rise-against[xrr rating=2.25/5]Rise Against is a hard band to properly review. They’re a bit like AC/DC, both have undeniably great singles, but they’ve basically been making the same album over and over again since their inception. The Black Market is more of the same. Rise Against do their brand of self-righteous punk well, and The Black Market isn’t a weak album, but it’s filled with their usual tricks, and it begs the question: will Rise Against ever evolve?

The band has previously shown some branching out, especially on the surprisingly tender 2009 single “Audience of One,” but The Black Market only has one track that bucks their steadfast trends. The Black Market’s straightforward path is one made of rapid 4/4 beats, generic guitar work and lyrics from Tim McIlrath that try to incite revolution but are also fairly vague. Only a few songs here are subpar on their own, but in a full album frame, each song is indistinguishable from the last. In that subpar category comes “Tragedy + Time,” “The Eco-Terrorist in Me” and “Methadone.” The major key romp of “Tragedy + Time” has McIlrath over-emoting on “the time we had,” and the guitar riff that holds the chorus is snore worthy. The sudden shifts in “The Eco-Terrorist in Me” don’t gel together, as the abrasive verses can’t make a cohesive piece with the Bad Religion-style choruses, and the soaring harmonies that come in feel jarring after McIlrath’s yelling in the verses. “Methadone” never gets off the ground, building too little energy in the verses for the chorus to reach the heights it aims for.

Rise Against do pull off a few songs that are solid pieces of motivational punk. Opening track, “The Great Die-Off,” has rapid fire bass work from Joe Principe, one of the few times he gets to show off. It’s a mosh-ready track, but the best song on The Black Market is “People Live Here,” an acoustic detailing of the horror and stupidity of religious wars. “My god is bigger than yours,” mummers McIlrath as a well-composed string section fades in. With the continuous and devastating fighting in Gaza, the song is sadly timely.

As for the rest of the album, what can I say? It’s all the same. Outside of the five I’ve listed, the other seven tracks are completely interchangeable. If it wasn’t for McIlrath screaming the title on these songs, it would be impossible to tell them apart. The same punk drum lines, the same chugging guitars and the same, nearly unheard bass lines. These songs could have been released on any Rise Against album. The only thing that makes tracks like “Sudden Life” or “Zero Visibility” different from the work they made over a decade ago is the polished production, which isn’t always a great thing to push to the front in hardcore. The Black Market has fun, mosh-inciting punk tracks, but overall Rise Against have chosen stagnation.

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