Punk rock has gone through a lot of dramatic changes since it’s politically-charged incarnation in the 1970s.
Like other forms of alternative rock, it’s spawned a host of sub genres and fused with forms of metal, jazz and even reggae along the way, creating endless variations of fast paced beats & social venom. Through it all, regardless of the punk subsets, there has been a core following that stays true to the principals of activism, social reflection and a voice that doesn’t stop screaming at the establishment. Rise Against are one of the true embodiments of this that continue on the path and The Black Market is their latest reflection of the world around them.
Many would say that the first few RA records were their strongest and that the later albums such as ‘Appeal to Reason’ & 2011’s ‘Endgame’ were aimed more towards the mainstream than the hardcore. Personally, I think both of these albums kept the passion from the earlier releases but refined the sound to stand apart from other punk bands around them. So where does The Black Market stand? Well, it perhaps sounds closer to the likes of ‘Appeal to Reason’, however, there are elements of some of the earlier material as well as a limited number of new approaches to their style.
Looking through the track list, I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore is somewhat of a safe bet as a first release, it has many typical elements of what we have come to expect – tight guitar riffs, sudden shifts in tempo and echoing backing vocals that enforce Tim McIlrath’s lyrics. It’s a solid track that provides a strong indication of what the rest of the album is about.
Prior to this, the album kicks off with The Great Die-Off a more aggressive & base-lead song that gets across the frustration that lies behind the points RA are continuously making. Tragedy+Time is pure pop punk, it’s pleasant enough for most but isn’t going to win back any RA purists who prefer the earlier sound. If those fans want a taste of that they should skip through to The Eco-Terrorist In Me, which has moments of tense vocals and calmer segments that balance both new and old sounds.
A Beautiful Indifference has more of this dynamic and this is where you start to get a sense of the only real problem this album has – the tracks don’t stand out from each other that much. Depending on how you like your punk this could be either a good or bad thing I guess, but I for one much preferred the individual sounds of ‘Endgame’.
That said, there are small elements of blues on The Black Market trying to break through and Zero Visibility has a decent slice of groove metal running through it. Other than this though there isn’t that much else in terms of variety, which as I mentioned before is entirely down to your personal preference.
Closing out the album is a fantastic individual effort, People Live Here is a cousin of both Hero of War & Swing Life Away, using an acoustic approach to speak about a blend of religion, war and politics. Lyrically, TBM stands tall alongside the rest of RA’s back catalog, a core part of their popularity is McIIrath’s poetic way of capturing some of the darker aspects of life in the world and he’s achieved it here once again. This is punk with a purpose, making you tap your feet to the beat whilst putting you in someone else’s shoes as it powers through it’s 45 minute run time.
The Chicago quintet are now entering their 15th year as a band and in that time there’s been nothing to go against their rise to the top. The Black Market is an evolved form of what’s gone before, this isn’t the same band that started jamming back in 1999 (and I’m not talking about the line up changes). They’re now a much stronger, leaner and focused unit, with a style that is so tight that it barely breaks from it’s formula, there’s a lot less experimentation here than on their last release. If you just want a solid record to enjoy on the way to work then this will do the job, if not then this is still a quality album, it just lacks a little bit of the flare that you may have expected.
What do you think to the The Black Market? Do you agree with our review?