We all eventually grow up. It’s a fact of life, and it’s one that bands can’t shake, either. You can choose to fight time and continue to crank out the same type of music that you did when you were first starting out, or you can evolve and grow into a much different band. Rise Against, the band of Chicago rock (previously punk), chose to continue the process of maturation on its newest release, Endgame. Following 2008’s hit-or-miss Appeal To Reason, the band has gone further away from the hardcore punk sound that characterized its early albums and into the land of melodic rock. No song best exemplifies this than “Make It Stop (September’s Children),” a song filled more ohhs than the yells that singer Tim McIlrath used to unleash and with lyrics of hope rather than strong political statements. This is not to say that Endgame has lost its edge; more than that, it’s refined that edge and now it feels like Rise Against (after six albums) has settled on a cohesive and tight sound.
And it’s not like the group forgot how to bring the punk, either. The excellent “Disparity By Design” (which bears a strong resemblance to the previous album’s opener, “Collapse (Post Amerika)”) shows that few bands mix driving drum beats, complex chord structures, and yell-singing better than Rise Against. “Broken Mirrors” comes closest to forcing McIlrath (whose voice must be shot after years of anger and yelping) to recall the style that he first unleashed on 2001’s The Unraveling. In keeping with the tradition of ending the album with a soaring track, Endgame‘s second-to-last track, “This Is Letting Go”, shines as the best song on the album: with lyrics of moving on and growing past those who have hurt you, it also manages to be a break up song without driving the message in with a hammer.
There’s no way that fans of the band’s early work will enjoy Endgame in the same way as those first albums; it’s just too different. What can be expected from this newest LP is a melodic stroll through the music of a band that has changed and evolved throughout the past decade. No longer on the “right” side of 30, the boys/men of Rise Against have slowed their music, and in the process, have created a hell of a rock album.