Bad Religion
The Empire Strikes First



by descendents1 USER (36 Reviews)
March 3rd, 2007 | 46 replies

Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Still creating music on the foundation of anti-establishment politics and progressive social views, Bad Religion returns for their thirteenth full length album, “The Empire Strikes First,” with an explosive edge comparable to “Against the Grain.”

Bad Religion has certainly matured in an unprecedented direction. The persecuting lyrics of old have been toned down a notch to a level of examination. Still creating music on the foundation of anti-establishment politics and progressive social views, Bad Religion returns for their thirteenth full length album, “The Empire Strikes First,” with an explosive edge comparable to “Against the Grain.”

Greg Graffin is the centerpiece of the veteran punk band Bad Religion, normally writing lyrics with Brett Gurewitz regarding the futility of life. The most significant difference between “The Empire Strikes First” and previous albums is a direct assay of belief in God, as opposed to an attack of religion. Graffin recently released a book with co-author Professor Preston Jones, entitled “Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?” After listening to “The Empire Strikes First,” the book felt like an extension of the concise masterful lyrical work. A great consistency as a result of this progress is that Bad Religion develops a defining style on the album. This unique approach is a progression in the wisdom of the band, exposing a seemingly scientific inquiry of life, no doubt influenced by the experience of Graffin who holds a doctorate degree in Evolutionary Biology.

The vocal harmonies which are a trademark of Bad Religion’s juxtaposition of emotive cries and thought provoking lyrics are fluid in between the crashing drum beats made infamous on “Suffer.” Nearly every track during the first half of the album is explosive, while the second half of the album is exceptionally catchy. The clever lyrical content is showcased on “To Another Abyss.” With a haunting cry of “…and it chills me to the bone that I’m so far away from home,” superseding the brilliant “And you know that it’s a bitch when you learn to scratch that itch of blatant fallibility,” the song recognizes the insignificance of man. The song “God’s Love” also begs for an answer with “There’s no justice / Just a cause and no cure / And a bounty of suffering / It seems we all endure / And what I’m frightened of / Is that they call it “God’s love.” With clever lines and probing rhymes, Bad Religion goes beyond exemplifying an understanding of belief and attempts an evolution of punk rock.

When bands age they generally devolve in terms of losing the raw sound and edge that was present in their early years. They usually become conservative to satisfy larger audiences and as a result, cannot match the same spunk that gripped their original fans. The greatest bands are the ones that can recreate their sound and manifest any approach to their liking. Bad Religion’s music on “The Empire Strikes First” replaces the notion of getting old with an atmosphere of wisdom and the spunk needed to convince old and new fans alike that they aren’t dinosaurs. With complete control over their sound, Bad Religion sets the breakneck pace of “Sinister Rouge” between verses to remove any traces of dull instrumentation. Bad Religion lifts and drops the tempo and energy of each song at will, using their guitars as the fuel for the transitions. Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Government Issue and more) has a lot of experience in punk rock as he’s been playing the bass and guitar for over 20 years, providing the majority of the solos on the album. His work on “God’s Love” and “The Empire Strikes First” makes Bad Religion’s previous verses linger in the mind of the listener but go above being a subtlety in between Graffin’s familiar voice and Brooks Wackerman’s masterful beats.

Previous albums by Bad Religion, including “Recipe for Hate” and “No Control,” took direct shots at the concept of God, with songs like “Don’t Pray on Me” and the cynical and remarkable “Big Bang.” However, the specific change of approach that Bad Religion has decided upon is noticed clearly in songs like “All There Is” and “Live Again.” With “All There Is,” Graffin sings “In my rectory of doubt / I kneel to pray like one devout.” These lyrical territories are uncharted by Bad Religion, who are pursuing answers to seal the deal on the many questions raised by life. In “Live Again,” Graffin mentions the beliefs of the faithful with “Drunk with the assertions they know they can't defend / Confident that they might live again / Live again! Live again! Would you give it all up to live again?” Surely this question has been on Graffin’s mind for some time, as he attempts to understand what drives the faithful in an apparently hopeless endeavor.

Bad Religion’s efforts in the last quarter of the century have been the primary influence in punk rock. It is evident if you listen to many modern punk records, or if you ask a member of Pennywise. With “The Empire Strikes First,” Bad Religion goes beyond their formula and creates a new masterpiece to light a fire in the mind of the typical punk.

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user ratings (696)
other reviews of this album
ChopSuey (4)
Listening to Bad Religion is a good religion to have. This is a soundtrack as enlightening as heaven...

xfragiletimex (5)

brycey (5)

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 3rd 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

Good work. I pretty much agree. A little bit more specific details would have helped this a bit

March 3rd 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

alrighty, i'm adding a paragraph, thanks for the advice

i hope that's not an abuse of the edit feature

March 3rd 2007


This album is okay.

March 3rd 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

brand new 4th paragraph, so i'll leave it up to readers to decide if and how it helps

i guess i worked with a foundation while writing about this album that listeners were familiar with bad religion, and did not emphasize in detail how they sound. rather, i wanted to demonstrate the positive evolution in bad religion due to creating this album.

March 4th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

definitely better.

Two-Headed Boy
March 4th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Fucking classic.This Message Edited On 03.04.07

March 4th 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

It's not that good.

March 4th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Waaaaaaaaay better review than the other two. While not as revolutionary or required

as No Control or Against The Grain, this album is unquestionably some of

BR's strongest work in years, although I do slightly prefer Process Of Belief. Their

next album will rule all.This Message Edited On 03.04.07

July 18th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

This record kicked ass! Too bad I cant say the same about the new one. Sinister Rogue is the shit!

July 28th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

Maybe a review of more than the lyrics next time?

July 28th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

Sure. That's a funny remark, considering I've technically had about 15 next times, and I've been trying to evolve my writing since the last 4 months that this was written, so I hope you read my newer work as well.

However, you have convinved me to add another paragraph to this review. In all honesty, thank you, because refining my previous work is still in my mind.

Fixed, looks better, thanks again.This Message Edited On 07.28.07

January 2nd 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

I enjoy this album a lot. Quite surprising seeing as I usually only listen to metal, but there's something compelling about Bad Religion....

I like Gaffin's lyrics on this album. Not in regards of the political stance, but the rhythms and use of longer words. I don't know what I'm tlkaing about :P

But I wouldn't call it a classic though.

May 2nd 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

I think this is the best Bad Religion album.

December 5th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

One of their best or even maybe their best, that's sure.

That level after 30 years of recording and touring : it's just amazing !

January 13th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

this is probably my favorite BR album

July 23rd 2011


social suicide is my shit

Digging: Soundmurderer - Wired for Sound

Staff Reviewer
July 23rd 2011


Album Rating: 3.5

Half od this album is really good

August 23rd 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

Process of Belief was an awesome "comeback" kind of album, but in the end I listen to this one more often. It's sort of an unlikely masterpiece - songs like "Into Another Abyss" could have probably sucked if they were written No Substance era, but every song on this album is solid, well produced, and memorable.

October 9th 2012


Album Rating: 4.0

damn i forgot about this cd.

February 2nd 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

With good looks and books on their side, and hearts bursting with national pride, they sang songs that went along for the ride, and the other side complied.

almost forgot how much this rules

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