Bad Religion
New Maps of Hell


2.0
poor

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
June 23rd, 2007 | 129 replies | 25,426 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bad Religion keeps on keeping on, with mediocre results.

Bad Religion - New Maps of Hell

This summer may be the summer of mediocre releases by awesome punk bands. Strung Out's Blackhawks Over Los Angeles though praised by some has left me underwhelmed and aching for more. To offset my disappointment, I spent this afternoon cruising with my brother to Strung Out's Live in a Dive, which even got my brother amped up (he typically only listens to The Game and Journey). Strung Out is a band that like NOFX, Lagwagon, Pennywise, and No Use for a Name blends somewhat mature songwriting, with fast, melodic punk in the California (both Nor and So) style. All of these bands have a common origin in Bad Religion whose California sense of punk melody and harmonized vocals were the foundation for the sound that would define the important Epitaph and Fat Wreck releases during all of the 90s. Bad Religion's career has been somewhat lopsided though. After being pioneers in the late 80s for this particular style, they fell off the table when guitarist Gurewitz left the band to focus on his label (Epitaph). Only upon returning did Bad Religion strike back with the clutch album The Process of Belief, whose main single "Sorrow" was a force on popular radio as well as with even the jaded end of Bad Religion's fanbase, which is a pretty impressive feat.

Which brings us to the decidedly underwhelming New Maps of Hell. I'm going to preface this qualification by saying if you're just a diehard fan of the Graffin's voice and Gurewitz's sense of harmony, then you're probably going to be content with this release, and really, anything BR releases. This is typical BR in a lot of ways. There are some pop-punk moments and some hardcore moments, all under a punk umbrella. It's the next installment in their discography and for some fans, that will be enough. However, for the average spectator, this album pales in comparison with previous releases from the band whether legendary (Suffer) or just solid (Process of Belief).

This lameness stems from a few keys characteristics of this album. Most importantly, the songwriting is weaker than ever before. There are some nice tracks, "Fields of Mars,"New Dark Ages" and "Honest Goodbye" included, but overall many of the songs are somewhat forgettable. Some of these are like "52 Seconds," which is hampered by its faux-melodic hardcore leanings. The fast minor key chords and shouted vocals feel like a weak, contrived throwback to their releases from 1988-1990 rather than original and inventive songwriting. In fact, the whole first third of the album except "New Dark Ages" seems to be rutted in this style. Others are just not inspiring. They have fast beats and harmonized vocals and all that classic BR stuff, but also feel like they're just attempts to rekindle BR's style from their golden years. For example, "Requiem for Dissent" has gang vocals that seem more gratuitous than gratifying, and even when the nice solos enter, they can't reinvigorate the song. The songwriting just feels too rooted in the past and doesn't even do a very good job of invoking the previous styles.

Also, the production is pretty uninspired if even weird at times. Whether it's the goofy, distorted, and compressed vocals of "52 Seconds" or the brief attempts at throwing in gimmicky production tricks like the piano fading into straight punk in the introduction to "Fields of Mars," the production just leaves me scratching my head. All of the goofy toss-ins feel extraneous unlike, say, the awesome dub parody intro to "Sorrow" from Process of Belief or the frame-hitting on the turnarounds in "Suffer" from Suffer. There's just something poorly chosen about the production idiosyncrasies on this album. Also, the instrumental tones don't inspire and do little to distinguish this release from any other BR offerings. The vocals don't cut through the mix as well as they used to. It's just more mediocrity.

The main plus of this album is that Bad Religion is a good band. The style that they've carved out over the past 25+ years is, even at its worst, better than that of most other punk acts. And, as I mentioned earlier, this is just the newest member of the BR catalogue. It does nothing to distinguish itself from other BR releases and some of the premier punk albums released in the past few years, but it also can immediately trump most of the stuff being put out these days on the virtue of BR's tight and likable style. If you're a diehard, pick this up, but if you're new to BR or merely a casual listener, check out / keep on enjoying the old stuff.



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user ratings (380)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
crystalinedemise (4)
Bad Religion finds a great middle ground between the BR of the 80's and the BR of the new Millennium...

memnochsxs (4)
Bad Relgion still has it, even for a weathered crew. New Maps of Hell is sure to please....


