Home Read Classic Album Review: Bad Religion | The Process of Belief

Classic Album Review: Bad Religion | The Process of Belief

The California punk stalwarts get back on track with their dozenth studio release.

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This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Truth be told, it’s been kind of hard not to lose faith in Bad Religion over the last few years.

And at the risk of sounding like some holier-than-thou punk zealot, I can tell you when the disillusionment set in — in the mid-’90s, when the seminal California hardcore outfit jumped ship from their long-serving indie label Epitaph for the big leagues of Atlantic. That was when guitarist and band co-founder Brett Gurewitz (not coincidentally, also the founder of Epitaph) left the band. That was when their songs started to get slower and longer. That was when they stopped producing their own records and started working with pop gurus like Ric Ocasek and Todd Rundgren. In short, that was when they stopped being the Bad Religion everybody worshipped and started to turn into some other version of Bad Religion that sorta sounded the same, but wasn’t nearly as good.

Now, it seems, like wayward sheep returning to the fold, the boys have seen the light and exorcized all those demons. For their dozenth studio album The Process of Belief, things are back to the way they were. Or at least damn close to it. Gurewitz is back in the lineup. The band are back on the Epitaph roster. The revamped sextet — vocalist Greg Graffin, guitarists Gurewitz, Brian Baker and Greg Hetson, bassist Jay Bentley and new drummer Brooks Wackerman — even returned to Gurewitz’s Westbeach Studio, their old stomping ground, to record these 14 tracks of scrappy, rough ’n’ tumble old-school punk. What more could any punk want?

Not much. Simply put, this 36-minute blast of classic-sounding SoCal punk is Bad Religion’s strongest and most distinctive album in a decade. Bursting out of the gate at full throttle with the suitably titled Supersonic and bolting for the finish line like Ben Johnson on steroids, The Process of Belief finds the band picking up right where their classic early ’80s discs left off. These tunes average about 2:30 in length and plenty clock in at two minutes or less — shorter, sharper shots than BR has written for some time. Graffin’s lyrics — especially on Bored and Extremely Dangerous, Destined for Nothing and Prove It — continue to balance hard-hitting punk aggression (“I don’t ever need to prove myself to you”) with thought-provoking philosophy (“It’s not what you own, it’s what you throw away”). The three-guitar lineup creates a churning wall of melodic crunch — man, I bet these guys sound awesome live now — while the layered backup harmonies and gang-chorus vocals put a cherry-sweet topping on the sundae. And new drummer Wackerman underpins the whole affair with precise, tasteful pounding that continually reinvents the tired punk-polka wheel.

In short, The Process of Belief is that rarest of punk-rock creations: An album fast, heavy and tough enough to keep the mosh pit roiling, while at the same time smart and mature enough to keep the old punks along the back wall nodding their heads in appreciation.

Consider my faith renewed.