WOLVES is a critique of the Trump administration, yes, but it's also a call to action, a battle cry for resistance set against crashing waves of drums and electric guitar. In the album's title track, Rise Against lead vocalist Tim McIlrath sings:
"Light all the torches and wake up the King
The smoke you've ignored is a flame you can't contain
We circle the walls and claw at the dirt
We growl from our guts and howl until it hurts ...
We are the wolves at the gate
Our numbers growing every day, yeah
You can't fight us all, no
No, you can't fight
We are the wolves at the wall
We break in like a waterfall, yeah"
Those sentiments are echoed in other tracks like "How Many Walls," which asks "How many walls can you put up? / How many guns 'til you feel safe?" and "Welcome to the Breakdown," which packs in veiled references to everything from white nationalism to fake news.
"I realized that I don't only want to create safe spaces, I want to create dangerous spaces where misogyny can't exist, where xenophobia can't exist. I want to create spaces where those sentiments don't have any air, and they suffocate: where those ideas die," said McIlrath in the group's Facebook bio. "WOLVES isn't about creating a safe space, it's about creating a space that's dangerous for injustice."
On Monday, Sept. 17, Rise Against will make the Revolution Concert House in Garden City one of those dangerous spaces as part of its Mourning in Amerika Tour. Fellow punk rock groups AFI and Anti-Flag will open, setting the tone for Rise Against's rhetoric.
The cover for Anti-Flag's latest album, American Fall (2017, Spinefarm Records US) sends a clear message in itself: it's a shot of the oval office, and in front of the Resolute desk sits a heap of bundled dollar bills arranged in the shape of a skull. The band's lyrics double down on that image, focusing on anti-war themes in songs like "Digital Blackout," which opens with a woman's account of her life following work in a military drone program.
AFI, or A Fire Inside, is touring after its 10th and latest self-titled release, which is known by its subtitle, The Blood Album (2017, Concord Records). Lyrically, the band is as poetic as ever, but in contrast to Anti-Flag and Rise Against, it largely sets politics aside in favor of self-exploration, a possible exception being "Snow Cats," which hints at gender and identity politics with lines like "Am I coy enough? Not boy enough? / You wanted me in this dress / Or nothing else you say I am."
Catch all three long-lived groups (Rise Against was formed in 1999, Anti-Flag in 1988 and AFI in 1991) together while you can.