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Rise Against - The Black Market Album Cover

Rise Against - The Black Market

Reviewed by
6.1
Rise Against - The Black Market
Record Label: Interscope/DGC Records
Release Date: July 15, 2014
I would like to preface this review with two statements: firstly, I am a big Rise Against fan. Secondly, I greatly enjoyed the band's last two albums, Appeal to Reason and Endgame, the two albums which some fans decry as "radio rock" and the like. I say this partly to counter accusations of bias, and partly because I want to make one thing clear: the reason The Black Market gets the score it does is because the album is disorganised and inconsistent, not because of any personal dislike of its sound.

Album opener "The Great Die-Off" begins with a short string section before Brandon Barnes' familiar drums kick in. What becomes readily apparent from the start is that lead singer Tim McIlrath's voice is rejuvenated and he is fully ready to show it off: on the opener alone he varies from angry snarls to soft melodies and back again by the song's end as he rails against the stubbornness of neo-conservatives and their holding back of social progress. After Endgame, in which his attempts to reach high notes outside of his range proved distracting, he appears to have found a more comfortable register, though it may anger some fans that his vocals, and indeed the song, lack the unrelenting urgency of previous openers.

Leading on from this, the primary issue is that the album can't decide how aggressive it wants to be. A good example is "A Beautiful Indifference", which starts with a loud bass riff and McIlrath angrily yelling "There's a struggle coming / But to conquer first they must divide". Unfortunately a slow pre-chorus, with an indulgent turn from the backing vocalists, sucks the pace out of the song. This frustration rears its head throughout, as the band's attempts to include additional elements such as backing vocals and strings prove more distracting than anything else, either stopping a hardcore rhythm, as here, or interrupting a soft chorus, as on the gentler "Sudden Life".

On the other hand, there are songs such as "Methadone", which has no pretences of being hardcore and is all the better for it, building instead from a slow start to a beautiful final chorus as McIlrath asks "What will it take for you to notice? I am a hand grenade, pin already pulled so don't get close". The lyrics, in fact, are a huge positive for the album and are a return to form for McIlrath after the somewhat forced Appeal to Reason and the rushed, and at times predictable, Endgame. The band have spoken in interviews about being more introspective on this album and it really shows, with the highlight of the album being sure-fire single “Tragedy+Time,” examining the impact of profound tragedies and human reactions to them.

The problem is that the music gives those lyrics little to hang off, as the band cannot decide whether they want to be faithful to their hardcore roots or expand in a melodic punk direction, which means that few of the songs actually develop and flow. "The Black Market" switches from an emotional appeal from the perspective of a human trafficking victim to a punk riff with an almost audible "clunk", while "Zero Visibility" combines the most aggressive guitar-work on the album and one of McIlrath's signature screams with a ploddingly slow chorus which completely kills any energy formerly present. Album closer "Bridges" tries to build the necessary drama, with crashing drums and All vocalist Chad Price turning up to provide backing vocals. It succeeds to a degree, but when the song ends in what sounds like the middle of a chorus, the only reaction it begs is: "Is that it?"

There is a pattern on Rise Against records - the odd numbered albums feature the band trying newer things, and on the next record they build on the previous album's sound. The problem with The Black Market (LP #7, for those not keeping score) is that it is difficult to work out what the experiment is. It alternates - literally, due to the oddly-paced tracklisting - between hardcore rhythms and slow choruses, between gentle emotion and aggressive punk riffs, but sadly what it never does is mesh into a cohesive whole. The experimental elements might be better next time around, and the album's highlights are as good as ever, but too much of the album is missed potential.

Recommended If You LikeThe last third of Endgame, especially "This Is Letting Go"; Linkin Park's slower songs
This review is a user submitted review from tomtom94. You can see all of tomtom94's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 19
06:28 AM on 08/06/14
#2
Anthony Sorendino
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Really great review. One of the best I've read in a while.
02:55 AM on 08/08/14
#3
theartofbreakng
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I've given up on Rise Against.
11:51 AM on 08/10/14
#4
PetitnaindesÎles
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I have yet to listen to the album, but this review could nearly apply to Endgame in my mind. Once this band messes with different time signatures, everything goes wrong again.
12:20 PM on 08/10/14
#5
suicidalmoose
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This was the first record by Rise Against that I couldn't get into. I downloaded it, listened to a few songs, and they did absolutely nothing for me. I gave it a few other attempts, still nothing, and, in fact, the more I listened to album the more upset I got, and I couldn't figure out why these songs would be so upseting. They somehow lacked cohesiveness, felt hollow, it's hard to explain. Even in Endgame and in Appeal to Reason, which I found underwhelming, each song was solid, there was an idea behind each one of them, they knew what they were doing. In contrast, in Black Market each song seems a mess. There are as many good moments as details that throw me off.

I tried to Google reviews on the album, to see if someone would have an idea of what's wrong with it, and to my surprise they were all positive. So I am really pleased to have read this review, it was the only one that I found that really nailed it, well done, man.
01:44 PM on 08/10/14
#6
saintnumberfive
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I've been waiting for this band to grow and evolve. They never will. Appeal was the last album of theirs I love.

