The Biggest Things In Melodic Hardcore
After receiving a great deal of criticism for 'selling out' when they signed to a major label, Rise Against having been trying hard to convince their fans that they're still the same band and can still make great records at the forefront of the melodic hardcore scene.
While there's no doubt that 'The Sufferer & The Witness' is a long way from 'The Unravelling' or 'Revolutions Per Minute', the album shows how the band have progressed and matured. The whole CD is a cohesive and compelling adrenaline ride as ever, but it feels like the songs are a lot more melody driven this time around. The record is much more immediate and accessible, which will open the band up to a lot more fans, even compared to their run away success 'Siren Song'.
The title of the album reflects the intense and passionate feel which runs through the lyrics. According to the band, with the way the media operates now we are able to view first hand the atrocities and disasters which happen around the world via our tv screens and computer monitors yet still we do nothing. The title refers to the sufferers we view and us as witnesses. The theme runs throughout with lyrics such as 'deep inside these burning buildings are voices dying to be heard' and the chilling 'if you see me just walk on by'. It's a compelling message delivered on a rock solid sledge hammer of honesty and integrity within the raucous yet tuneful vocals and hook laden 100mph guitar riffs.
There seems to be a lot of tempo and section changes within the songs on this album and some rather diverse songs, this might put some people off, but there should be enough hardcore moments to keep you happy even during the suspiciously emo parts. 'Prayer of the Refugee' (track 6) has a slow intro and verses seamlessly attached to much faster and powerful choruses. The band just about carry it off but on the first few listens it can seem very disjointed. You want to relax into the verses but as soon as you start to the chorus kicks in and you're left feeling a little disorientated. This is probably what the band was trying to achieve, it's the musical equivalent of a slap in the face: wake up and take notice! Once you've been bumped around you're rewarded with a seamless transition into Drones which is a classic straight up trademark Rise Against anthem.
'Roadside' (Track 11) seems to be this album's tuneful ballad. The band obviously saw the success of the beautiful acoustic recording of Swing Life Away and have gone all out this time recruiting a female backing vocalist and a rather lush sounding string quartet and solo cello. It is a little over the top but the song itself is actually pretty good and the tempo is immediately notched back up for the final three tracks on the album (and there's not a hint of cello).
The variety helps to break up the flow a little which is nice, and I think without those breaks you might start getting a bit bored or at least annoyed at the songs with the not-so-subtle tempo changes. There are moments of genius on this CD but also some which seem a little lacking. Still, there can be no doubt that 'The Sufferer & The Witness' is going to amass the band a whole new legion of fans and enough should stay loyal to keep Rise Against the biggest thing in melodic hardcore.