|Studio album by|
|Released||June 9, 2017|
|Studio||Rock Falcon Studio, Nashville, Tennessee|
|Rise Against chronology|
|Singles from Wolves|
Wolves is the eighth studio album by the American punk rock band Rise Against. It was released on June 9, 2017. It is their first studio album in eleven years to be produced by the band without long time producers, Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, and their first album to be released through Virgin Records. The album's lead single, "The Violence", was released on April 20, 2017. Two more songs, "House on Fire" and "Welcome to the Breakdown" were released on May 19 and June 2, respectively, as pre-release buzz tracks.
The album debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200 albums chart, becoming their fifth straight top ten record.
Background and recording
Rise Against released their seventh studio album, The Black Market, in 2014. When it came time for the band to record a follow-up, they initially struggled to find a direction. Vocalist Tim McIlrath recalled, "I was trying to figure out where Rise Against fitted in - in the musical world and our fans' lives. We got started and then the U.S. election happened. That's when things clicked into place. The frontline became very visible to me and I knew exactly what we needed to do. We had to get off our asses and engage."
The band recorded Wolves in Nashville, Tennessee, a city with a majority pro-Trump population. McIlrath recalled "It was clear we'd also put ourselves physically outside of our comfort zone by leaving Chicago, which is this liberal nest where you're hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees with the progressive politics of Rise Against... I think it's really good for anybody to see both sides of the fence and spend time in a place that is hurting—and helping to create the narrative of the country you live in. That was something that was kind of always on my mind, knowing that there are people out there who fell for someone like Donald Trump, who were conned by him, and that these are people just like you and me. So we have to work out how to bridge that gap and figure out where the truth lies in a lot of our arguments with each other."
The deluxe edition of the album, exclusive to Best Buy, contains two bonus tracks, "Megaphone" and "Broadcast[Signal]Frequency", that have been described as a return to Rise Against's faster hardcore sound exemplified in earlier albums such as The Unraveling and Revolutions per Minute. When asked in a Reddit AMA about why they were not included on the standard album, McIlrath responded, "because lazy Tim didn't finish the lyrics in time." The two tracks were released as digital singles in 2018.
Music and lyrical themes
Wolves is a melodic hardcore album, with influences of pop punk and hardcore punk. It comprises eleven tracks that mostly follow a similar musical formula. The A.V. Club describes the formula as: "a frenetic intro; usually an instrument or two getting quiet for the verse; a slight pause before the refrain; and then a massive half-tempo stomp, leading into another verse, refrain, or bridge."
The lyrics in Wolves follow the band's usual political themes; however, this time around, the band tackles the 2016 presidential election. Songs like "How Many Walls", "Welcome to the Breakdown" and the title track oppose the views of Donald Trump (just as they did George W. Bush during his time in office) since the band members are supporters of progressive politics, while tracks like "House on Fire" and "Politics of Love" are more personal while retaining some political leanings. The lyrics do not specifically refer to American issues; McIlrath stated that "We're not an American band, we're a global one. We have Trump, the U.K. has Brexit. This is a human problem."
McIlrath stated in an interview with The Shrine Auditorium that "In many ways, a Rise Against show is a safe space for our fans. But I realized that I don't only want to create safe spaces, I want to create dangerous spaces where misogyny can't exist, where xenophobia can't exist. I want to create spaces where those sentiments don't have any air, and they suffocate: where those ideas die. Wolves isn't about creating a safe space, it's about creating a space that's dangerous for injustice."
The video for lead single "The Violence" was banned from shooting due to being "anti-government". The band had gained a permit to film the video in a farm field containing busts of all 43 United States presidents. The permit issued by the farm's board of directors was rescinded during filming due to its "anti-American" message.
According to McIlrath, the title Wolves refers to "being wolves at the gate, being angry at authority, being angry at the direction of the country and the world, and fighting back. We are the wolves, and the wolves are the good guys in the narrative. We're taking back control." During the writing process, the album was to be titled Mourning in America. However, after the 2016 United States presidential election, McIlrath changed his mind, proclaiming "Fuck that. Fuck grieving."
|The A.V. Club||C+|
Wolves currently holds a 76/100 on the review aggregator website Metacritic, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". Loudwire's Chad Bowar described the album as "an appealing combination of catchy songs and thoughtful, passionate lyrics", while Nik Young of Metal Hammer commented "Rise Against certainly know how to sweep you along for the ride". Both Alternative Press and Rock Sound wrote that the album provides a sense of rebellion and hope. Alternative Press in particular wrote: "Of course, this album won't beat Trump's administration alone, but it's part of a vital movement that's prepared to stand up and fight against it." In contrast, Paste critic Scott Heisel said "For being one of the first big punk albums in post-Trump America, Wolves doesn't howl nearly enough and rarely shows its fangs". Sputnikmusic expanded upon this notion by writing: "What's missing here, what's been missing for years, is just a 'Swing Life Away'. Something fragile and self-indulgent and real. We never ever doubted that you know how to be political, Rise Against. We just doubted that you still know how to be real."
Nearly every critic noted how the music of Wolves sounded very similar to Rise Against's previous material. Some critics wrote positively of the music, like Bowar, who praised the band for maintaining their core sound without being stagnant, and James Christopher Monger of AllMusic, who said the album's music would please longtime fans who wanted "something new to pump their fists to". Most critics however were dissatisfied with the musical similarities. Rock Sound wrote "familiarity does dull the edges of their less immediate efforts", while Heisel commented "Wolves, for or better or worse, feels like it could've been recorded a decade ago, or maybe three years from now". A reviewer for Sputnikmusic was especially disappointed by the musical similarities, writing: "The thing is, though, if you'll permit me to borrow the buzzword-iest of Shakespeare lines; Wolves is a whole bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing." The reviewer went on to discuss how the music was stubbornly tepid, and that every chorus felt lukewarm and flaccid.
Some reviewers described the lyrics as "earnest", with Young commenting "[Rise Against's] passion is unwavering, their lyrics earnest and their energy inspiring". Josh Gray of Clash commented on the unique juxtaposition of lyrical themes, such as pacifism in "The Violence" and aggression in "Wolves". Heisel and Spunikmusic were critical of the vague lyrics on Wolves. The Sputnikmusic reviewer jokingly likened the lyrics to "an entitled soccer mum at a game where her beloved son has lost". Kerrang! however commended this aspect, noting how the lyrics allow the listener to reach their own conclusions instead of merely preaching the band members beliefs. Bowar complimented the production value of Raskulinecz, noting how he gave the music "plenty of punch and clarity without making things too slick". Alex McLevy of The A.V. Club however criticized Raskulinecz by writing "Wolves is somehow even more polished, almost glossy to a fault with its compression and ladled-on sweetening of the distortion. At times, it veers dangerously close to latter-day Metallica".
|2.||"House on Fire"||3:14|
|4.||"Welcome to the Breakdown"||3:03|
|5.||"Far from Perfect"||3:32|
|7.||"Politics of Love"||4:09|
|8.||"Parts Per Million"||3:40|
|9.||"Mourning in Amerika"||3:19|
|10.||"How Many Walls"||3:50|
|Deluxe edition bonus tracks|
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