*washes hands*
01:48 PM on 08/10/14
#7
lovemetal24
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Methadone is the best song by far
02:49 PM on 08/10/14
#8
tomtom94
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Cheers for all the kind words! Just a couple of things I wanted to add but had to cut for space:
1) The worst culprit by far is Brandon Barnes; his drumming has regressed in both speed and variety, which holds the rest of the album back.
2) "Awake Too Long" is the very definition of filler. "People Live Here", the acoustic number, is similarly forgettable.
3) I would recommend "Methadone", "The Eco-Terrorist..." and "Tragedy + Time" as individual downloads.
4) The album it most reminds me of is The Unraveling, not so much musically as in the way that that album sounded confused and rough, only showing glimpses at what the band are really capable of.

Really great review. One of the best I've read in a while.
Thanks very much! First review here, so much appreciated.

I have yet to listen to the album, but this review could nearly apply to Endgame in my mind. Once this band messes with different time signatures, everything goes wrong again.
Endgame, for me, was a good album held back from greatness because of two reasons: the band were stuck in their comfort zone, and they needed a rest. This is the opposite; the band are rejuvenated, but their experiments are unfocused.

This was the first record by Rise Against that I couldn't get into. I downloaded it, listened to a few songs, and they did absolutely nothing for me. I gave it a few other attempts, still nothing, and, in fact, the more I listened to album the more upset I got, and I couldn't figure out why these songs would be so upseting. They somehow lacked cohesiveness, felt hollow, it's hard to explain. Even in Endgame and in Appeal to Reason, which I found underwhelming, each song was solid, there was an idea behind each one of them, they knew what they were doing. In contrast, in Black Market each song seems a mess. There are as many good moments as details that throw me off.

I tried to Google reviews on the album, to see if someone would have an idea of what's wrong with it, and to my surprise they were all positive. So I am really pleased to have read this review, it was the only one that I found that really nailed it, well done, man.
I'm glad someone else feels the same way haha! I thought I was the only one as well, stunned by the level of the feedback (though not entirely surprised it's positive) - partly wrote this review just because I wanted to get it off my chest, so I'm glad to see I'm not alone, at least.
02:52 PM on 08/10/14
#9
randys950
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This album isnt as bad as endgame...I really liked several songs off this album. Personally, I wish there were a few more heavier moments on the record. Tragedy+Time is the best song off The Black Market though.
04:23 PM on 08/10/14
TSLataris
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Listened to the full record once through.

Eco-Terrorist & Tragedy + Time are the only songs I've listened to since.
05:16 PM on 08/10/14
Steeeve Perry
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Great review.
I'm a huge Rise Against fan and like this album more than you, though I agree on a lot of the points you make. I think this album is most like Appeal to Reason. Super polished and well executed, but only half of the songs are better than average and there's at least one real clunker (here it's Sudden Life; ATR had Strength To Go On).

Tragedy+Time would definitely make a great single but is not my favourite track. Eco-Terrorist is probably the best song they have written this decade, and Methadone is right up there. Also really like Zero Visibility, which I think nails the hard rock (with some punk influence, but not punk rawk) sound they swung for and missed on Broken Mirrors from Endgame.

Black Market, Awake Too Long and Bridges are all album-worthy but not outstanding.

I've found this has more replay value than their previous two but of course it can't stack up to the holy trinity of RPM, Siren Song and Sufferer -- still three of the best albums of the century so far.
05:19 PM on 08/10/14
Steeeve Perry
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Oh, and yeah, Tim has some of that passion back. Not back to the yelling style of the early days, but definitely more grit. I think they just polished his rough edges off way too much on the previous records. The most noticeable leap was from Siren Song to Sufferer. It took me forever to get over how much cleaner the vox were.
05:20 PM on 08/10/14
falconate
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Four words to describe this album: Rise Against by numbers. There was nothing about it that differentiated it at all from their past few records. If I want this sound, I'll just listen to Endgame.
06:39 PM on 08/10/14
WhatJulianSaid
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I feel like this is just how it's going to be from here on out, ever since I saw them on the bad religion tour they kind of kill it for me. They had those lame portable mics,dressed like three doors down and pranced around the stage like I can't even explain this "a typical radio rock band" but ever since that I could never listen to them again the same. TSATW was one of my favorite albums just because it was such a game changer for me when I was younger. They really grew as a band and opened my mind, I was really into a lot of punk and hated what the "emo" movement was at the time. This album really changed everything for me and got me to go to warped tour in 06' and because of that I was exposed to so many bands I never heard of or cared for.
04:55 AM on 08/11/14
MrSark
Im Zweifel für den Zweifel
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Cheers for all the kind words! Just a couple of things I wanted to add but had to cut for space:
1) The worst culprit by far is Brandon Barnes; his drumming has regressed in both speed and variety, which holds the rest of the album back.

Can't really fault him for that though. If you watch their behind the scenes and making of videos, it shows how much influence Stevenson and Livermore had on the record, especially the drumming.
And besides, speeding up things wouldn't have helped the songs anyway, as they were I suppose composed to be at the speed they are at.

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