Bad Religion

True North

Written by: PP on 20/01/2013 22:23:47

34 years after their formation, punk legends Bad Religion release their best album in more than a decade with "True North". No other surprises can be found on their sixteenth studio album overall, which is good, because it is Bad Religion doing what Bad Religion does best: delivering their timeless sound without unnecessary deviation from a rock solid formula. Don't fix what ain't broken is still the flagship ideology from the band, although they have made minor adjustments to their sound in comparison to the last few albums they've released. As a result "True North" sounds not only refreshing, but also like they have rediscovered their songwriting prowess for at least one more album.

"The Dissent Of Man" (2010) and "New Maps Of Hell" (2007) were comparatively heavy albums. The tempo was sky-high, the guitars were aggressive and hard-hitting, and the vocal melodies less inclined for big harmonies than the piercing lyrical content of Greg Graffin. They were both great albums nonetheless, but it was a slightly different setup than what we were used hearing from the band. If you go back one more album to "The Empire Strikes First" (2004), you'll find what is arguably the poppiest / softest album from the band, so it was perhaps a natural reaction as songwriters to move towards something heavier.

Here's where "True North" differs from all of these albums and has more in common with both "The Process Of Belief" (2002), and even further back, with the classic 1988-1992 era of "Suffer", "No Control", "Against The Grain", and even "Generator". In fact, it's essentially a halfway meeting point between those two distinct sounds. Both the sharp, low-end tone of the guitar as well as the production has returned to the old levels, though still with the quasi-modern vibe of process. The focus has been restored towards writing classic sing along melodies, which are subtle enough to avoid the pop element completely, yet still come across as genre-defining anthems. Songs like "Changing Tide", "Crisis Time", "Popular Consensus" or "Robin Hood In Reverse" are ones that change people's lives. They are literally the kinds of songs that convert tens of thousands of people into punk rock and encourage the listener to start expanding their musical horizons beyond that of their normal comfort zones. I know, because "Process..." did that for me, and this album is a lot like "Process...": the songs are incredible. They are masterpieces not just lyrically (the sociopolitical commentary is thought-provoking and intellectual in nature, as usual), but also in terms of the vocal harmonies, the guitar riffs, and the whole soundscape that's as quintessentially Bad Religion as it comes. They are just great songs, period.

Instead of going for a slightly more ambitious (and for BR, experimental) style that we've seen for the past decade, many songs on "True North" are short and to the point. Minute and a half, two minutes maximum. They benefit greatly from a more direct approach, because it places a lot of pressure on the riffs to deliver their best value in a much shorter time, but also because it eliminates less interesting bridge passages between different sections. There were a lot of these on the previous two albums, even though the albums as a whole were great.

It's impressive that even as Bad Religion are approaching retirement age, they are still playing punk rock with the same ideology, the same sound, and the same approach as they did over 30 years ago. What's even more impressive is how closely "True North" aligns itself next to the definition of the perfect punk rock album. It's only January, but this is album of the year material.

Download: Changing Tide, Popular Consensus, True North, Robin Hood In Reverse, Crisis Time
For the fans of: Rise Against, NOFX, Pennywise , Descendents
Listen: Facebook

Release date 22.01.2013
Epitaph

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