faces. Their melodic hardcore highlights, “The Artist in the Ambulance,” “In Exile,” and “The Weight,” bridge the gap for those not fully on board for Kensrue’s emotionally throat-tearing screams. And then there rest the more recent, thoughtful slow burners that create atmosphere above and beyond that of spilled blood and testosterone.
Calm during the storm
“Daedalus” (“We were really happy that you guys chose this one,” Kensrue said), “Red Sky,” and “Digital Sea” gave the night — and the band — credibility not usually bestowed upon post-hardcore acts. They closed out with with the textured “Beggars,” a song that Radiohead could have written, before taking a breather to then return for a first, and then SECOND, encore! A new song, “Anthology,” off of their most recent album (last?) Major/Minor is the last song the band Thrice played for a not-nearly-ready-for-it-to-end Orlando audience.
Thrice’s many Orlando fans
If this is, indeed, the end, then thanks be sent to the four masterminds that call(ed) themselves Thrice. It’s been a privilege seeing you play.
Like The Flaming Lips, who played Orlando’s House of Blues just a week before them, Circa Survive also send their fans home with pockets full of confetti. Confetti canons and chaotic lighting, that’s where the similarities between the two bands end. Circa Survive, an indie emocore band turned major label prog rock experience, are touring behind their third release Blue Sky Noise.
They brought a slew of bands with them on their colorful carnival ride of a tour, but — thanks to Orlando traffic — I missed Animals as Leaders and the newly reunited Codeseven. I swung through the doors just in time to catch the sorely underrated Dredg.
Dredg’s Gavin Hayes
Shelve this band alongside Thrice and Portugal. The Man, for it is another demonstration of a band that has successfully outgrown its emo trappings to become a band of note. Boldly stepping into territory not usually visited by the likes of modern rock bands, Dredg takes influence from artistic avenues as varied as experimental prog rock bands, high art, sleep disorders, and Salman Rushdie (whose essay “Imagine There Is No Heaven: A Letter to the Six Billionth Citizen” inspired their latest album, The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion).
Dredg’s Dino Campanella
Their sound is as layered as their influences, refusing to be locked into any one frame. During the course of their 45 minutes onstage their loud/quiet moods shift from jammy instrumentals to blistering rock to worldly rhythms and back again. Vocalist and sometimes guitarist (and even lap steel slide guitarist) Gavin Hayes has got one of those voices that can be as welcoming as a warm hug and then seques into a full passionate yearning that exudes power without resorting to a scream. As integral to the music and feel of Dredg’s live sound is drummer Dino Campanella. The body built pounder begins splashing his drumset with sweat by the second song to a degree that gives one pause to ponder, is he ok?!. Throwing his weight into unpredictable beats, his viciously aggressive approach to drumming feels remarkably improvisational.
Actually, everything about Dredg feels spontaneous, as when Hayes had a guitar malfunction and rather than grab for another he set it aside and changed pace by going into a completely different song. Their set was as loosely structured as it was tightly executed.
Before the headliner’s stage set was even halfway assembled (complete with a pair of massive walls of lights and a backdrop depicting the cover of their latest record), the crowd was already on the verge of crying out for the show to begin… and for front man Anthony Green to begin his evening-long tease of staying just inches out of reach of the outstretched arms of ecstatic fans.
Circa Survive has, in a very short time, gone from being the small print opening act on tours top billed by the likes of Thrice or Coheed & Cambria, to nearly selling out the House of Blues on its own merit. They’ve been calling Atlantic Records home for the past two records, and their music has gotten more accessible since the move to the majors. For some bands this would be a criticism; for Circa Survive it’s a compliment. All of the excess baggage has been sanded down and the songs that remain feel cleaner, more melodic, and allow the focus to be the impressively high range emotive vocals of Green.
Circa Survive’s Anthony Green
It’s no surprise, then, that the band not only opens up with the first three songs off of the new album, but proceeds to play almost the entire thing through the course of the night. The older tunes like “Living Together,” and the epically soaring “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is in the Dose ” garner the usual hysteria reserved for songs that have had a few years to breathe, but the Blue Sky Noise numbers are the ones that really sail across the airwaves.
As the night goes on, Green’s trademark flailing-about dances onstage and face-reddening wailing drench his shirt beyond repair. “I see some glistening cheeks out there,” he tells the audience, “but they could glisten a lot more. You guys should be sweating as much as I am!”
By the time of the encore, another trio from the new album, there was plenty of glistening on the bodies of the fans who gathered bits of confetti in their pockets before shuffling out into the Florida night.
Frank Turner may just be one more hardcore kid who decided to soothe his vocal chords and pick up an acoustic guitar to bare his soul to the masses, but this dude was in a band that most folks have never heard of. Million Dead? Ring a bell? A little Googling reveals that they existed for about 5 years, way on the other side of the Atlantic (in the UK, that is). Unlike his acoustic punk cronies — Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music, Dustin Kensrue of Thrice, Jim Ward of Sparta to name but a few — Turner has the advantage of moderate anonymity. His Epitaph debut Poetry of the Dead is not without its flaws, but these slight slips are charming in their sincerity.
