After illustrating that they were more than capable of moving forward beyond their melodic hardcore foundations with Appeal To Reason and Endgame, The Black Market proves that Rise Against still has some more ground that they’d like to break and a few boundaries they still want to push. Such creative testing is always a dicey proposition, of course (willing to trample on the traditions of others, punks often resist change the most and scream “sell-out” the loudest), but the band clearly has an agenda to present as “The Great Die-Off” breaks The Black Market open with a weighty, angry stomp.
Rough and heavy-handed guitars are the governing principle here and really help focus the track’s direction, even if that direction is going to confuse fans with its uncharacteristically mid-tempo pacing. Even the most devoted Rise Against fans will find they need a minute to process what they’re hearing because, while they’re not standing still, the band hasn’t hit the ground running as fans are used to either.
The initial confusion generated by “The Great Die-Off” will become genuine concern for some listeners as “I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore” continues the mid-paced, laden movement, and singer Tim McIlrath offers up a far more “subservient” lyric sheet than anyone has heard from this band before (see lines like “On pins and needles we are waiting for the fall/ We count the days scratching lines on a wall/ Always there at someone’s beck and call” for a sample). Some will start to wonder what they’re hearing here, and fear exactly where the band intends to go.
By the time “Tragedy + Time” and The Black Market’s title track thunder their way through the album’s run-time, two things will be obvious: (first) The Black Market is not a hardcore record at all – it’s a hard rock record – and (second) this creative turn was intentional. In fact, The Black Market could easily be viewed as a culmination of the development Rise Against has being undergoing for the last six years. Understanding that doesn’t necessarily mean some fans WON’T scream bloody murder because Rise Against have changed, but understanding that MAY lead to some listeners appreciating the sound of Black Market and even commending it – even if it’s not what they were expecting.
Such dialogue as that above may seem as though this review is headed in a negative direction, but it really isn’t. True, The Black Market isn’t what fans expect of Rise Against, but there are definitely some great songs worth hearing here because the band doesn’t pander to its audience or punk’s unspoken desire for consistency, but does stick to its guns, knocks out a few surprises and makes a few believers with the results. Particular standouts like “Sudden Life,” “Beautiful Indifference,” “Zero Visibility” and “Awake Too Long” all mix some sounds previously foreign to Rise Against (careful listening reveals guitar riffs and patterns pulled from AC/DC, Urge Overkill and even Phil Campbell’s style in Motorhead) and refresh the band’s sound with a bit of new flavour which isn’t a complete change but is undeniably different.
After “Bridges” crashes out to close the album, those Rise Against fans who have gone front-to-back with The Black Market will find they’re left to decide what they’ve just heard and how they feel about it. Some will decide that that The Black Market sounds an awful lot like history repeating; just as their confessed forebears Black Flag, Rise Against is turning to harder rock for inspiration, but such comparisons are pretty superficial. While, yes, Black Flag looked to metal toward the end and Rise Against is obviously examining some harder sounds, they are clearly not abandoning hardcore completely here; rather, the band is aging and making music which reflects that. On The Black Market lies the proof that Rise Against isn’t interested in trying to live in a vacuum for listeners’ comfort; that may lose them a few fans, but it’s impossible to not respect that stance.
Rise Against – The Black Market – “I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore” – [mp3] http://www.groundcontrolmag.com/music/Rise_Against-I_Dont_Want_To_Be_Here_Anymore.mp3
Ground Control Magazine – Rise Against – [Discography Review] http://www.groundcontrolmag.com/detail/1/2433/
The Black Market is out now. Buy it here on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-Market-Rise-Against/dp/B00KSR4CWW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1408122722&sr=8-2&keywords=Rise+Against