When a band releases an acoustic album, it is usually something that unites or divides a fanbase. However, when that fanbase have been desperate for an acoustic album since the dawn of time, the band in question has a lot to live up to. Enter Rise Against and their acoustic offering, ‘The Ghost Note Symphonies Vol. 1’. Featuring ten well-loved songs that span the band’s extensive back catalogue, the album talks the talk, but can it walk the walk?
Gently nudging us into the album is ‘The Violence’, a lead single from the band’s 2017 record ‘Wolves’. The acoustic version has removed the anger of the original, giving it a tender and vulnerable new angle. Alone, it is a great track, but you can’t help but compare all of these songs to their original counterparts. The reception of the song has altered, perhaps because it is simply an acoustic version that adds nothing new. The band could have done more with it, but here is it regardless.
Not all the songs are exact acoustic replicas of their originals however, as some have been stripped right back to reveal something almost completely different. ‘Faint Resemblance’, which featured on the band’s 2001 debut release ‘The Unraveling’, is almost unrecognisable. The driving bass and sneering attitude has gone, replaced with the delicateness of a ukulele and Tim McIlrath’s soft vocals. The same can be said for ‘House On Fire’, which has become an idyllic rendition without the rawness.
‘Saviour’, possibly Rise Against’s most beloved track, has undergone a makeover. It has become a folky remodelling that has kept the emotive personality of the original. The added orchestral elements provide a harmonious dimension that takes the song from being a bog-standard acoustic recording to having its own purpose amongst the band’s material.
‘Far From Perfect’ has had the same treatment. The battle cry for the different kids has morphed into a nurturing, almost hymn-like, track to appeal to the masses. It wouldn’t be surprising if this acoustic rebirth becomes a main player in live shows.
Having saved the most ambitious to last, we come to closing track ‘Voices Off Camera’ from 2003’s ‘Revolutions Per Minute’. This song is probably the most stripped down of any, simplified to just vocals and piano. The entire production has been reformed, giving the song a new lease of life. Instead of the spiky rawness of the punk-induced original, there is a fragility you just can’t help but love.
For an acoustic album, Rise Against have done a cracking job. Some areas feel a bit lacking, but each song has evidently been chosen and produced with the utmost care and attention. This is only Volume 1, and with that name surely there are most acoustic installments to come. It will be interesting to see where the band take it from here.