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Rise Against
Rise Against performing in Segrate, Italy, in 2012. From left to right: Brandon Barnes, Zach Blair, Tim McIlrath and Joe Principe.
Background information
Also known as Transistor Revolt (1999–2000)
Origin Chicago, United States
Years active 1999–present
Associated acts
Members Tim McIlrath
Joe Principe
Brandon Barnes
Zach Blair
Past members Dan Wleklinski
Kevin White
Todd Mohney
Chris Chasse
Toni Tintari

Rise Against is an American punk rock band from Chicago, Illinois, formed in 1999. The band's current line-up comprises vocalist/rhythm guitarist Tim McIlrath, lead guitarist Zach Blair, bassist Joe Principe and drummer Brandon Barnes. Former members are guitarists Dan Wlekinski, Kevin White, Todd Mohney and Chris Chasse, and drummer Toni Tintari.

The band spent its first four years signed to the independent record label Fat Wreck Chords, on which they released two studio albums, The Unraveling (2001) and Revolutions per Minute (2003). Both the albums met with considerable underground success, and in 2003 the band signed with the major label Geffen. Their major label debut Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004) brought the band mainstream success, producing several successful singles. Their next two albums, The Sufferer & the Witness (2006) and Appeal to Reason (2008), were also successful and peaked at number ten and number three on the Billboard 200 chart, respectively. Appeal to Reason was followed three years later by Endgame (2011). All four albums released via Geffen were certified platinum in Canada, while three of these albums were certified gold in the United States.

Rise Against is also known for their advocacy of progressivism, supporting organizations such as Amnesty International and the It Gets Better Project. The band actively promotes animal rights and most of the members are straight edge (excluding Barnes), PETA supporters and vegetarians.


Early years (1999–2000)[edit]

Rise Against was formed in 1999, by bassist Joe Principe and guitarist Dan Wleklinski.[1] Before Rise Against, Principe and Wleklinski were members of the Chicago punk rock band 88 Fingers Louie.[2] This band toured and recorded to moderate success, but disbanded on two separate occasions in the late 1990s.[3] Following the second breakup, Principe and Wleklinski decided to form a new band called Transistor Revolt, and recruited drummer Toni Tintari, guitarist Kevin White, and lead vocalist Tim McIlrath.[3][4] Principe met McIlrath in Indianapolis while attending a Sick of It All concert, and recalled seeing him perform with his previous band Baxter.[5] Impressed with McIlrath's gritty vocals, Principe gave him a seven track demo he had recorded, and invited him to join the nascent band.[5] McIlrath accepted the invitation, and dropped out of Northeastern Illinois University.[6]

Fat Mike (pictured) signed Rise Against to their first record label in 2000.

The initial jam sessions were problematic, as McIlrath was unaccustomed to Principe's and Wleklinski's fast-paced style of play.[5] McIlrath described these early sessions as "the meeting of different worlds and worlds colliding", and noted how many of his friends questioned the future of the band.[7] Despite these early issues, they were able to self-publish the extended play (EP) Transistor Revolt in 2000.[7] The EP attracted the attention of the local punk community, including Fat Mike, the lead vocalist of NOFX and co-founder of the independent record label Fat Wreck Chords.[8] Fat Mike offered to sign the band to a recording contract, with the stipulation that they change their name. He gave some suggestions, like Jimmy Cracked Corn And The I Don't Cares, although none of the band members liked them.[8] Tintari suggested Rise Against, to which the band agreed upon.[9]

After signing with Fat Wreck Chords, Tintari and White left the band.[10] The remaining members then spent the next few months looking for another drummer capable of playing double-time beats at a rapid pace.[6] During this period, the band Good Riddance found their new drummer, and sent Rise Against the audition tape of their number two choice, Brandon Barnes. A mutual friend gave Barnes' phone number to Principe, and after listening to Transistor Revolt, Barnes accepted the band's invitation.[10]

The Unraveling and Revolutions per Minute (2001–03)[edit]

