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Release Date: Jul 9, 2007
Number Of Tracks: 16
Their fourteenth album is both a nod to the band's defiant past and an undeniable step forward in the evolution of a genre they helped to define.
New Maps Of Hell
UG Team, on july 11, 2007 7 of 19 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 8
Lyrics: 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. // 6
Overall Impression: 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. // 7
New Maps Of Hell
SandyPilgrim, on july 11, 2007 3 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 7
Lyrics: 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. // 8
Overall Impression: 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. // 8
New Maps Of Hell
jdreed08, on july 12, 2007 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: This album isn't Suffer, it isn't Against the Grain, and it isn't No Control. You can't expect a bunch of forty-year-olds to rock like they were teenagers. With that said, this album fully captures the sound that is Bad Religion. There are the fast songs, such as "Dearly Beloved" and "Heroes and Martyrs", and the slower songs such as "Before You Die". Probably the most surprising sound on the album, however, is the single "Honest Goodbye". I knew from the opening note that this song was going to be something different, and it isn't your usual Bad Religion song with the grinding power chords and fast pace. Does that mean they made this song to sell records? I can't tell you. Even though it doesn't sound like "I Want To Conquer the World", It is catchy.
One thing that Bad Religion always gets trashed for (and this album's reception shows it) is that the album sounds like every other Bad Religion album. I have to say that there are musical similarities within every Bad Religion song, and that is part of what makes them great. Some bands feel that every new album has to sound different, and there seems to be a push in the musical world for everything to sound new and different. Bad Religion, on the other hand doesn't embrace this philosophy, and I'm glad they don't. I would have bought New Maps of Hell without listening to a single track because I would have known what I would have gotten: punk rock with intelligent lyrics and beautiful harmonies. With that said, this album does have it's differences from previous ones. "Prodigal Son" seems to take it's time rather than just grind through, and the harmonies and melody take center stage. "Fields of Mars" is a standout track in sound, with the use of piano in the intro. When it first started I thought I was getting a rejected track from "Into the Unknown", but it quickly went back to the good old Bad Religion punk rock. I feel it's a welcome change, and I love it. // 9
Lyrics: Greg Graffin could sing disco and I'd listen to it religiously. He and Brett Gurewitz definitely bring the intellect on this album, as you would expect with anything Bad Religion does. My favorite track on the album, "New Dark Ages" has one of the catchiest choruses I've ever heard: "Welcome to the new dark ages / I hope you're living right / these are the new dark ages / and the world might end tonight", and although the chorus to that song is the highlight, the verses are still amazing. The next track, "Requiem for Dissent" calls upon dissenters to come out of the shadows. Although this song's topic is one that has been done countless times in recent years, it's approach is what makes it unique. "Prodigal Son", one of the best on the album, brings Horatio Alger into th fray in only the second line of the song. This sounds like forced rhyming, but it is regardless fitting to the subject of the song. The seemingly forced rhyming in "Before You Die", however, does detract from the song as the line "Everybody is a bastard / my world is like plaster" sticks out like a sore thumb. // 8
Overall Impression: I love Bad Religion. From the first listen of "American Jesus" to the moment I saw them at Warped Tour through The Empire Strikes First until today, I have always loved them. Bad Religion does not experiment with their sound to try to grab wider audiences, and they rarely do a song with a generic pop/rock theme just to attract attention. Bad Religion is not a band that you absolutely love because of the artistic quality of an album, they're a band that you love because they're always there to provide a consistent voice of dissent and provide an intellectual argument against crimes in society. There aren't a lot of bands out there where every song can be quoted in a Political Science paper.
New Maps of Hell is a great Bad Religion album. Did I flip over it like I did when I heard either of the two most recent Brand New albums? No. New Maps of Hell is something that is good to hear in a musical world as diverse as today. In a world where every band is trying to do something to set them apart, Bad Religion releases an album just like they have done since Back To the Known, no drastic change in sound, no dramatic lyrical storylines, just good old punk rock. It's good to hear an album that does not try to be something it isn't, and instead achieves exactly what it set out to be. You can't hail this album as a new turn in punk rock, because this sound has always been there, there's nothing new about it and that makes it beautiful.
All in all, "New Dark Ages" is as catchy as a virus and "Prodigal Son" really gets you moving. The three songs that were out before the album, "Requiem for Dissent", "Honest Goodbye" and "Heroes and Martyrs" fit well into the context of the album, although "Honest Goodbye" does stand out as it's style is different. This album is definitely going to get a lot of playing time due to it's tremendous songwriting and incredibly catchy songs. Bad Religion's members may be over 40, but that doesn't mean their music is old. // 10