Originally written on March 24, 2011
So today I review Rise Against's latest album Endgame. I'll start this by giving my overall opinion on Rise Against. I really like their first 2 albums (The Unraveling and Revolutions Per Minute) but anything after that is a mixed bag for me. It's not to say I find the albums bad, but that they're just uneven. There's always a few songs that I like, but starting with Siren Song of The Counterculture there are always a good number of songs that I either find boring, or outright dislike. As it turns out, Endgame is no different.
Track 1: Architects
Rise Against have made it a habit of giving each album opener a fast-paced, building intro that they can use to start off shows, and Architects are no different. They also have a habit of taking a fast-paced, bombastic song and slowing it down in the last 1/3 in order to give Tim McIlrath time to show off his pipes. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it can all but ruin a song (I'm looking at you Worth Dying For). Thankfully this is a case of the former. With callbacks to lyrics from their earlier songs, they also have a shout out to Against Me! and their song I Was A Teenage Anarchist. This is definitely a good way to start the album, filled with energy and hype and promising a powerful performance from McIlrath.
Track 2: Help Is On The Way
The second track unfortunately doesn't follow up well from Architects. It's one of those songs I mentioned before that are just kind of boring. There's some good bits, especially McIlrath's screams about 2 minutes into it, but overall it's just kind of one note, and in all honesty sounds like a song that didn't make the cut on their last album Appeal To Reason. Lyrically it's also pretty behind the times. It's about the slow reaction when it came to aiding the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It's thankfully not a generic "Republicans are evil" song that the band has put out in the past, but it just feels a little late to bring it up.
Track 3: Make It Stop (September's Children)
This is my favorite song off of Endgame and with good reason. It has some of the best guitar work on the album, McIlrath is in prime form with a voice full of emotion, and it has probably the most touching sentiments of the whole thing. As the title alludes, this song is about the Teenagers who committed suicide in September of 2010 as a result of homophobic bullying. The part I love about the song is that it isn't about placing blame, it's about getting rid of the system that caused it before it happens again, calling people who have been victimized to not give up, but to stand up for themselves ("It's always darkest just before the dawn, so stay awake with me, let's prove them wrong!") It's something that manages to be inspiring rather than just impotent anger, and I really enjoy it.
Track 4: Disparity By Design
After a song as great as Make It Stop it's a shame that it's followed by what ends up being a very forgettable song. It starts off pretty well, with a tempo similar to the opening of Architects but it feels kind of one note. McIlrath doesn't really deviate his voice until about 2 minutes in, when there's an enjoyable but terribly short bit of screaming that could have really improved the song. After that it's right back to the same as before, and I'm kind of bored, not liking the song enough to enjoy it, but not hating it enough to skip to the next track.
Track 5: Satellite
This track is a definite improvement from Disparity By Design, but it's again song that isn't that memorable. There's parts that I like, especially the first two verses, and the chorus has some good drum and guitar work, but overall it's nothing amazing and nothing that hasn't been done better on earlier albums. The last half of the song is rather dull, with the bridge just repeated a couple of times with some more wailing that quite honestly sounds whiny. It's got enough redeeming qualities to keep me listening, but nothing to really get me singing along.
Track 6: Midnight Hands
This is a pleasant little treat for the mid-point of the album. Right off the bat the guitar sounds hugely different from anything Rise Against has done on their last few albums. The song takes a big influence from hard rock and heavy metal songs, with more layered guitar riffs and a type of vocal delivery that McIlrath hasn't used since Revolutions Per Minute and it's definitely a good recovery after the disappointing previous songs. After Make It Stop it's definitely my favorite song off of Endgame.
Track 7: Survivor Guilt
This is another good track, partly because it uses another technique that Rise Against hasn't used in quite a while; soundbites. I'm not entirely sure where the soundbites are from, but they fit the song very well, giving one of my new favorite quotes ("You're a shamelessl opportunist! What you don't understand is that it's better to Die on your feet than live on your knees." "You've got it backwards. It's better to live on your feet than to die on your knees.") and the vocal delivery is very reminiscent on their older style, especially on the bridge. It's definitely more polished than the older albums, but at it's heart it's still got the same power as before.
Track 8: Broken Mirrors
This is another bit of a style shift, with the guitars sounding similar to, of all things, ZZ Top. It's got a bit of that southern rock vibe during most of the first half, and it keeps the same kind of groove throughout all of it. The chorus can be a bit boring, saved only by McIlrath channeling a lot of emotion into his voice during an otherwise unenthusiastic part of the melody. The ending is again a bit dull, but overall it's still an enjoyable heartfelt song that I never feel like skipping over.
Track 9: Wait For Me
This track, on the other hand, is pretty dull and lifeless. It starts off slow and kind of phoned in, and never really picks up after that despite guitarist Zach Blair's best attempts at adding some spice to the whole affair. Probably the only song I'll freely skip each time, due to it's rather lifeless melody. Nothing ever really changes or advances. It's pretty much just the same tempo and melody from beginning to end, so much that if I'm not paying attention I won't even realize that the song's over until the next comes on. Speaking of which...
Track 10: A Gentleman's Coup
This track more than makes up for it's uninteresting predecessor. From the start out it's loud, bombastic, and catchy. I've found my self several times throughout the day without even realizing it. The message of the song is about the viscous cycle of a revolution repeating the same mistakes of the regime it replaced ("We seize the throne, subjugate, we should have burned it to the ground.") and you can feel the passion the whole band has for what they're saying.
Track 11: This Is Letting Go
This is a song that took several listens to grow on me, but I eventually found myself really enjoying it. On my first listen to it, I was reminded far too much of the dull, phoned-in sounding songs off of Appeal To Reason that I always skip. Thankfully though, a few more listens got me to admit my initial reaction was unfair, and I started to get more into the whole thing. It's got a lot of the elements from songs like The Dirt Whispered and Kotov Syndrome, both of which are songs that I really liked, and the melody is really catchy. It's still not an amazing song, but a lot better than I originally gave it credit for.
Track 12: Endgame
Unfortunately, the album doesn't end on a very high note. The title track is another one of those songs that, while not bad, is just so "meh" that it really doesn't get a big reaction about me. At least some of the other dull tracks had some spots that I enjoyed. But this one just kinds of strikes me as background music. It's not offensive, but nor is it particularly impressive enough to leave much of an impression.
Overall, Endgame is a rather inconsistent album. There are some really good songs, even a couple that have made it into my all time favorites, but there's also a decent amount of tracks that just come off more as album filler than anything else. Still, if you've enjoyed Rise Against's last few releases, you'll definitely enjoy this one.