Released 7 October 2008
Genres Melodic hardcore
Singles Re-Education (Through Labor), Audience of One, Savior

Appeal to Reason is the fifth studio album by my all-time favorite band, Rise Against, and one of their most beloved albums by far. Honestly, I can see why. It's a more radio friendly version of The Sufferer and the Witness, and is almost always people's first introduction to the band. I'm no exception, either. Saviors was the first Rise Against song I ever heard, so I'm guilty as sin.

This album, like most of their albums, is perfect and has no flaws (/hj) so I want to gush about it. If you'd like to read through my review/analysis in chronological order (like how albums should be listened to...) you can just scroll down. If you're interested in a specific song, use the tracklist below to jump to it! Enjoy, and happy reading!

  1. Collapse (Post-Amerika)
  2. Long Forgotten Sons
  3. Re-Education (Through Labor)
  4. The Dirt Whispered
  5. Kotov Syndrome
  6. From Heads Unworthy
  7. The Strength to Go On
  8. Audience of One
  9. Entertainment
  10. Hero of War
  11. Savior
  12. Hairline Fracture
  13. Whereabouts Unknown

(If you're looking for Historia Calamitatum, or any of the other special edition bonus songs, try the miscellanious page!)

The Dirt Whispered

The Dirt Whispered is something of a sister song to The Good Left Undone; they both have a similar vibe to them, what with the earthy metaphors for relationships and all. Although the types of relationships between the songs are vastly different. During the 2010 Rock am Ring festival in Germany, Tim McIlrath said:

"Anybody driving from very far away to be here today, anybody take a roadtrip? Alright, thank you for making that sacrifice. We know what it's like to spend your days on the road. That's what this next song is about."

Before playing the song. Which, is about as concrete an answer as you can get. However, I am still going to dissect this song because I am a chronic yapper and I love reading into things too much.

The first verse opens up like this:

She got down on hands and knees
One ear against the ground
Holding her breath to hear something
But the dirt made not a sound tonight

The afformentioned woman is restlessly waiting for someone to return home (aka Tim McIlrath). I don't think that the woman is listening for a literal sound, more than likely she'd be trying to here the vibration of an approaching car. The detail of her holding her breath in order to hear better doesn't go unnoticed either, it's one of my favorite things about Rise Against songs.

The verse continues:

Echoes of songs still lurk on distant foreign shores
Where we danced just to please the gods that only ask for more
And so it goes

At first glance, this seems like a dig at the audience. Like dancing just to "please the gods that only ask for more" is about touring to appease their fans. Which is probably true, however I think the rest of the verse really puts the entire sentiment into context:

But still we give ourselves to this
We can't spend our lives waiting to live

Suddenly it goes from an ungrateful artist complaining about touring, to an artist saying he loves it despite it's hardships. It brings a tear to my eye :').

And finally; the drums pick back up, and the guitar plays faster as the chorus comes in:

On cold nights in a prayer for dawn
But the daylight isn't what she wants
The concrete calls my name again
I'm falling, through the cracks I slip

The first two lines bring us back to the woman's perspective, where she's presumably been up all night waiting for him to come home. Hoping for the next day, because he might there then. The last two lines are back to Tim's perspective. The idea of the concrete calling to him, like a musical l'appel du vide, feels like the perfect way to describe that sort of self-indulgence.

The next verse plays into the same themes of the first:

The postcard says wish you were here but I'd rather I was there
Holding on to the simple things before they disappear
That's what I meant
But that was then and this is now
I'll make it up to you somehow

She got down on hands and knees
One ear against the ground
Holding her breath to hear something anything at all
The dirt whispered, "Child, I'm coming home"

There's something so sincere in this series of lines; in reading a "wish you were here" letter, in wishing for a return to the mundane and simplicity of everyday life, in broken promises and making up for lost time. It's one of the most beautiful parts of the entire song.

The chrous repeats, and then the bridge comes in.

A destination, a fading smile
Another station, another mile
Another day gone, I swore that I will
Be there before dawn
So be there, I will

He lists off nouns— a destination, a fading smile, a station, a mile, a day gone —that describes the entire theme of the song in three lines. It's a wonderful use of limitation, and gives it a poetic twinge. Then, switching gears completely, ends with a promise. The first verse plays again. Only this time, the dirt speaks. The chorus plays, and the backing vocals echo "through the cracks I slip," until the end of the song.


Whereabouts Unknown

Whereabouts Unknown (or The Metal March, according to Tim) is the closing track of Appeal to Reason. One of the softer songs on the album, it's the perfect song to end on.

It begins with some background noise— birds chirping, some distant voice, and crickets. Not for long, though, as a clean tone plays a soft riff. Then the distortion kicks in.

To the ends of this lost world
You have marched and you have sworn
To a tainted crown of thorns
As the hungry sails unfurl
We are thrusted from the shore
And it's you that we search for

The scene is set almost immediately: a militaristic crusader once the servant of a "tainted" federation, and someone looking for them. The characterization of the wind sails being "hungry" makes the next two lines more urgent. Not a lot to go off of, admittedly, but the pre-chorus adds some context.

The blackest night
The midnight sun
The covered tracks and days spent on the run
The strangers we've become

It's more of a poem than anything; they describe the moon as the "midnight sun," and the lines each end in rhymes. That's less important to this dissection I'm just a sucker for writing. More importantly, it finally lets us know the relationship between these two characters, that being...

...Old friends.

These whereabouts unknown
Please know you can come home
It's alright
I long for the moment
Our silence is broken
It's all right
It's all right
It's all right

The unconventional sentence structure of the first line, the same as the title, really adds to the song. I mean "Unknown Whereabouts" doesn't exactly have the same ring to it (and not a lot of things rhyme with whereabouts anyways). Even though this song is inherently political, I do like how almost everyone can relate to this in an a-political way. Not everyone knows a Christo-facsist soldier, but everyone has a friend that they've lost touch with. Everyone has a friend they miss. The repetition of that last line, "it's alright," feels like a plea to this person.

The next verse doesn't have much to talk about on it's own, as it's mostly just more ways of saying what we already know by this point and serves as sort of a "flashback" than anything. Coupled with the pre-chorus, though, is where it gets interesting.

Another place, another time
We toed the same side of the line
Yeah, we saw eye to eye
Even then the saddest sounds
Were nothing laughter could not drown
But we are not laughing now

I see your face
In my sights
I hesitate
And then look for a sign
Somewhere in the sky

The juxtaposition between the two is stark; firstly, he talks about his brotherly comradery. Toeing the same line, seeing eye to eye, drowning their sorrows in laughter. The last line of the verse, though, brings us back to reality.

The protagonist looks down the sight of (assumedly) a sniper rifle, at a friend he once loved; hesitating