With their new lineup finalized, Rise Against began work on their debut studio album, The Unraveling. Recording sessions took place in late 2000, at Sonic Iguana Studios in Lafayette.[2][11] Wleklinski served as an assistant engineer under producer Mass Giorgini, and later remarked on the grueling workdays: "12-hour days for 4 of those weeks, and then 22-24 hours per day during that last week of tracking. These were the times of 'If you don't play it right, you have to play it again,' not 'That was good enough, I'll edit it so it's on time."[2] The Unraveling was released on April 24, 2001.[2] Although the album failed to reach any record charts, it did receive positive reviews from critics, who commended the raw and unadulterated music.[11][12][13][14] To promote the album, Rise Against toured extensively throughout North America and Europe.[4][15] While on tour, Wleklinski left the band due to several complaints from McIlrath. Rumor spread that Wleklinski was fired because of his long hair, although McIlrath derided these claims.[16] Phillip Hill stood in as the lead guitarist while on tour, after which White returned as a replacement.[4]

Less than a year later, White left the band for a second time, and was replaced by Todd Mohney, McIlrath's roommate and former bandmate.[7][10] When it came time to record their second album, Revolutions per Minute, McIlrath noted that the band was suffering from an "identity crisis". Fat Wreck Chords was known for a specific pop punk sound, and Rise Against wanted to find a producer that could highlight the heavier side of their music.[7] They decided on Bill Stevenson—the former drummer of the punk band Descendents—and Jason Livermore to produce the album.[17] Revolutions per Minute was recorded at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, from November to December 2002.[18] The band members developed a strong rapport with Stevenson and Livermore, and the two parties would eventually collaborate on four of next five Rise Against albums.[7]

Revolutions per Minute was released on April 8, 2003.[19] Like The Unraveling, it failed to reach any major record charts, but did reach number thirty-five on the Independent Albums chart in the United States.[20] Critics praised the album for its impassioned lyrics and unique blend of hardcore punk and melodic hardcore; Brian Hiatt of Rolling Stone called Revolutions per Minute "easily among the finest punk records of the past decade".[6][19][21][22] To support the album, Rise Against traveled with other Fat Wreck Chord bands like Anti-Flag, None More Black, and No Use for a Name on North American and Japan based tours,[23][24] and participated in the 2003 Warped Tour in North America.[25] When asked about the band's early years with Fat Wreck Chords, Principe said: "Our goal was to be on Fat Wreck Chords and just sell enough records so that when we were home from tour, we wouldn't have to get jobs...Of course, that was all before we had families and children and numerous responsibilities. That was the beauty. And then the longer we did it things just kept coming our way."[26]

Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004–05)[edit]

Rise Against's extensive touring schedule not only helped to establish an early fanbase, but also attracted the attention of major record labels, including Dreamworks Records.[27][28] The general consensus among Fat Wreck Chords musicians was that major record labels sacrifice musical integrity in exchange for commercial profit. Rise Against held the same belief, but eventually came to the conclusion that unlike other labels, DreamWorks supported their politically charged lyrics. According to McIlrath: "Their faith in what we do and the fact that they cared about stuff we cared about was an eye-opener."[28] The band signed with Dreamworks in September 2003,[28] and was given complete creative control to record their major record label debut album, Siren Song of the Counter Culture.[7]

The band went into the album with the assumption that Dreamworks was going to drop them at any moment, so they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity by working with their "dream producer". They chose Garth Richardson, who was known for his work with heavier sounding bands like Rage Against the Machine and Sick of It All.[29] While writing songs for the album, Rise Against's lineup once again changed; Mohney quit, and was replaced by Chris Chasse of the band Reach the Sky.[29] The recording sessions for Siren Song of the Counter Culture were marred by numerous distractions and inconveniences, the biggest of which was the transition from Dreamworks to Geffen Records.[29] In November 2003, Dreamworks was acquired by Universal Music Group, and eventually merged with Geffen.[30] The transition period between labels left Rise Against without an A&R representative, and little acknowledgement from Geffen executives.[8][30]