Switching between coffee shop crooning to tambourine-shakin’ blue collar rock, he keeps the mood lively and comes off like a cross between Flogging Molly, Billy Bragg, and Rise Against’s acoustic work. At the core of Turner’s poetry is a Celtic flavor that will satisfy the Guinness drinkers in the midst, and lyrics like Stand up, Sons of Liberty/ And fight for what you own/ Stand up, Sons of Liberty/ Fight Fight for your homes (from “Sons of Liberty”) are sure to inspire a shout-along or twenty in the bars across the land.
Thrice are not the band they used to be. They’ve always played about three steps ahead of their teammates on the field of posthardcore/screamo, but with Beggars they’ve walked off that field entirely.
The transition that began with 2005’s Vheissu, and blossomed with the ambitious quadruple album The Alchemy Index, has been completed. Thrice should no longer be disregarded as just another young, emocore outfit, from here on out the underappreciated foursome are a genre-less band. After experimenting with different facets of the Thrice personality on their last endeavor (The Alchemy Index was broken up into four discs to represent each element of nature and their musical approach changed accordingly), they’ve strengthened the core of their sound in a way that feels much more solid than anything they’ve done thus far.
Beggars showcases the band’s roots as an aggressive band keen on allowing Dustin Kensrue’s from-the-gut screams to ride high above the driving rhythms and melodic guitar riffs of Teppei Teranishi (who also produced the album), while also allowing more room than ever for the band’s spacier, somewhat progressive rock side to bloom. It’s in the way these two polar opposites come together within the same song, as on “The Weight,” “Doublespeak,” and “In Exile,” that the new face of the band shows best. And when they slow it down even further, as they do on “Circles,” Kensrue sings them into serene Mute Math territory.
Comfortable and confident, completely unafraid of losing a portion of the fanbase that just wants them to remake 2002’s mosh-churning The Illusion of Safety, Thrice’s sixth (or, technically seventh, since their last album was released in two parts) album is their so-far opus. This is the record that should weed out the nonfans, as well as usher in a whole new legion of listeners who may have previously ignored them.
Rise Against is currently heading up an all-star tour alongside marquee-level bands like Alkaline Trio, Thrice, and The Gaslight Anthem. It’s their biggest, and best, tour to date and it’s selling out shows all over the country. Hours before they were set to take the stage at Orlando’s House of Blues, I sat down for a chat with the band’s drummer Brandon Barnes on the Chicago punks’ immaculate tour bus.
Let me ask you about this amazing lineup for the tour. Did you guys play a role in choosing these bands?
Yeah, we always have total control over the lineup. The list of bands that we want to tour with, and can still tour with, gets shorter and shorter each year, but this one just came together. It’s been a great time. We’ve known Thrice and Alkaline Trio for years, and have toured with them, and the Gaslight guys are great and their band’s amazing. It’s definitely one of the best tours we’ve ever done.
It’s a unique one because everyone on the bill can do their own headlining tours. Does that create some friendly competition on the road?
Yeah, there’s always friendly competition, ya know? It’s great. The kids are there (at the show) from the first band, all the way through. Usually, if we headline, kids file in throughout the night, but now the house is already packed even for Gaslight. That’s been interesting to see — every band gets the full crowd.
When you play the new songs off of Appeal to Reason right up next to the old ones can you hear the evolution in your sound?
Especially on this tour, yeah. We’re playing some stuff off of our first record and it sounds like a completely different band even though it’s still Rise Against. We’ve been together so long, and we’re better at our instruments and better at songwriting, so it’s evolved into something.
You’ve also been through a few guitarists over the years. Does your approach to drumming change as a new guy comes in?
Not too much, but every time we get a new guitar player it — obviously — has an effect on the band. Zach’s (Blair) a perfect fit because he picks real hard and plays real hard, which is good for the drums. He plays more like an old punk guitar player, he’s got a lot of power. It’s been good having him in the band.
Barnes and Mcllrath onstage
He did some time in Gwar, which I can hear a bit in the guitar parts on this record.
Yeah, yeah! He can play some metal! We all sort of grew up listening to metal.
The band has always been politically involved whether it be talking about the war, the importance of voting, or animal rights. It’s something that you are all very passionate about, or does a lot of that stem from Tim (Mcllrath)?
No, we’re all into it which is probably why we can all still hang out together after all these years. We have the same politics, we’re all vegetarian… we all enjoy it, it keeps the band new. It’s fun to use the fact that we can reach out to all of these people in a good way, and try to educate people on animal torture and animal rights, educate them on the election and get them to vote — no matter how they’re voting. Using that (power) wisely is fun.
With the elections a week away at this point, is that affecting the set list each night?
Well, we’re playing “Hero of War,” which is an acoustic song on the new record. It’s powerful — it’s true stories from soldiers about things that these poor young kids that are going over there are getting themselves into. Sometimes we’ll get negative reactions to it, we’ll have someone come up and say, “you hate my cousin who’s in the military.” We don’t hate the military, we’re not anti-military. The song is true stories. These kids join the military, and are sort of brainwashed and they become these soldiers. Most of the soldiers do a great job, but some of them end up in these situations where they do horrible things that they’re going to regret for the rest of their lives. We play that song every night.
