Bad Religion may not need any introduction due to their notoriety in punk, hardcore, and various independent and even some mainstream circles, but there are several impressive facts that New Maps of Hell bring to light with its release to the public. One, Bad Religion is, minus a few break ups in the eighties, closing in on thirty years of existence as a predominately punk rock band. Two, New Maps of Hell is the band's fourteenth proper full-length studio album and at sixteen songs is a large chunk of material. Three, the band is keeping with the current course of sound since Brett Gurewitz rejoined the band following Bad Religion's return to Epitaph Records. The sheer fact that Bad Religion is still releasing politically, socially, and musically relevant albums almost thirty years since their inception is grounds to recognize the accomplishment of the release of New Maps of Hell.
A great deal more consistent than its immediate predecessor, The Empire Strikes First, New Maps of Hell may have a variety of different sounds and tempos, but those elements congeal to offer a coherent collection of songs. Songs weave through the album's tapestry with the speed and intensity of tracks like "52 Seconds" and "Murder" to bouncy melodicism of "Before You Die" and "Dearly Beloved" to slower pop of "Honest Goodbye,” which is almost sickeningly sweet to the ears. "Germs of Perfection" would not find itself so far out of place if inserted into one of Bad Religion's classics like Suffer or No Control. Quite probably, my favorite song on New Maps of Hell is "New Dark Ages." The lyrics are classic examples of Bad Religion polemics. Despite the guest appearance by members of another Epitaph recording artist, "Requiem for Dissent" is actually a strong addition to the album with the inclusion of gang yells to contrast with the requisite "oozin aahs". The triumphant closing of the album is signaled by the piano introduction of "Fields of Mars." The vocal parts for this song are both soaring and infectiously catchy. It is an effective bookend to the scorching opener, "52 Seconds.”
Somehow, Bad Religion manages to maintain their relevance to the world of punk and other independent music. New Maps of Hell might be the strongest of the three albums (The Process of Belief and the Empire Strikes First are the other two) that have been released by the band since their return to guitarist Gurewitz's record label, Epitaph. The album is further evidence of the group's return to their punk roots. It would be sacrilege to hardcore Bad Religion fans to put this new album near the vaunted status of some of their classic records, but those that do find themselves enjoying those, should find New Maps of Hell at the least enjoyable.
7.0 / 10
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