Siren Song of the Counter Culture was released on August 10, 2004.[31] For the first six months, the album sold poorly, and attracted little fanfare.[30] Rise Against's incessant touring resulted in greater exposure and an eventual increase in sales.[7] It became the band's first album to reach the Billboard 200, peaking at number 136,[32] and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of 500,000 copies.[33] Siren Song of the Counter Culture was praised for its lyrical content, but drew some criticism for a lack of individually memorable songs and perceived overproduction.[31][34][35][36] Three songs from the album were released as singles: "Give It All", "Swing Life Away", and "Life Less Frightening".[37][38][39] All three songs charted on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the United States.[40] "Give It All" and "Swing Life Away" in particular are credited as the band's breakthrough singles, helping Rise Against achieve mainstream appeal.[41][42]

The Sufferer & the Witness (2006-07)[edit]

McIlrath performing with Rise Against during the 2006 Warped Tour

After a year and a half of touring, Rise Against reconvened at the Blasting Room to record their fourth album, The Sufferer & the Witness.[43] The band members were dissatisfied with Richardson's contributions to Siren Song of the Counter Culture, as he produced a more polished and heavier album than their previous works. As a result, they decided to return to Stevenson and Livermore, whom they felt had accurately captured the raw punk sound they strove for on Revolutions per Minute.[6] Unlike the stressful recording sessions for Siren Song of the Counter Culture, the band had a much more enjoyable time with The Sufferer & the Witness, as they no longer sought the approval of Geffen executives. According to McIlrath: "It went great, the songs just flowed out of us. There were really few questions and the song lyrics would just come out of us, it went really well and everyone really liked them."[44]

The Sufferer & the Witness was released on July 4, 2006.[45] The album sold 48,327 copies in its first week of release in the United States, and peaked at number ten on the Billboard 200.[46] The Sufferer & the Witness also charted in seven other countries, including number five on the Canadian Albums Chart, making it the band's first album to chart outside of the United States.[47][48][49][50][51][52] It was certified gold in three countries, and platinum by Music Canada.[33][53][54][55] The album was well received by critics, who praised the production value, and noted how Rise Against was able to mature in their sound and simultaneously retain their punk roots.[45][56][57][58]

Three songs from The Sufferer & the Witness were released as singles: "Ready to Fall", "Prayer of the Refugee", and "The Good Left Undone".[59][60][61] These three songs also charted on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, with "Prayer of the Refugee" and "The Good Left Undone" in particular peaking within the top ten.[40] Rise Against supported the album with The Sufferer & the Witness Tour throughout the second half of 2006 and all of 2007. The band was a headliner on the 2006 Warped Tour,[62] during which author and filmmaker Davy Rothbart recorded several of the band's live performances, and interviewed some of their fans. This footage was used in the Rise Against DVD documentary Generation Lost.[63] In 2007, the band released the EP This Is Noise,[64] and participated in a tour with My Chemical Romance.[65] Prior to this tour, Chasse left the band, citing touring fatigue as the reason for his departure; Zach Blair of the band Only Crime joined shortly thereafter, as Rise Against's fifth different guitarist.[65] At the time he received the call about joining Rise Against, Blair was a construction worker living paycheck to paycheck.[66]

Appeal to Reason (2008–10)[edit]

A man with a shaved head playing a guitar with an intense expression. A harmonica player is in the background.
Blair and McIlrath playing on the Appeal to Reason tour in 2008.

Rise Against played at the sixteenth annual KROQ Weenie Roast on May 17 in Irvine, California, and at the sixth annual Download Festival on June 13 at Donington Park, England. They also played at Switzerland's Greenfield Festival as well as Germany's Hurricane Festival and Southside Festival.[67][68] Like several previous years, the band participated in the Warped Tour, although they decided only to perform on the tour's west coast swing from August 6 to August 17.[69]

