Hardcore without metal.
Punk without pop.
Emotion without the friggin' whining.
Rise Against's 2001 release The Unraveling seemed to literally come out of nowhere. I had some interest, primarily because I heard that a significant proportion of the band were from 88 Fingers Louie. But in all honesty, I wasn't looking forward to it as much as some other records coming out that year.
However, The Unraveling was a completely surprising debut. It was a strong, original melodic hardcore record, puctuated by a uniquely heavy rhythm section, and Tim's standout vocals.
Well, Revolutions Per Minute easily tops The Unraveling.
To begin, it's a lot darker than their debut; lyrically and melodically. While their previous record had more upbeat and nearly poppy passages, Revolutions... seems to spend much of it's 37 minutes in a simultaneously furious and reflective place. It feels more honest, and personal, and achieves a real catharsis. It certainly comes from a familiar place; double-tempo guitars, those heavy Fat-produced guitars, speedy vocals, but it ends up somewhere different altogether.
Tracks like "Black Masks & Gasoline" and "Amber Changing" play off a emotional punk sense, while other songs like "Dead Ringer" and "To the Core" are almost pure raging hardcore. It's apparent that the band is writing more as a unit now, and it comes through in the seamless bridges between vocals and instrumentation.
While the band is clearly coming from a hardcore and punk background, it genuinely doesn't sound like anything I've heard. Many people have tried to blend punk and hardcore like this, but mostly we end up with the weakest bits of hardcore, and the weakest bits of punk, kind of mashed together. Instead, on "Revolutions..." we get an impressive sense of melody with a really visceral hardcore edge.
The surprise, and possibly in-joke of the record is of course, a cover of a ultra hair metal track by Journey called "Anyway You Want It." Best known (at least to me) as that song from the Simpsons with Rodney Dangerfield, Rise Against manages to play it perfectly, it's not even in double-time as is the norm with Fat covers. It's a nice refrain after the overall darkness of the record, and even it's cheese metal origins don't detract from the earnestness of the record.
I can say this: Revolutions Per Minute is easily among the best records you'll hear this year. A perfect blend of hardcore and melodic punk, without any of the usual trappings of the genre.
Hardcore without metal.