Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rise Against--The Unraveling Reissue

Featuring two former members of 88 Fingers Louie (who I never much cared for), Rise Against's debut, The Unraveling, was first released in 2001. At the time, I didn't think it was very good. Not as bad as some of the worst Honest Don's or Fat Wreck Chord releases, but I had it rated really low as far as something I wanted to listen to. In fact, it soured me so much I never gave 2003's Revolutions Per Minute, which was a huge leap forward in songwriting and sound quality, much of a chance. It wasn't until Siren Songs of the Counter-Culture was released in 2004 that I came back around to this band. So, yes, I'm a bandwagon-jumping major label poser, sue me. The conventional "punk rock" wisdom seems to be that RPM is the best album, but my favorite, as slick as it is, is SSCC. There goes all my street cred, but, after having gotten way into the latter Rise Against albums, I went back to The Unraveling to give it another shot.

What I discovered was that the production by Mass of Sonic Iguana ("specialized in recording punk rock") and Rise Against wasn't their best work. In my opinion, the drums and low-end are too high, the vocals too buried, it's somehwat muddy overall, and it doesn't do a lot of favors to the music or the band. (This seems to be more of a factor on car stereos and portable players when I've listened to it). Their self-produced Transistor Revolt demos sounded just as good or better ("Reception Fades" and "The Art of Losing" were re-recorded for The Unraveling). But, it turns out the songs, while certainly not as strong as their later work, weren't really bad at all, and actually, pretty good (I particularly like "Great Awakenings," "Six Ways Til Sunday," and the Henry Fool sample before "Reception Fades.") I still find the album on the long side, but, overall, very solid melodic hardcore. This is not pop-punk, folks. As bastardized and meaningless as that term has become (esp. for an early-90s pop-punk fanatic), this still ain't it.

The remixed and remastered re-release adds two bonus tracks, "Join The Ranks" (another song off the Transistor Revolt demo) from 2001's Fat Music Vol. 5: Live Fat, Die Young compilation and "Gethsamane" from 2003's OIL Chicago Punk Refined compilation. They do have a compilation track, "Obstructed View," off Your Scene Sucks (2002) that was not added. Even without the bonus tracks, though, this is the rare reissue that is worth rebuying and is absolutely the version you want to pick up if you haven't got it yet. Bill Stevenson (Blasting Room producer, drummer for the Descendents, ALL, Black Flag, and Only Crime) did an excellent job remixing and remastering this release. All the instruments are in the right place in the mix and the overall sound is now crisp and punchy.

The packaging has been improved, as well. The booklet layout is much more readable and there is a letter from Tim reflecting on how far they've come in the past five years. Overall, this release is one of the more worthwhile reissues to come down the pipeline lately and not simply a crass attempt to cash-in on Rise Against's current popularity.

Original album: 6/10
Remixed & remastered album: 8/10

For fans of: Gorilla Biscuits, Bad Religion, Good Riddance, Dag Nasty, Strike Anywhere, 88 Fingers Louie


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