Rise Against's fifth studio album Appeal to Reason was released on October 4 in Australia, October 6 across Europe, and October 7 in the United States. The album sold 64,700 copies in its first week and peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200,[70] making it Rise Against's highest-charting album to date. Appeal to Reason was met with generally positive reviews. However, critics did not rate it as highly as The Sufferer & the Witness, mostly blaming the movement toward the mainstream and away from faster hardcore punk. Giving the album a C+ rating, Marc Weingarten of Entertainment Weekly said the album is filled with "protest anthems that lean closer to the burnished angst of such bands as New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy than the genuine outrage of brainy Green Day" and songs that are "peppy but pretty empty, power-chord downers with little bark or bite."[71] Kyle Anderson of Rolling Stone stated that the songs on Appeal to Reason "are driven by an ever-sharpening pop sensibility." He also said that "Rise Against may be nervous about leaving the underground behind, but with sharp songs like these, they're ready for the rest of the world."[72]

Rise Against released a song called "Death Blossoms" for DLC on Guitar Hero: World Tour on March 12, 2009.[73] "Ready to Fall" and "Audience of One" were also added for a track pack. Another song called "Sight Unseen" was released on the Internet at about the same time. "Death Blossoms" and "Sight Unseen" were later released on the compilation album Long Forgotten Songs: B-Sides & Covers (2000-2013) as tracks 2 and 10 respectively. Two previously unreleased songs from the Appeal to Reason recording sessions were released on Fat Wreck Chords on May 12, 2009, as a self-titled 7" vinyl.[74] The release included the songs "Grammatizator" and "Voice of Dissent" and was released on 7 inch vinyl, with 1010 pressings made on coloured vinyl and a further 4008 made on black vinyl. Another split 7" shared with Anti-Flag was released that same year, originally given away with any merchandise purchase on the 2009 Rise Against/Anti-Flag/Flobots UK tour.[75]

Rise Against embarked on a North American tour with bands Rancid, Billy Talent, Killswitch Engage, and Riverboat Gamblers in June and July 2009.[76] They were also on a short tour of the UK in November, which was supported by the bands Thursday and Poison the Well.[77] The band also played at KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas in December 2009, playing right before AFI. After completing a European tour from October to November 2009, an Australian tour in January and February 2010 and a summer European festival tour, Rise Against began recording their next album in the fall of 2010.[78] In September 2010, Rise Against took part in A.V. Club Undercover by covering the song "Sliver" by Nirvana.[79] On September 7, 2010, it was announced on their official website that Rise Against would be releasing their second live DVD entitled Another Station: Another Mile on October 5, 2010. According to the band this DVD will focus more on the band's live, unreleased footage than a documentary, but will show backstage, on tour, and on the road footage as well.[80]

Endgame (2010–13)[edit]

On September 13, 2010, according to guitarist Zach Blair, Rise Against had begun recording their sixth studio album for a 2011 release, at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado. On Rise Against's latest DVD Another Station: Another Mile, there are samples of possible songs for their upcoming album played throughout the beginning of the DVD.[81] Rise Against has announced two South American shows in Brazil and Argentina and a run of European shows in late February and March 2011 respectively.[82]

Rise Against finished recording their sixth studio album, Endgame, in January 2011, after recording some last-minute guest vocals. The lyrics of the album focus on real world events, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.[83] According to McIlrath, although the lyrics discuss grim topics, they actually take on a positive view and were written from the perspective of: "What if the place on the other side of this transition is a place we'd all rather be living in?"[84] On January 12, 2011, Rise Against announced the release date of Endgame as March 15, 2011.[85] Although Spin Magazine labeled Endgame as a concept album, on January 7, 2011, McIlrath tweeted a clarifying message stating that "the record is not a concept record and, fret not, has absolutely nothing to do with the Dixie Chicks."[86] The first single from the album, "Help Is on the Way", debuted on KROQ on January 17. A second song from the album, "Architects", was debuted and released digitally on February 15. As a promotion effort, the band embarked on a short tour of South America in February and then a month-long tour of Europe in March. Upon returning to the United States, the band announced a U.S. spring tour with Bad Religion and Four Year Strong.

Rise Against performing in 2011.

