Over the course of the last few albums, we’ve seen Rise Against stray from the sharp-edged punk rock band to a softer, toned-down mainstream rock group. Just when they started to feel like they were growing tame, we have Wolves.
Rise Against has always been a politically-charged band, and this definitely hasn’t changed with Donald Trump’s America. Wolves returns to the political urgency and emotional power that we saw in Siren Song of the Counter Culture and The Sufferer and the Witness. Their anger and discontent with our current political climate shows strongly in this album, and that seems to be when Rise Against seems to be at their best (even if you don’t necessarily always agree with their views).
The title track, “Wolves,” comes first on the album. From the first second of the track, Tim McIlrath’s powerful, raspy voice set over fast, pounding drums that almost overpower the guitar. Even though he’s almost 40, Tim’s voice is still amazing and gruff. It’s easy to find the band’s common political undertones in the lyrics, but at the same time, it can be taken as a powerful inspirational song about waking up and being ready to kick some ass.
“Welcome To The Breakdown” is where the album really picks up. The track opens with fast, distorted guitar, that is quickly joined by a pulsing drum track. Tim’s voice comes in with his politics, basically telling Trump that even though the country is falling apart, we aren’t going anywhere. In the sixth track, “Bullshit,” we can really feel Tim’s voice going hard, giving it everything he has: He’s angry. He’s pissed off. Everything happening right now is bullshit.
Towards the end of the album, we have “Miracle.” This track is a call-to-arms to the people of the country: “But we don’t need miracles to tumble from the sky / To part the seas around us or turn water into wine / Because we are the miracles, we happen all the time.” If we want change, we need to be the change. Plus, the track has a pretty cool bass/rhythm groove that definitely caught me off-guard.
Missing from the album are the acoustic ballads (Fans of “Swing Life Away” and “People Live Here” shouldn’t expect anything like this).
I’ve always been a big fan of The Black Market, even though it never felt like it was the same band as previous albums. I’ll admit, there was a part of me that was hoping for another Black Market, even though deep down, I knew I really wanted another Sufferer. While Wolves gives us a glimpse back into the angry, politically-charged punk rock Rise Against of yesteryear, it doesn’t quite hit the mark set by The Sufferer and the Witness, which is now 11 years old. The album does pull through with something sincere and meaningful and powerful, right when we need it.