Home Read Classic Album Review: Bad Religion | The Empire Strikes First

Classic Album Review: Bad Religion | The Empire Strikes First

The dependable SoCal punks keep playing by their own rules on their 13th album.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Maybe you can’t teach an old punk new tricks. But when Bad Religion are the punks in question, their old tricks will do just fine, thanks.

Case in point: The Empire Strikes First, the 13th studio disc from these legendary SoCal pioneers — and second since the much-heralded homecoming of co-founding guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Continuing the return to form begun on 2002’s The Process of Belief, these 14 subversive anthems follow the now-familiar BR blueprint: A base of rock-solid, hyperkinetic rhythm; walls of grinding buzzsaw guitars; and singer-lyricist Greg Graffin’s post-grad literacy and aggressive melodicism holding it all together.

Sure, there are a few new sonic touches — a dash of electronics here, a gothic chorus there, ear-catching production everywhere — to spruce up the old punk clubhouse. Make no mistake, though; with their whoa-ho gang choruses, soaring harmonies and lyrics railing against organized religion, corporate greed and Bush, rabble-rousing rockers like Atheist Peace, Let Them Eat War and God’s Love are classic Bad Religion.

If all that sounds like they’re sticking to the rules, well, maybe so. But remember: They wrote the rules. And with The Empire Strikes First, Bad Religion remind us they can play by them better than just about anyone.