Endgame is notable for being the first album to establish Rise Against's stance on homophobia with the third song on the album, "Make It Stop (September's Children),"[87] which references the September 2010 suicides of teenagers in the LGBT community, specifically mentioning Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Harrison Chase Brown, Cody J. Barker, and Seth Walsh.[citation needed] Upon the album's release, the band put a message on their website inviting listeners to apply the songs' messages to current events, in addition to those on which they were originally based.[citation needed]

On May 10, 2011, the band released a 7" split vinyl with Face to Face. The 7" features 2 songs, with each band covering a song by the other band.[88][89] In August 2011, Rise Against made appearances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals.[90] The band was the main support act for the Foo Fighters' fall US tour 2011. Rise Against supported the Foo Fighters on 9 dates in September, with Mariachi El Bronx as the opening act.[91] After this, the band announced a tour of Canada throughout October 2011, supported by Flogging Molly and Black Pacific. The tour consisted of nine dates.[92] Rise Against contributed a cover of "Ballad of Hollis Brown" to Chimes of Freedom, a tribute album of Bob Dylan songs produced in February 2012 to commemorate Amnesty International's 50th anniversary.

Rise Against embarked on a two-leg US tour with A Day to Remember and The Menzingers in the spring of 2012.[93] Leg one ended with the band launching another European tour. The band continued back to Europe for the summer months while doing a slew of festivals along the way. To end 2012, the band announced the return to the US with a fall tour with Gaslight Anthem and Hot Water Music.[94] The tour included two shows in Arizona, which the band had not played since 2009 due to the Sound Strike.[95] On January 2, 2013, vocalist Tim McIlrath told Rolling Stone that Rise Against was "focusing on recharging [their] batteries" after two years of touring in support of Endgame.[96] In March 2013, Rise Against played their first ever performances on African soil when they performed in South Africa for the Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town legs of RAMFest, where they headlined the festival along with the UK band Bring Me the Horizon.[97][98]

The Black Market (2013–16)[edit]

Rise Against performing at Open Air St. Gallen in 2015

On May 22, 2013, Principe told that Rise Against was going to begin work on their seventh studio album around the end of the year for a 2014 release.[99] On September 10, 2013, Rise Against released a compilation of B-sides, sampler contributions and covers titled Long Forgotten Songs: B-Sides & Covers 2000–2013. In an interview with ESPN on the same day singer Tim McIlrath was asked about the next record's progress and said "...We are getting together periodically all fall to put some ideas together and then we'll hit the studio when we are ready. It's been a good breather, but now I can't wait turn up some amps and scream."[100]

On April 14, 2014, the band posted a short video on their Facebook page teasing a new album with the message "Coming Soon".[101][102] On May 5, 2014, the band posted another short video indicating that a new album would be released in the summer of 2014.[103] On May 27, 2014, the band released a short video with a teaser of a song from the new album, and clarified the summer release date to be July 2014.[104] On June 4, 2014, a new teaser was released on Facebook revealing the album title The Black Market and release date of July 15, 2014.[105] The album's first single, "I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore", was released on June 10, 2014.[106] In an interview with Kerrang! Magazine, Tim McIlrath gave an insight into The Black Market and also confirmed five song titles for the new album: "I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore", "The Great Die Off", "People Live Here", "Zero Visibility" and "Awake Too Long".[107] On June 13, 2014, the band unveiled the official album artwork for The Black Market on their website. The track listing for the album was released one week later on June 20, 2014, on their website and other social media sites. On June 23, 2014, "The Eco-Terrorist In Me" was leaked on iTunes and became available for purchase. The Black Market was released on July 15, 2014. Following the release of The Black Market, Rise Against obtained its second no. 1 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums with 53,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Their first no. 1 was their previous album, Endgame.[108][109][110]

Wolves (2017–present)[edit]

On April 18, 2017, the band post a new mysterious website which appeared to show a cryptic tracklist, song length and an announcement date "4.20.2017" for the new album.[111][112] On April 20, 2017, Rise Against announced the title of their new album Wolves which was released on June 9, 2017 via Virgin Records. The album's lead single, "The Violence", was released on April 20, 2017.[113] To promote the album, the band announced a headlining North American tour in fall 2017 with Pierce the Veil and White Lung supporting.[114]

