BY JOHN B. MOORE
There aren’t a ton of punk rock bands outside of the greats from the late- ‘70s through early ‘80s, who are strong enough to justify a career-spanning vinyl box set. Chicago’s Rise Against though clearly have earned that distinction.
Raised in the indie punk scene – the band’s first two albums were released on the Fat Mike-helmed, Fat Wreck Chords – the band came about their experience the tried and true punk rock way: touring the country is a crappy van and sleeping on the floors of fans after shows. So, their jump to Geffen Records for their third effort, though it brought about some predictably, if relatively muted taunts of “Sell Out!” seemed like a natural fit for an impressive band looking for a bigger soap box to stand on.
Geffen, alongside UMe has collected the band’s first eight records (everything but 2018’s The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1) into one massive archival set. Each record is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and comes with a hard cover book of Rise Against’ s oral history and a slew of rare band photos. The set includes The Unraveling, Revolutions Per Minute, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, The Sufferer & The Witness, Appeal To Reason, Endgame, The Black Market and Wolves.
Of all the albums in the collection, their 2001 debut, The Unraveling, is fittingly enough their most uneven. There’s a powerful rawness to the songs, but singer Tim McIlrath was still finding his voice (figuratively and literally) and relied more on screams rather than the measured vocals he would perfect on later albums. The guitars, as well, slathered in distortion, don’t leave much space for any other instrument to be heard. But the band quickly learned from those mistakes in time for 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute and it’s follow-up the next year, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture. The latter houses the song “Swing Away Life” which remains their most recognizable song and one of the best slow-tempo punk anthems of the 2000s. Both records are among the band’s best efforts with a more cohesive sound and powerful political lyrics that are clear enough to be heard this time around.
The Sufferer & The Witness, released in 2006 continued the streak of great, political punk rock, but they slipped slightly on the mediocre follow up, 2008’s Appeal To Reason. The last three entries in this collection, however – Endgame, The Black Market and last year’s Wolves – found the band back to in top form. Over the course of nearly two decades, Rise Against has slowly and methodically carved out a niche for writing savvy political anthems that move easily from modern punk folk to distorted rock, all while ignoring current music fads in favor of a formula that have managed to perfect. This gorgeous box set is the perfect acknowledgement of that dedication.
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