‘Endgame’ is bona fide awesomeness.
Given the amount of truly memorable, treasured songs they’ve written in their career, it almost seems odd that this is only Rise Against’s sixth album. They’re very much ensconced as venerable veterans. Having notched three Gold-certified albums in the US since leaving Fat Wreck for a major label, the Chicago quartet have never compromised in terms of lyrical or musical style and integrity. They’ve impressively evolved as recording artists and songwriters in this time, creating records that appeal to the masses but never pander to a trite concept or formula of what ‘should’ be popular. Put simply: they break the template of achieving mainstream success as a punk band. Having set such standards, it’s perhaps unsurprising that ‘Endgame’ is a brilliant record. It’s an album in which frontman Tim McIlrath delivers some of his most compelling lyrical work. It’s an album drenched in hugely anthemic, melodic movements that could bring stadium crowds to a frenzy while never deviating from a punk blueprint. Opening with ‘Architects’, a galloping punk rock song with a typically catchy chorus and rabble-rousing middle eight about retaining youthful idealism, McIlrath sings the line: “Do you remember when you were young, how you wanted to set the world on fire?”, much like Against Me!’s ‘Teenage Anarchist’ but without the ironic resignation to the world’s realities as one grows older. It’s a brilliant statement of intent for things to come from a band who have consistently balanced an ethical world-view with an awareness (and concern) about the shortcomings of politics in their nation and a proud empathy for their country and its people. This is underlined in the second track, and the album’s first single, ‘Help Is On The Way’ – an impressively structured and equally furious song inspired by McIlrath spending time in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Third song ‘Make It Stop (September’s Children)’ addresses the idiocy of homophobia, inspired by a spate of teens in the US taking their own lives because of moronic bigots failing to accept their sexuality. Excellently captured by revered punk rock production duo Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, elsewhere on ‘Endgame’, Rise Against deliver a visceral follow-up to the acoustic ‘Hero Of War’, from 08’s ‘Appeal To Reason’ in ‘Survivor Guilt’. Coming from the perspective of the ghost of a soldier killed in combat, it’s a song that exemplifi es one of the hallmarks of ‘Endgame’’s greatness in its excellent guitar work and smartly considered structure. The attention to detail and dedication in creating a genuinely special record is notable and invigorating throughout the entirety of these 12 tracks. ‘This Is Letting Go’ is one of the most anthemic songs you’re likely to hear this year, before the record closes with the title track, the tight intensity never loosening. The melodies are huge, the hoarse vocals are fairly infrequent – but this is probably one of the most punk rawk albums Rise Against have recorded. That they’ve achieved this with a great, polished production is testament to a band who truly understand their craft and have genuine respect for sharing the scene from which they came. ‘Endgame’ is bona fide awesomeness.