On March 29, 2018, the band's Instagram account published a video announcing a project entitled Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1.[115]

Politics and ethics[edit]

All of the group's members are vegetarians and active supporters of PETA, an animal rights organization.[116] Their video for the single "Ready to Fall" contains footage of factory farming, rodeos, and sport hunting, as well as deforestation, melting ice caps, and forest fires. The group has called the video the most important video they have ever made. In February 2012 the band released a cover of the Bob Dylan song "Ballad of Hollis Brown" as part of a benefit for Amnesty International.[117] The Director's Cut of the video was first made available to a PETA website.[118] In 2009, the band was voted Best Animal-Friendly Band by PETA.[119] In addition to being vegetarians, all the members of Rise Against, with the exception of Brandon Barnes, are straight edge; that is, they refrain from consuming alcohol or using drugs.[120]

In addition to their support of animal rights, the band has voiced their support for Democratic and Libertarian causes. During the 2004 United States presidential election, the band was part of Punkvoter,[121] a political activist group, and appeared on the Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1 compilation. The Rock Against Bush project raised over $1 million for then presidential candidate John Kerry. During the 2008 presidential election, the band members endorsed Barack Obama.[122] In a news bulletin in early 2009, the band stated: "Few things are more exciting than watching Bush finally release America as his eight year hostage."[123]

Vans shoes[edit]

On May 23, 2007 Rise Against announced their endorsement of a new line of Vans shoes that would be "completely vegan in consideration to [their] animal rights efforts".[124] In response to criticism spawning from rumors of Vans' use of sweatshops,[125] Rise Against released a statement to address the matter on both their MySpace profile and website saying,


Musical style[edit]

Critics have described Rise Against's musical style as hardcore punk[127][128] and melodic hardcore,[129][130] with influences of pop punk.[131] Their songs emphasize melody, catchy hooks, aggressive movements, and rapid-paced tempo.[132][133][134] Guitarists McIlrath and Blair focus on speed riffing and multi-layered choruses,[135] while bassist Principe uses aggressive picking to lock in with the snare and kick of the drums.[136] Likewise, drummer Barnes follows the guitars, stating: "Sometimes I'll do it naturally, or we'll talk about different ways to accent things - fills from the snare or toms, or some big crashes."[137] The band members have noted the influence of several punk bands, in particular Black Flag and Minor Threat. McIlrath commented: "We're emulating Minor Threat and Black Flag. Who knows, maybe if Ian MacKaye was wearing eyeliner then I would be."[29] Other bands that have influenced Rise Against include Descendents,[29] Dead Kennedys,[29] Jawbreaker,[138] and Refused.[138]

During the early part of their career, Rise Against's music was characterized by a gritty combination of hardcore punk and melodic hardcore.[140][141] The Unraveling accentuated a raw punk sound, while Revolutions per Minute featured an overall darker tone.[142] According to Principe: "The Unraveling was more of us just trying to figure out how we functioned as a band and what type of band we wanted to be. It all just came together with [Revolutions per Minute], my songwriting style and Tim's, it really meshes well together and I think it shows on that record.[17] Although this darker tone carried into Siren Song of the Counter Culture, McIlrath specially mentioned that The Sufferer & the Witness was an attempt to return to their punk roots.[143] Corey Apar of AllMusic wrote "[The Sufferer & the Witness] is basically one shout-along, mosh-worthy song after another".[45] In early Rise Against songs, McIlrath would often shift between clean vocals and screaming vocals.[144][a]

With the release of Appeal to Reason, Rise Against's music took a noticeable turn toward a more accessible and radio-friendly sound, with greater emphasis on production value.[145][146] The New York Times reviewer Jon Pareles felt Appeal to Reason was more tune-oriented than the band's previous works,[144] while Davey Boy of Sputnikmusic wrote how Endgame was "slickly produced to enhance the melodic nature of songs".[147] Principe believes the shift in the sound resulted from the longevity of the Rise Against. He explained that the band members grew as musicians, and wanted to challenge themselves with new musical directions.[17] For example, at the insistence of Blair, Rise Against began to incorporate more guitar solos into their music.[135] McIlrath's screaming vocals became less prevalent in Appeal to Reason, a trend that would continue in subsequent albums.[144]


