Ten years ago, no one would have really pegged Rise Against as a band that would be crudely dubbed the ‘punk rock Nickelback’. Between their lyrics, which always balanced themselves between political and personal, and their music that smoothly blended blistering hardcore and soothing melodies, the notion that they would one day fall into a pit of mediocrity, and be mercilessly mocked was laughable. Well… ten years can change a lot, and while ‘punk rock Nickelback’ is too harsh of a criticism, it’s for certain that Rise Against’s music has fallen into a predictable routine and The Black Market, the band’s seventh studio album, marks no change in the path that they’ve taken.
For what it’s worth, The Black Market isn’t really a terrible album. It’s not mind-blowing stuff, but it stays true to the songwriting that Rise Against has been working with since 2004’s Siren Song of the Counter Culture. After experimenting with some heavier riffs and ideas on their previous album, The Black Market comes off as welcoming, with open arms to embrace longtime listeners. It’s recognizable. It’s familiar. It’s safe.
And that’s the biggest problem with The Black Market: it’s too safe. Many of its tracks could be switched out with songs from any of their previous three full lengths, and no one would be any wiser. Lead single “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore” fits right in at home with Endgame’s “Help Is On the Way” and “This Is Letting Go”, the poppier “Tragedy + Time” and “Methadone” could have been lifted directly from the Appeal to Reason sessions (also of note: the former sounds as if it could be a re-worked Gaslight Anthem or Alkaline Trio tune), and the album’s entire middle section is made up of variations of the musical themes from Siren Song and The Sufferer and the Witness. The album highlight is probably “The Eco-Terrorist In Me” which is a weird hybrid that starts off with a vicious, ripping introduction that is almost Revolutions Per Minute-esque before settling into the same melodic territory as the rest of the album.
All things considered, The Black Market could have been a trainwreck of an album, but instead it settles into the comfortable groove laid down by its predecessors. Unfortunately in the process of settling into that familiar territory, the album drowns in lyrical aimlessness (C’mon guys, where is the rage? Even Endgame had the lyrically powerful “Make It Stop (September’s Children)”), an abundance of recycled ideas and way too many 4 minute songs. So is The Black Market a disaster? No. Is it a disappointment? Most definitely.
2.5 / 5
RIYL: Anti-Flag, The Offspring, Pennywise