Sound — 8
With the chaotic crescendo of the introductory track, 52 seconds bodes well beginning with speedy guitars, a deep, hypnotic and almost subliminal vocal line and typically pounding drums. It sounds like Bad Religion has rediscovered the intensity of their early days. Heroes and Martyrs begins with a riff not dissimilar to Latch Key Kids from the 80-85 album and it is a song including gritty guitars, redolent of their early days, incorporating fabulous vocal harmonies. The introductory lead of Germs of Perfection keeps the album on it's roll, and the combination of melody and gritty guitars makes for an interesting sound. However, as of track four, the listener can't help but feel reminded by sorrow, since the opening chord sounds familiar, in sound and in context. The song tries to redeem itself, but the ohs and ahs by this point have become somewhat predictable of the band that sounds the same on every record. Although the sound is full, one wonders what the band would sound like live, since the production truly is crystal clear and captures the band's energy excellently. Furthermore, the guitars are layered and the same depth cannot be achieved live. The solos are bland and indistinguishable from many bad religion solos. The band may sound energetic and enthusiastic but we've heard it all before. We can pump our fists and chant along, this album is faster than their last release and the energy is captured better. The use of the piano in the introduction of the final track, Fields of Mars is Graffin's touch, but this release would have been fresher if Graffin had chosen to use it more. Another issue is track 7, Honest Mistake sounds like a typical stadium rock band attempting to sell records, it's a great song, but it shouldn't be found on Bad Religion album. It's slow, poppy and appeals to the average punk's grandmother more than it does to the punk.
Lyrics — 6
Complementing the sound perfectly, Graffin's distinguished voice is a highlight on any Bad Religion album. The stand out track has to be Requiem For Dissent with a chorus that includes the lines, Bring the dissidents from slumber, raise the rebel from the grave, with powerful chants of REQUIEM in between each powerful line iterated by Graffin. This album is full of fist pumping anthems of dissent, but yet again, Bad Religion refuses to push their creativity beyond what they are all capable of as experienced musicians. This is a better album than the Empire Strikes First, due to the fact that the band's energy has been captured and one can really feel the meaning of Graffin's lyrics and their authenticity. The thing is, Graffin has also penned lyrics odious of a child trying to rhyme, Everybody, is a bastard, our world is like plaster. It may sound intellectual, but believe me, it isn't. It's original, but boring nonetheless. The song in question is Before You Die which, happens to be a great track with lots of stand out lyrics, but that one brings the song down. Another poor attempt at sounding reflective is An Honest Mistake. It is atrocious. From the opening guitar note, any listener can hear the standardised attempt at an indie song. Graffin's lyrics are poor and the delivery has something very un-Graffin about it. He should stick to penning lyrics that don't sound this insincere and intentional.
Overall Impression — 7
Initially sceptical of the band's relevance today, this record did convince me somewhat that Bad Religion still has something to offer, but this was only felt on the faster songs. Again, Bad Religion's biggest influence is the punk band Bad Religion. So many of the vocal lines are blatantly borrowed from previous songs. Stand out tracks are 52 Seconds, Heroes and Martyrs, Requiem for dissent, New Dark Ages, The Grand Delusion and Fields of Mars. Six out of sixteen tracks being fantastic isn't a bad return after all. The band's live energy has been captured, but it is still a little has-been. Some of the songs' rights, such as An Honest Mistake should have been sold to indie bands to record, because it really is the perfect example of a bland, mid-tempo song. Perhaps the more suspect material can be attributed to respected producer and record engineer Joe Baresi who has been involved with projects such as TOOL and Queens of the Stone Age. Then again, maybe Graffin and the guys are just going senile after all the years of loud music. Haven't you always wondered how they can record the same album every time? For a UCLA professor, Graffin does have tendencies to repeat himself in his lyrical topics as well. Religion is bad, we get it; have you much else to say? However, when Bad Religion maintains speed and intensity, the album is a hit and it warrants a place in any music listener's collection even if you won't listen to it for a time period over a year, when it is released in early July. Maybe you'll even like that atrocious indie song.