originally posted on Saturday, 28 September 2013
Rise Against has climbed the ranks to being one of the biggest bands of the modern day. It wasn’t an easy road to get here, at least compared to some other of today’s biggest rock acts. Success wasn’t, and still isn’t, handed to the band on a silver platter; in fact, they still have a long way to go. They started off, as most bands, an independent who gathered enough of their own money to go and record a full length debut album The Unraveling, as well as a second album,Revolutions Per Minute.
These albums were not only different from each other (The Unravelling was from start to finish a hardcore punk album while Revolutions had slightly longer songs and a bit more melody) but they are also completely different from anything the band would ever release again. Their first major label release,Siren Song of the Counter Culture, started a more melodic punk sound for the band, while still very much maintaining a lot of heavy riffs and some harsh singing, still able to please the early fans, but with songs like arguably their biggest hit Swing Life Away, they gained new fans that would stick through the ever changing transition on the band’s sound.
I’ve heard the arguments regarding the band, whether they really are a punk band or not, because after their first three albums, lead vocalist Tim McIlrath got less and less harsh with his vocal approach, and for the next three albums, the band progressed more and more in to more mature, ear friendly sounding songs. I know plenty of “fans” who claim to love the band, but would only listen to the past three albums. That kind of pisses me off, so I can see why early fans don’t like calling the band “punk” anymore, but in reality, even with the music they perform now, the band is still a punk rock band, with their politically challenging lyrics and their remaining “Fuck you” attitude.
The bands most recent release on September 10th, Long Forgotten Songs: B-Sides & Covers (2000-2013) is a collection on B-Sides and covers all previously recorded and released separately, now released in one full set. The album was cleverly compiled; the first half of the album features, for the most part, features the more melodic songs recorded throughout the bands career, with the exception of a few songs like Grammatizator and Generation Lost. The second half of the album, for the most part, features songs from the more hardcore days of the band. Every song on the second half is under three minutes, and with the But Tonight We Dance which, though it is under three minutes, it is not a hardcore song.
The first official track from the album, Historia Calamitatum features the same familiar Rise Against sound that current fans like, as the song was recorded while recording the 2008 album Appeal to Reason. The next song, and first official single from the album Death Blossoms is also an Appeal to Reason outtake (as I find most of the first album are). This track features the screaming vocals of Tim McIlrath, which I never did say have gone away completely, he just chooses to use that vocal style less, as it is a limiting style of singing.
The remainder of original songs from the first half of the album include the gloomy and intense Elective Amnesia, the previously mentioned Grammatizatorand Generation Lost, Dirt and Roses, originally released on the Avengers Assemble soundtrack, an album I recommend picking up. The first half of the album also includes the fast paced Sight Unseen and the very well written Lanterns. A spotlight on the first half of the album is the acoustic version of the bands song Everchanging. The original version of this song was released on the bands hardcore debut. While it wasn’t the harshest song on the album, this acoustic song gives a terrific new perspective to the track.
The first half of the album, just like the second half, includes a few cover songs. Blind is a cover of the punk band Face to Face’s song. Musically the song stays true to the original, starting off softly but very quickly changing in to a heavy track. The difference, which like for Rise Against’s sake, is the vocals and much better, as Face to Face’s Trever Keith is a fully fledged punk singer, where Tim’s vocals are much more superior. Rise Against also covers the Bob Dylan track Ballad of Hollis Brown. Before hearing their cover, I had already known of another cover of the song, done by Nazareth. I always enjoyed how Nazareth turned the song completely into their own, only keeping the lyrics the same. Rise Against stays more true to the original, just turning it in to a bit of a punk song by adding a full band of instruments, making this another enjoyable listen. The last of the covers is a cover of the Nightmare Before Christmas song Making Christmas. This is the most interesting point of the album, because it is really great to hear the song turned in to a rock song, and for the fan who, for some reason, doesn’t know the original song, the band did an incredible job of making the song sound all around appealing to any listener.
