Rise Against's somewhat sudden major label-ness has slightly diluted their direct assault on melodic hardcore, but the adjustment should only invite more sugar punkers to the Chicago combo's bittersweet party. Rise Against has moved up in the sonic nicety department -- loud rock vet GGGarth produces, and the Andy Wallace mix is a flawless cross section of thick, grit, and slick. But Siren Song of the Counter Culture is simply the band's latest statement, combining their significant yet not unwelcome Bad Religion influence with nods to the rousing choruses of peers like A.F.I. Beyond that grandiose title -- that line could've been lifted from a Crass treatise, for Pete's sake -- Rise Against seem to have diversified their lyrical base. There are still salvos of sharply defined social criticism -- "If we're the flagship of peace and prosperity/We're taking on water and about to f*cking sink," begins the blistering hardcore opener, "State of the Union." But Rise Against also rock on the personal reflection or relationship tip. "Paper Wings" builds a sad story about growing apart around a winning lead guitar lick straight from their Fat Wreck past, while the staggeringly paced "Blood to Blood" is in the bitter first person. "'I don't love you anymore/Is all I remember you telling me." Sometimes Siren Song gets carried away with its own melodic urgency. The multiple layers of guitars and somewhat obvious mixing tweaks in "Tip the Scales" and "Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated" lead Rise Against to lose the thread of hardcore volatility that's driven them since the beginning. Still, this is their major-label debut, and a band's gotta eat, so maybe the fuller sound and occasional forays into acoustic guitars and cello overdubs ("Dancing for Rain") are OK. Rise Against has always been pretty sincere in both its politics and commitment to hardcore revivalism, so if Siren Song nods to accessibility, it's only to recruit more kids for the raging.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus