Upon hearing the acoustic version of Rise Against’s 'Everchanging' on the 2006 Warped Tour compilation, my mind was set on getting to know the Chicago quartet. Time passes, the mind forgets and here we are, moving towards the mid-point of 2007 and I’ve only just managed to get my hands on last year’s 'The Sufferer and the Witness'. If I’d have picked this up in ten years, the sentiments would have been just as strong. This is quite clearly the best album I’ve failed to get my hands on shortly after release and makes me wonder why I don’t engage myself more quickly. If the inspiration is to come, it would come via Rise Against.

Formed in 1999, Rise Against made an immediate impact and have now progressed their sound to the next level. Originally on Fat Wreck, the band are now on the eclectic Geffen Records, which hosts the popular Nelly Furtado and Blink-182. 'The Sufferer and the Witness', their fourth album, is dynamic throughout and a touch darker than their previous offering, 'Siren Song of the Counter Culture', which, released in 2005, moved to the melodic more frequently. As a result, 'The Sufferer and the Witness' is much better over its entirety and doesn’t suffer from being on a major label.

Track one, 'Chamber the Cartridge', makes this album instantly recognisable, giving a mysterious feel as it slowly builds, before pouncing like a ravenous wolf. Very few of the other tracks have quite this method of engaging the listener, but they all do so in their own very effective way. It’s difficult to fault any major part of the album. Stand out tracks include 'Ready to Fall', 'Drone' and the chorus to 'Prayer of the Refugee', whilst the spoken word in 'The Approaching Curve' breaks from the more energetic tracks before. Rise Against truly have it nailed.

'The Sufferer and the Witness' includes references to the treatment of animals, as the band are members of PETA, a topic that occasionally irritates listeners. Music’s all about providing your views on things, Rise Against should be no different and the inclusion here is merited. Closing song, 'Survive', is perhaps not quite as impressive a finale as it should be, but, given artists' general lack of care when it comes to the back end of an album, this one fares pretty well.

Rarely allowing breath to be caught, 'The Sufferer and the Witness' is unrelenting; the only break coming towards the album’s end, with the unhurried duet of 'Roadside', before the album gets back into its customary stride. You can’t fault Rise Against for their commitment to music. Every track exudes hardcore melody and marks a genuine commitment to delivering meaningful and probing music. There’s a certain sense of enjoyment coming through in the sound too, which is instantly transferred to the listener. Stick this record in your stereo and you’ll be transporting yourself to the next Rise Against gig, either that or your neighbours will imminently be calling the police.











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