Sound — 7
Longevity is a concept that relatively few bands have had the luck to achieve. Twenty-seven years, and fourteen albums later, L.A. based punk rock stalwarts, Bad Religion, have obviously been fortunate in that respect. Although, it was a little tough over the years, the departure of a co-writer is bound to have a massive impact on your band, even if he is replaced with the guitarist from Dag Nasty, they have managed to make an incredible and welcome comeback which has continued through to their latest release New Maps of Hell. Of the albums that I have heard, which, judging by the sheer size of their catalogue isn't much, this has to be quite possibly one of the more musically diverse albums they've released as of late. Starting with the frantic, 58 second long, "52 Seconds" the album takes off with a soaring vitality with brash, caustic, go-for-the-jugular punk. However, there is a brillant pop-sensiblity amid the straight up punk songs, as evidenced by the song, "Before You Die." Although it sounds like it has the potential to be a Green Day outtake, the band pulls it off with a subtle flare that is catchy, and will leave you singing it for hours on end. Additionally, there is some slight experimental work, appropriate, since it is the follow-up to The Empire Strikes First, as seen through the song, "Fields of Mars," an allegory accented with a piano or even the Weezer soundalike, "Honest Goodbye." The guitars are as interwoven as ever, and really stand out on songs like "Grains of Wrath" and "New Dark Ages," and of course the BR standard three (or, according to Mr. Brett, four) part harmonies are just as tight as ever, creating a sound that helps Bad Religion stand out strongly against their younger cohorts.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are, as per usual, stellar. On this album, Bad Religion a full blown attack on anything and everything that they deem abominable. Topics ranging from alternative energy sources ("Grains of Wrath") to growing religiosity and religion in general("New Dark Ages," "Dearly Beloved," "Scrutiny") to war ("Submission Complete," "Fields of Mars," "Murder") to literature ("Honest Goodbye") to standing up for what you believe is right ("Requiem For Dissent") are covered. For a band that has been notorious for political and social commentary, this would seem like par for the course, but Bad Religion has a trick up their sleeve: an advanced vocabulary, and a wording of phrases and use of metaphor that makes a person think about these subjects more. And it helps to have a singer with a soulful and commanding voice that creates a sense of urgency. Although that voice is not as full as it used to be, in fact on this album, it seems to be fairly strained in some instances, you should probably remember that twenty-seven years touring and performing is bound to take it's toll.
Overall Impression — 8
Although it is no Suffer, and there are few albums that will ever be comparable to that one, it certainly gets the job done. Interestingly, one of the aspects that caught the attention of my ears, was the neat little musical throwbacks to earlier albums, and how they were thrown into the mix of new material. It's like they've learned from their history as a band, and improved upon it. I would definitely buy this album again.