The Empire Strikes Firstby Bad Religion
In 2004, Bad Religion supplemented a magazine of reissues with one in the chamber called The Empire Strikes First. Given the state of affairs and activism of peers like NOFX's Fat Mike, it's natural for Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz, and company to point their measured seethe and trademark erudition against shady politics and policies of preemptive security. "We strike first and we're unrehearsed/Here we go again to stage the greatest show on heaven and earth," the title track rants. But Bad Religion was never just a catchy name, as "God's Love" illustrates yet again. And society doesn't get a pass, taken to task for ignorance in "Social Suicide" and suffered as the source of Graffin's profound cynicism in "To Another Abyss." So the band's as indignant as ever, and that's important. The punk-pop kids in the drive-thru and hanging out at half-pipes need to see the graybeards bringing the big issue pain train. But it helps if those issues are bound to strong melodies, and in this department Bad Religion doesn't disappoint. "Let Them Eat War" features a stinging lead guitar figure and the usual muscular chug; outsider rap poet Sage Francis makes an appearance in the middle. Opener "Overture" is a brooding instrumental, the sound of punk in a neutered Orwell future -- it bursts into a million pieces in the thrusting fists of "Sinister Rouge" and the aforementioned "Suicide." (Empire's lyrics are attended by footnotes -- including Orwell -- à la 1992's Generator.) Those BR harmonies rise and fall behind a pleadingly angry Graffin in "All There Is," and one of the band's three (!) guitarists adds a solo blister. Best might be "Los Angeles Is Burning," not surprisingly inspired by the California wildfires of 2003. "Palm trees are candles in the murder wind/So many lives are on the breeze even the stars are ill at ease" -- the track's as powerfully melodic as it is darn angry. The Empire Strikes First isn't a return to Bad Religion at its most vitriolic and unstoppable -- whether that could ever really happen is unclear, and probably unnecessary. Unnecessary, because Bad Religion is best when standing defiant in the way of whatever hate and shenanigans are currently inhabiting our collective psyche. Their tone doesn't change, but the battles are always changing. Watch out, evildoers -- Bad Religion is in your rear-view, and they're gaining.
- Release Date:
- Epitaph / Ada
Performance CreditsBad Religion Primary Artist
Mike Campbell Guitar,Musician
Brian Baker Guitar,Vocals,Group Member
Brett Gurewitz Guitar,Background Vocals,Group Member
Greg Graffin Vocals,Group Member
Greg Hetson Guitar,Group Member
Atticus Ross Musician
Brooks Wackerman Percussion,Drums,Group Member
Claudia Sarne Soprano,Musician
John Ginty Hammond Organ,Musician
Sage Francis Vocals,Musician
Ian Bentley Bass,Background Vocals,Group Member
David Bragger Violin,Musician
Leopold Ross Musician
Technical CreditsJoe Barresi Engineer
Brett Gurewitz Composer,Producer
Greg Graffin Composer,Producer
Atticus Ross Programming
B.J. Baker Composer
Leopold Ross Sonic Assistance
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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bad religion has done it again. they managed to pump out anothor great record. although it is not a strictly punk record like thier previous ones but still good in a diffrint way. great music for people who are willing to litsen to people who know about life.
This album is an absolutely perfect combination of melody, attitude, intellect and overall talent. No group of musicians will ever be able to reach the standards that Bad Religion have set within the last two and a half decades except, seemingly, the band itself. Most musicians find a point in their career where they feel compelled to evolve and in most cases, it is the dedicated fan who suffers. Bad Religion has done nothing but evolve since their beginning and where most bands burn, Bad Religion has created a universal sound unable to be measured against any sound any other band has ever done or will likely ever do. Though recent recordings do lack the requirement to assault your neighbor that we have all come to love from stereotypical punk, it does contain a more mature rage/expectancy that demands you stand up and act for yourself rather than sit and complain while allowing yourself to be forced to ingest propaganda or lies and will enforce its demand be followed if necessary. And fortunately, with a little loss of self-control, you may find yourself beating your neighbor anyway. The Empire Strikes First is a wonderfully satisfying frosting on the layered cake that Bad Religion have worked for so long to assemble. Bubbling over the brim the aggressively thought provoking lyrics, brilliantly woven harmony/melody vocals, a thundering bass line that gently attempts to rupture ear drums, machine-gun fire percussion and raw, meaty guitar licks you have come to expect from this unstoppable 6-string triad being thrown from all directions, this album will beat your senses viciously from first track to last. The addition of Empire to the Bad Religion roster concretes not only and competence of the members but also the vision of this band of social renegades and proves once again that punk music has more levels than one could ever hope for. Not for the feeble-minded or intellectually restricted (though you should try to force it into them if given half a chance).
I didn't like much of Bad Religion's past stuff, except for a few tracks. This CD blew my mind, though. All the tracks are worth listening to over and over again, and you probably will if you pick up this addictive masterpiece.