Rise Against – Nowhere Generation (Album Review)

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Rise Against been at the forefront of the mainstream punk rock scene for the better part of two decades, rocketing to fame following breakout album “Appeal to Reason” in 2008. Since then the quartet has been the picture of consistency, both with an unwavering lineup and an unmistakable sonic signature that has pushed them to headline shows across the world. Following up the ravenous hunger of 2017’s “Wolves,” Rise Against delivers their usual dose of blistering social commentary within their latest opus “Nowhere Generation.” Brimming with the usual mixture of anger and melancholy, this latest album is proof that even after two decades of punk-fueled fury, Rise Against are still chomping at the bit for the next big hit.

Smooth in the most sensitive moments but roaring like a tempest at its peak is the vocal talent of front-man Tim McIlrath. As one of the band’s founding members, his emotive voice has long carried the band’s politically charged lyrics with a strong appeal to fans of pop and heavy music alike. Of all musicians in the band, McIlrath has the greatest pressure not to show the weight of time, but his voice still carries astounding power as he shouts each word of opener “The Numbers.” The same continued energy could be said for all of Rise Against, as “Nowhere Generation” maintains the same fire that has been burning since the band’s inception in 1999, relentless in crushing speed and lofty choruses.

Even if each song on “Nowhere Generation” is prepared to top the charts, as their singles have for the past decade with a reliable formula in tow, the clear standout and instant earworm from this latest offering is “Broken Dreams, Inc.” Brandon Barnes urges the drums at a tremendous gallop through each verse, carrying McIlrath’s cries to even greater heights. Lead guitarist Zach Blair also shows off with a number of spectacular riffs, adding a splash of flavor some of the other tracks lack. It is also one of the least repetitive numbers, flowing seamlessly from a lofty chorus to isolated vocals before roping in a distant call of many voices in unison. At every twist there is yet another hook to draw listeners further in, committed to the rallying cry Rise Against has crafted. “Broken Dreams” isn’t the only track stuffed with an infectious appeal, as the repetitive “Sooner or Later” dishes out the perfect crowd-pleasing anthem that is sure to draw the audience in to sing along. Memorable and pleasant melodies tie together “Nowhere Generation,” whether it is from solos sure to soak up the spotlight or a biting hook, with enough variability in tempo and percussion to keep listeners engaged. 

“Nowhere Generation” album art

Given that their lineup hasn’t changed since 2008’s acclaimed “Appeal to Reason,” it’s expected that the band’s chemistry has been refined to something of a science. And on “Nowhere Generation,” this predictable rhythm between musicians blossoms across the seamless “Sounds Like” and title track “Nowhere Generation.” But this comfort zone is also where “Nowhere Generation” runs into trouble. Even though Rise Against are known best for the blazing tempos and ceaseless vigor, prior albums relied on at least a handful of lulls to break up the frenzied storm of emotion. Some of the most notable examples include the moments where they step out of their usual role as explosive punk artists, such as the spoken word brilliance of “The Approaching Curve” on “The Sufferer & The Witness,” or the poignant and acoustic “Hero of War” from “Appeal to Reason.” This album appears to try to match this prior success with “Forfeit,” including delicate keys and McIlrath singing with a much more intimate warmth than preceding “Broken Dreams.” But unlike prior albums, “Forfeit” feels much more like the band is simply going through the motions in an attempt to break up the other shining stars on the album, and the track simply fails to land.

This is not the only place on the album where there is a failure to make a smooth transition. The sharp decrease in momentum from “The Numbers” into “Sudden Urge” is jarring, even if the latter picks up the pace shortly after its opening. Though dotted with disconnected transitions and a somewhat monotonous pace, there is no question that “Nowhere Generation” is the apt mechanism to deliver Rise Against’s latest round of lyrical commentary. For all of its dark moments mourning the fractured American dream, there are also blossoms of hope buried in verses calling for change, not least of all “Talking To Ourselves.” Sending off fireworks with drums and strings, Rise Against once again balances hope and despair for a razor-sharp punk rock album that more than lives up to their name. 

Released By:
Release Date: June 4th, 2021
Genre: Punk Rock

Musicians:

  • Tim McIlrath / vocals, guitar
  • Joe Principe / bass
  • Brandon Barnes / drums
  • Zach Blair / guitar

“Nowhere Generation” Track-listing:

  1. The Numbers
  2. Sudden Urge
  3. Nowhere Generation 
  4. Talking to Ourselves
  5. Broken Dreams, Inc. 
  6. Forgeit
  7. Monarch
  8. Sounds Like
  9. Sooner of Later
  10. Middle of a Dream
  11. Rules of Play

7.6 Very Good

Sending off fireworks with drums and strings, Rise Against once again balances hope and despair for a razor-sharp punk rock album that digs deep into broken dreams. "Nowhere Generation" more than lives up to the past accolades and shows Rise Against isn't ready to back out of the spotlight just yet.

  • Musicianship 7.5
  • Songwriting 8
  • Originality 7
  • Production 8
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2 Comments

  1. Dan Kreplin on

    Absolutely shameful and inexperienced review of a terrific album. It’s an absolute masterpiece, and arguably their best album to date. Every single song is solid and unique. Tim is in his 40’s and still proving he hasn’t slowed down at all. Forfeit is among their best acoustic songs. Listen to it again and again and tell me I’m wrong. Monarch is as catchy as it is intense. The Numbers is perhaps one of their best songs ever released. Rules of Play is a great change of pace to a poppier sound while still sounding uniquely theirs. Are you sure you even actually listened to this album?

    • Samantha Buckman on

      Hey Dan! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my review and share your thoughts. It was great to hear your opinion on the album, especially how you perceived some of the songs so differently – that’s one of the most beautiful things about music. I’m glad you enjoy the album so much, even if we don’t see eye to eye on some points. Happy listening!

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