We also have the IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War, at some of our shows. We’re hoping that will, maybe, help kids figure out who they want to vote for. You know, you’ve got a guy like McCain who wants to be over there for 50 more years. Maybe they’ll think about where they want this war to go.
Is it hard, mentally, to play a song like that every night?
We’re proud to do that song and talk about what’s going on over there. Like with the IVAW — these are kids who went over there and actually saw what was going on, firsthand. I don’t think that the mass public really pays attention to what’s going on over there. I think the media masks a lot of what’s really happening. So if we can play a song like that and make people think then we’re glad to do it.
Let’s talk a bit about the “Re-Education (Through Labor)” video. Is the violence in that video (which includes groups of kids setting a city on fire) metaphorical, or are you channeling your inner Tyler Durden?
The video is about what happens when you leave people no options. Obviously we’re not saying to go out, build a bomb, and blow shit up, but when there’s peaceful protest for years and years and the government just ignores it… the government is supposed to be here to help us and to steer us in the right direction and they’re not. They’re failing us and ignoring the masses, so it’s a video about the crazy things that people do when they’re left with no options.
Do you think that a revolution, not necessarily a violent one, is long overdue?
Yeah, for sure. I don’t know who that revolutionary will be. Obama is a step in the right direction, but I don’t think he’s perfect. I think it’s time for a drastic change… This Iraq war has been long, it’s one of the longest wars in our country’s history. We’re fortunate enough to go overseas and we talk to our fans in Europe, and other places, and they just look at us (U.S.A.) in such a different light after the whole Iraq thing. We’ve just gone over there and fucked it up so bad.
On a lighter topic, several years ago you portrayed Black Flag in the film Lords of Dogtown. How did that come about, and what was that Hollywood experience like?
The woman who directed the movie (Catherine Hardwicke) polled a bunch of kids in the Southern California area to see who they’d like to see get that part, and we were picked. We know Bill Stevenson — he does our records and played drums with Black Flag for a little bit, and we listened to Black Flag when we were kids — still do, really. That was a cool opportunity. If we were gonna do a movie, which we don’t ever do stuff like that, it seemed like the perfect one to do.
It was cool to see how those movies are made, it was a good experience. I’m in the part for, like, one second (laughs).
Are you comfortable with your increasing popularity, or are you nostalgic for the days when you were just a struggling unknown band in Chicago?
Well, the day our record came out we did a secret show in Boston and there were about 150 people there. It was a tiny room, just packed in. Those shows are always fun, but I also love the big shows. It’s been interesting. It’s been so gradual though, we’ve gotten bigger over a period of eight years while riding around in a van, touring everywhere. It’s been comfortable. We still love the small shows though and will continue to play them whenever we can, just for fun.
There are albums that can take a dozen visits to sink in, and then there are the ones that are as immediate as an adrenaline shot to the heart. Rise Against’s Appeal to Reason is one of the latter.
From the first chords of the quintessential, lapel-grabbing opening track, “Collapse (Post-Amerika),” the band’s fifth studio release is fit to bursting with the impossibly catchy punk rock upon which Chicago has built a solid reputation, yet this release finds their sound expanding. The Rise Against that fans have held dear to their hearts for nearly a decade may be evolving into a full-fledged rock band, but their purity of vision is once more captured with the help of producer Bill Stevenson. The four-chord choruses are still there, though colored ever so slightly with the occasional metal riff thanks, in part, to the addition of new guitarist Zach Blair who did a three-year stint as Flattus Maximus in Gwar! Frontman Tim Mcllrath’s tongue-tangling lyrics still manage to hug the curb between angry revolutionary and romantic visionary without ever losing their sincerity or sing-ability. At the heart of it all is a band that has continued in the foot steps of Bad Religion.
While Rise Against continues up the escalator to mainstream success, the band not only stays true to its voice, but hints at feelings of trepidation toward the idea of getting too popular. The carousel-flavored punk track “Entertainment” talks about the downside of fame from the perspective of the claustrophobic performer who’s being told what to do, what to say, where to be, and when to be there. The theme recurs on “Audience of One” when Mcllrath’s enigmatic words paint a nostalgic picture of the time we all can remember, before the responsibilities of a time-consuming job made us all plow through life in overdrive.
In the midst of all of the album’s radio-friendly punk rock hits there sits a heart-wrenching acoustic song called “Hero of War.” Inspired by the documentary The Ground Truth, the song compiles various stories of soldiers’ experiences of going to, serving in, and returning home from the Iraq War. It’s a gorgeous and sensitive protest song that may surprise a lot of fans who are used to Mcllrath’s aggressive and angry approach to the topic of war and government on previous releases. It’s also the album’s crown jewel.
In keeping with the band’s ever present activism, thought provoking quotes from Gandhi, Thoreau, Picasso, and the Declaration of Independence frame the lyrics inside the album’s booklet, and the entire package is printed with vegetable inks on recycled paper.