Rise Against is known for their outspoken social commentary, which often permeates their lyrics.[148] Throughout the years, the band has discussed a wide range of topics, including animal rights, economic injustice, environmental disasters, forced displacement, homophobia, and modern warfare.[45][148][149] Political corruption is another subject commonly found in their lyrics, and as a result, Rise Against is often labeled as a "political band".[150] Some journalists have stated that the band has specifically targeted the Republican administrations of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, while promoting liberal ideologies.[151][152]

As the band's primary lyricist, McIlrath is wary of the political label. "In this sort of current climate of music, we stand out simply because I think there are bands that are avoiding the question. So, it makes us sort of an anomaly and I think that’s where we get the tag 'protest music' or 'political punk rock'".[150] He also noted how the band's lyrics discuss these topics in general terms, instead of delving into the specifics.[153] In a 2006 interview, McIlrath said: "I think that a lot of the problems we deal with today in the world are the ones that have been plaguing society for centuries and probably will be here a hundred years from now...There's a bigger picture than just the Bush administration and specific problems of 2006, and I want people to relate to that, even if they're listening to [our music] 10 years from now."[153] Principe noted the band does not try to preach their beliefs, but instead encourage listeners to become involved, and learn about pertinent issues affecting society.[154]

Not all Rise Against songs discuss controversial topics. More personal stories about broken relationships and forgiveness are common lyrical themes, as is the concept of self-reflection.[153][155] The Unraveling is an early example of this style of songwriting, as the majority of the album's songs focus on friendships and memories.[11] It was not until Revolutions per Minute that McIlrath began to integrate social issues into their music.[21] Despite the grim subject matter, Rise Against songs are often hopeful in nature, a decision the band conscientiously made from the very beginning.[8] Will Rausch of PopMatters wrote: "Unlike typical emo rants filled with despondency and arm chair philosophy, [Rise Against] songs deal with the reality that life sucks, but we must move on."[156]


Rise Against will often produce an accompanying music video for a single. These videos typically either tell a narrative or feature documentary-like footage. This documentary style of filming can be seen in the music videos for "Ready to Fall", "Re-Education (Through Labor)", "Ballad of Hollis Brown", and "I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore". These videos juxtapose footage of the band playing the song and footage of a certain societal issue such as gun violence or animal abuse, overlaid with damning facts about the issue.[157] For example, the video "Ballad of Hollis Brown" is about the dangers of industrialized farming and poverty in the United States, and features interviews with farmers who are struggling to stay afloat.[158]

Rise Against's narrative videos are also usually political in nature.[157] In the video for "Prayer of the Refugee" the band destroys products in a retail store, with intermittent shots of foreign workers making the store products. The goal was for the video to showcase how conventional business models allow for various human rights violations.[159] Some narrative videos follow the song's lyric thread, such as in the Hurricane Katrina based video for "Help Is on the Way", while other videos are used to enforce the song's message, such as the band's anti-homophobic stance in the "Make It Stop (September's Children)" video.[157]

Discussing the "Ready to Fall" video and need for politicized music videos, McIlrath said: "We looked at it from the perspective of hijacking the airwaves. If they’re gonna give us three and a half minutes of airtime on TV that means we can play anything, we can make a video that would be intense even on mute".[157] Rise Against has garnered some controversy for their music videos, particularly for perceived violent themes. The video for "Re-Education (Through Labor)" features the Chicago sect of the Moped Army planting and detonating bombs throughout the city. Some viewers saw this as an act of condoning terrorism.[157] The video for "The Violence", which was to feature the detonation of busts of the forty-three United States Presidents on a plot of farmland, was prohibited by the farm's board of directors for "anti-government themes".[160]

Band members[edit]





  1. ^ In rock music terminology, clean vocals are used in the context of aggressive music to differentiate singing from screaming or growling, which are called unclean vocals.


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