Unfortunately, I can not claim to be a Bad Religion fan from the very beginning, considering the inception of the band and myself coincide. Fortunately, I found Bad Religion before it was too late, and I must say that I am a huge fan now. After the unbelievable Process Of Belief, in 2002, I was in great anticipation for the latest release from Bad Religion, The Empire Strikes First, and I was not let down in the slightest.
I personally feel The Empire Strikes First is the perfect progression for Bad Religion as very influential artists, as well as very relevant social commentators. The CD opens with a hypnotic instrumental which is, do I dare to say, beautiful. It is followed by the intense drumbeat and guitar riffs of "Sinister Rouge" to appropriately snap you out of the trance, and throw you back into a more familiar punk pace. The entire album is remarkable enough to individually comment on each song, but I shall not bore. The first release, "Los Angeles is Burning" is not only a catchy tune that contains a great chorus, but also a very provocative statement. Lead singer Greg Graffin is never afraid to speak the truth in his lyrics, and if necessary be extremely blunt about reality. This very admirable quality is evident throughout the entire record, especially in the following verses from the first release:
"And I cannot believe the media Mecca -- they're only trying to peddle reality
Catch it on prime-time, story at nine
The whole world is going insane"
The title song, "The Empire Strikes First" is in my opinion the best on the record. It has a very powerful chorus, or rather, empowering chant, accompanied by the perfect harmony of drum and guitar. The message in Graffin's lyrics is quite incredible, awesomely displaying his own discontent towards the current administration and the choice of war, while also referencing and acknowledging actual concerns and efforts of the populace.
"Well, we spit and we cursed and our bleeding hearts burst
But even ten million souls marching in February couldn't stop the worst
C -- c -- c -- couldn't reverse."
Be sure to listen in the end of the song as well for an appropriately altered rendition of a very classical verse.
Other notable mentions are "To Another Abyss", and the closing track, "Live Again -- The Fall of Man". These songs specifically deal with the issues o f religion and government, two very controversial topics of discussion in today's censored arena of free speech. "To Another Abyss" expresses the common stance of a common man under current rule:
"What should I celebrate, given finite means and a penchant to depreciate?
How can I still avow and depend upon a state that cares nothing for my happiness,
welfare or fate? "
"Live Again -- The Fall of Man" is rather forthright in stating the contradicting reality, and insanity of certain aspects of faith:
"And they say what's waiting on the other side is so rewarding and the ultimate prize
But what good is something if you can't have it until you die? "
"Drunk with the assertions they know they can't defend
Confident that they might live again"
All in all, The Empire Strikes First is nothing short of spectacular. Bad Religion undoubtedly stays true to its overall consistent message of over twenty years now. A message that is proving to be more necessary to be heard than perhaps ever before in our time. It is inspirational to experience the creative collaboration of the musicians, Brett Gurewitz, Jay Bentley, Greg Hetson, Brian Baker, Brooks Wackerman, with the personal and political poetry of Greg Graffin. If you like Process Of Belief, you will definitely be singing along to every song of The Empire Strikes First after a couple of times through it. You may find yourself grabbing your dictionary for this one, but the education is well worth it. For my final word, I would just say that if you have not been saved yet, it is never too late to find Bad Religion.
The Empire Strikes First (2004)
2. Sinister Rouge
3. Social Suicide
4. Atheist Peace
5. All There Is
6. Los Angeles Is Burning
7. Let Them Eat War
8. God's Love
9. To Another Abyss
10. The Quickening
11. The Empire Strikes First
12. Beyond Electric Dreams
13. Boot Stamping On A...
14. Live Again - The Fall Of Man
Bad Religion Review by: Nick Patrick
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