Comments:Add a Comment 
descendents1
June 23rd 2007



702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I guess they're just getting old.

The Jungler
June 23rd 2007



4827 Comments


I was just listening to a bit of this band a little while ago. I used to like them a lot, but now they (save for a few singles) don't really do anything for me.
Nice job.

slep
June 23rd 2007



1604 Comments


I'm still going to check this out in entirety, but so far from what I have heard, I think I might have a similar rating.

Nice review.This Message Edited On 06.23.07

tom79
June 23rd 2007



3366 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The style that they've carved out over the past 25+ years is, even at its worst, better than that of most other punk acts.

I think this is true.

Even if its more typical BR, which was kinda was what I was expecting, thats really fine by me. I'll probably pick this up sometime in July.This Message Edited On 06.23.07

Digging: Rainer Maria - Look Now Look Again

Fort23
June 23rd 2007



2475 Comments


They're defintely getting old. But they still can PLAY and play good, just they're not showing anything original. But they still know their shit, especially politically.

Very Good review, though I would give it a few notches higher (rating wise).This Message Edited On 06.23.07

understone
June 23rd 2007



51 Comments


I really liked the single, so I will check this out.

Alex101
June 23rd 2007



129 Comments


Yeah, I liked the new single too. I'm definitely buying this new album when it's out.

Intransit
June 23rd 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, as much as this is just typical BR, it's still really good for me personally. The main issue I saw with it was the lack of balance that The Empire Strikes First sort of perfected, with just the right amount of interesting tricks thrown in. Seemed like a step back songwriting wise. However, I still find this pretty enjoyable.

Good review, although I would have guessed at a 2.5, maybe even a 3 from the review.

thesystemisdown
June 24th 2007



412 Comments


Mediocrity for Bad Religion >>>>>> awesomeness for 90% of punk bands today

slep
June 24th 2007



1604 Comments


Nope.

SkaRobotArmy
June 24th 2007



24 Comments


what i got out of this review is that if they try to go in a little bit different direction or style of writing and progress themselves, its bad. if they play like the used to, its bad. but if they do neither and continue on from their last album (which was oddly neglected in this review) thats bad too because its the same. so really, given this frame of reference, i'm impressed it was given even a 2.

and though i have yet to hear it, i would not attribute any piano or extra instrumentals as 'production gimmicks' if you have listened to any of greg graffins solo work.

descendents1
June 24th 2007



702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

As far as I'm concerned the rating is spot on.

This review is accurate as well, and though this is Bad Religion near their worst it's still far from great punk rock.

rudy4u51
June 24th 2007



26 Comments


I'm just glad they are still together and still playing shows. It would really suck if you couldn't go see them play anymore. I'll get this album. I've been waiting for it. Just hope i'm not toooooo disappointed in it. very good review.

Two-Headed Boy
June 24th 2007



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dissapointing to hear it's not very good.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 24th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

what i got out of this review is that if they try to go in a little bit different direction or style of writing and progress themselves, its bad. if they play like the used to, its bad


The reason their older albums are good is because every song is memorable and wel-written. That and the fact that they were the most popular and early to originate the epitaph/fat wreck sound. Them trying to recreate that brings in lackluster results. I don't see them doing anything new on this album at all, which I didn't even really harp on.

jrowa001
June 24th 2007



8750 Comments


im still going to get this even if you say its a 2. i somehow find enjoyment in all of BR's albums. good review as well

Let's Chop Cats!
June 24th 2007



142 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wow, calling 'Honesty Goodbye' as one of the better tracks. Naturally this won't touch their classics, but it is still an awesome album and nowhere near the bottom of their discography.

awesome dub parody intro to "Sorrow"
Umm what? Where the hell is there a dub parody in that song? I wouldn't call that intro dub or a parody of anything.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 25th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I just didn't want to say "faux" twice in one review. The intro is mock reggae/dub.

Tyler
Emeritus
June 25th 2007



7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I could see that, just the production style.
I agree with most of this review but I admittedly like this a little more. It's still better than New America.

Let's Chop Cats!
June 25th 2007



142 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I just didn't want to say "faux" twice in one review. The intro is mock reggae/dub.

I'd say its more just a softer verse considering its the same riff except instead of using the chords it just the root note. Definitely don't see any reggae/dub in it at all.



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