Truthfully, most musician-originated labels are little more than vanity projects designed release their owner's music. That's where Bad Religion's guitarist Brett Gurewitz was different. Like so many others, he founded a label to release his group's recordings, but Epitaph Records became a premier Punk indie imprint. Like a lot of indies, it had its share of financial difficulties but not before establishing an incredible track record with music from Offspring, NoFX and, of course, Bad Religion.
As the '80s began, Bad Religion formed in north L.A. with Gurewitz, vocalist Gregg Graffin, bassist Jay Bentley and drummer Jay Ziskrout. Only Graffin was onboard for the whole ride. Debut album "Into The Unknown" was released in '83 but by the mid-80s, both Bentley and Ziskrout were gone. Paul Dedona spelled Bentley, while Pete Finestone took over from Ziskrout. Though Finestone also left and Davy Goldman stepped in, Finestone was not done with Bad Religion. As all this was spinning about, Gurewitz decided to take '84 off to deal with his substance abuse problems.
With Finestone back, along with a couple ex-Circle Jerks (guitarist Greg Hetson and bassist Tim Gallegos), Bad Religion unveiled their "Back To The Known" EP which won praise and fans. Even so, the group decided to take a three-year "break."
Bad Religion returned in '87 with Gurewitz. The "Suffer," "No Control," "Against The Grain" and "Recipe For Hate" CDs established Bad Religion as one of Punk's leading bands. It also drew the attention of Atlantic Records.
Atlantic re-released "Recipe For Hate" and gave it the full major label promotional push. Bad Religion's full-fledged major label debut came with "Stranger Than Fiction." But once again, Gurewitz bailed. First, Offspring's surprise success meant Gurewitz had to spend more time on label matters. Secondly, and probably more significant, Gurewitz was unhappy with the group's deal with Atlantic.
After three albums that failed to live up to Atlantic's expectations, the group was dropped. No problem, Bad Religion was re-signed by Epitaph with Gurewitz eventually back on guitar (he also helped out on the group's last Atlantic release "New America") for the '02 release "The Process of Belief." Two years later the group unleashed "The Empire Strikes First."
At this point, Graffin published Evolution, Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist World-View ('04), the first in a series of books that included Evolution, Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist World-View ('04); Is Belief in God Good, Bad, or Irrelevant? - with Preston Jones ('06); and Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God - with Steve Olson ('10). Graffin also taught at UCLA.
An '04 concert was released on DVD two years later. Live At The Palladium contained interviews, music videos, and a photo gallery. That same year, Graffin issued his second solo album, "Cold As Clay" (his first solo effort was '97's "American Lesion").
Bad Religion's fourteenth studio album, "New Maps Of Hell," contained the songs "Honest Goodbye," "Heroes And Martyrs," and "New Dark Ages." The '07 set debuted at #35 on the Billboard 200, Bad Religion's highest-ever chart position. They jumped on the '07 Warped Tour to support the album.
The group then issued a limited edition (3,000 copies) vinyl box set of all their albums, including their '83 set "Into The Unknown," which had been out of print for over 25 years.
Prior to the release of their '10 studio effort, "The Dissent Of Man," Bad Religion went back to the well for the career retrospective, "30 Years Live."
When "The Dissent Of Man" dropped, it also debuted at #35 on the Billboard 200 (just like "New Maps Of Hell") and landed at #6 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart.
After fifteen studio albums, was Bad Religion done? Would there be another album? "It's all very Punk [attitude] just like it's always been," said guitarist Brian Baker in response to the questions. "We will record when we have enough songs. For us, it just kind of happens."
Bad Religion's sixteenth studio effort, "True North," arrived in January, '13.
Later in the year, guitarist Mike Dimkich split from The Cult to join Bad Religion.
Add a member, lose a member. Drummer Brooks Wackerman announced his departure in '15. He'd been with the band since '01. In a statement he explained it was time for him "to pursue another path." He joined Avenged Sevenfold less than a week later.
Graffin released his third solo album, "Millport," in '17. "American Lesion" ('97) and "Cold As The Clay" ('06) we're the first two.
1982 How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
1983 Into The Unknown
1989 No Control
1990 Against The Grain
1993 Recipe For Hate
1994 Stranger Than Fiction
1996 The Gray Race
1998 No Substance
2000 The New America
2002 The Process Of Belief
2004 The Empire Strikes First
2007 New Maps Of Hell
2010 The Dissent Of Man
2013 True North
Bad Religion's scalding Punk-influenced Rock reaches its zenith on "Suffer" and "No Control." Their '90s work is generally not up to their earlier standards. Surprisingly, Bad Religion is able to get back on track with "The Process Of Belief" and "The Empire Strikes First." The frantic speed Rock/Punk rush is back and we're all happier for it. On "Empire," the title track, "Social Suicide" and "Beyond Electric Dreams" leave an indelible impression.
"True North" is Bad Religion in standard operating mode - that's perfect. The title track jumps out immediately fusing guitar, bass and drums in a forceful rhythm. Both "Past Is Dead" and "My Head Is Full Of Ghosts" show off atypical lead guitar work.
Song titles, "Robin Hood In Reverse," "Hello Cruel World" and 'Nothing But Dismay," illustrate the lyrical direction. "F*** You" ("sometimes… the easiest thing to do is to say f*** you") is softened with "whoa" backing vocals but it still carries a punch.
A couple compilations are good options. "80-85" covers their early period. "All Ages" takes a longer view (to the mid-90s). Both are excellent. Interestingly, the '00 album "New America," produced by Todd Rundgren and containing "You've Got A Chance" and "It's A Long Way To The Promised Land" is another strong choice.