The second half of the album starts off with the first song ever recorded by Rise Against. Join the Ranks is a good fast melodic hardcore track sounding just like the songs off of The Unravelling. Actually, I find this song to be better than just about anything off of their debut and wonder why they didn’t release it on the album. The second half of the album also includesVoices of Dissent, which was recorded much later on in the bands career which is why, while it is a melodic hardcore song, it sounds a bit different than the rest. There is also an early version of the bands song Give It All, which doesn’t sound too much different from the version that was recorded on their Siren Song album. Other original melodic hardcore songs includeObstructed View and Gethsemane, the latter of the two is now a bonus track on The Unravelling, so if you have that album, you may already know Gethsemane.
Covers on the second half of the album include a cover of Built To Last by legendary hardcore punk bandSick of it All, staying pretty true to the original. There is a cover of Little Boxes, a song from 1962 byMalvina Reynolds but best known as the theme song for the show Weeds. It starts off true to the acoustic vinyl sounding original until about 30 seconds in, when the band just goes all out punk on the song, topped with an “angry breakdown” at the end. The album has two other classic hardcore punk covers, a live recorded cover of Minor Threat by the band of the same name, and a cover of Black Flag’sNervous Breakdown.
The compilation then ends with four straight covers. This includes one last hardcore punk cover, Boy’s No Good, originally by Lifetime. Then there is an interesting cover of the Journey classic Any Way You Want It. There is nothing special to the song in respect to the fact that the band didn’t change much to the song, except for down tuning it. It is interesting to hear Tim McIlrath singing the song though. Nirvana’s Sliveris, but after having heard a few attempted covers of this song, I’m convinced that only Kurt Cobain could have ever pulled a song such as this one off.
The final cover and final song on the album is a live, eight-and-a-half minute cover of the Bruce Springsteen song The Ghost of Tom Joad. The song was played live for fun, as Tim says right before the song starts after including the three guest musicians on the album; Gaslight Anthem’s lead vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon, legendary proto-punk/proto-metal band MC5’s Wayne Kramer on guitar as well as Tom Morello (who REALLY got the crowd cheering). The song is good to listen to, especially if you like the original or don’t mind the heavy sounding Springsteen-esque sound of the song. It’s hard to go wrong with how to end a compilation such as this, so I think the chosen song was perfectly fine.
This compilation is terrific for existing fans of the band. As for people who have never listened to the band, I actually believe that this compilation wouldn’t be a bad way to be introduced by the band. It features just about every style of music the band has ever covered. One thing I really enjoy about the band is their ability to release many different styles of songs all in one album; acoustic, serious, angry, fast, even some fun songs are in their repertoire. I find that all of these styles are covered in this compilation of B-Sides. For existing fans, the booklet of the compilation reveals the original release dates of these songs and when soundtracks/EPs they were released on, which I found to be an interesting tidbit.
“Death Blossoms” – A compilation is never a good situation to pick a highlight from. The purpose of a compilation is to have an album full of highlights. Fortunately, unlike most compilations, this is not a Greatest Hits, so it doubles as a regular album release by the band. What further complicates the choice for a highlight, however, is the ever changing (no pun intended) sound on the album. I choose Death Blossoms because it has the sound of modern Rise Against songs, as it is a more modern song by them, but also has their hardcore roots perfectly in place.
8.5 (Out of 10)
|Blind (Face to Face cover)||2:34|
|Dirt and Roses||3:13|
|Ballad of Hollis Brown (Bob Dylan cover)||5:12|
|Making Christmas (A Nightmare Before Christmas cover)||3:27|
|Join the Ranks||1:29|
|Built to Last (Sick of It All cover)||1:55|
|Voice of Dissent||2:00|
|Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover)||1:29|
|Give It All||2:49|
|Minor Threat (Minor Threat cover)||1:40|
|But Tonight We Dance||2:47|
|Nervous Breakdown (Black Flag cover)||2:09|
|“Boy’s No Good” (Lifetime cover)||1:20|
|Any Way You Want It (Journey cover)||2:57|
|Sliver (Nirvana cover)||2:04|
|The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen cover)
(special guest musicians: Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer & Brian Fallon)