Fans have been crying out for an acoustic album from Rise Against for years. While the style has not been the most prominent in their back catalogue, it is something they are very good at. ‘Hero of War’, ‘People Live Here’ and ‘Swing Life Away’ may not be the songs to get the crowds pumping but they’re gig mainstays. Far from detracting from an album’s pace, they remind listeners that this is a band who thinks and wants you to as well. Now, they have given in to demand and released The Ghost Note Symphonies Vol. 1.
There are some excellent renditions here. ‘Voices Off Camera’ benefits greatly from being so clean and crisp, as suddenly the lyrical content is afforded the depth it has managed to keep slightly hidden since being released on Revolutions Per Minute in 2003. ‘Savior’ is almost given new meaning without its rousing chorus, instead becoming a more sedate and emotional affair.
Nothing is truly bad on the album, however there’s one bad apple that risks poisoning the barrel. Opting for a ukulele rendition of ‘Faint Resemblance’ is puzzling at best. The style does not fit at all and a piano or guitar version would have done it far more justice. Lyrically it’s strong but it’s hard to hear the positives when spending the entire duration thinking “what on earth are they doing here?”.
This is a band which can improve work with hindsight. Years ago, ‘Everchanging’ was stripped of its salmonella inducing rawness and became one of the most beautiful tracks the band has produced. But it also felt… less produced. It was simple and benefitted from it, whereas this album does feel as if everything is trying very, very hard.
All in all, this album is like Christmas in your 20s; it’s never quite as good as you’re hoping. It’s still special and important but the same magic isn’t there. Perhaps it’s because some songs sound so similar to the original recordings, that great covers of their own work can be found on YouTube or possibly the song selection leans too heavily towards 2017’s Wolves. While one or two are great, there’s still the ‘could be better’ and the ‘wouldn’t have bothered redoing this to be honest. It doesn’t sound too different’. Still, this is only volume one; a second one is surely coming. Maybe they’ll work amazingly together.
The Ghost Note Symphonies Vol.1 is out now via Virgin.