Out of all of the Southern Californian hardcore punk bands of
the early '80s, Bad Religion stayed around the longest. For over
a decade, they retained their underground credibility without
turning out a series of indistinguishable records that all sound
the same. Instead, the band refined its attack, adding inflections
of psychedelia, heavy metal, and hard rock along the way, as well
as a considerable dose of melody. Between their 1982 debut and
their first major-label record, 1993's Recipe for Hate, Bad Religion
stayed vital in the hardcore community by tightening their musical
execution and keeping their lyrics complex and righteously angry.
Bad Religion formed in the northern suburbs of Los Angeles in
1980, comprising guitarist Brett Gurewitz, vocalist Greg Graffin,
bassist Jay Bentley, and drummer Jay Ziskrout. Gurewitz established
his own record company, Epitaph, to release the band's records.
Between their self-titled EP and their first full-length record,
Pete Finestone replaced Ziskrout as the group's drummer. Into
the Unknown, their debut album, was released in 1983 and gained
them some attention on the national U.S. hardcore scene. After
its release, the group's lineup changed, as bassist Paul Dedona
and drummer Davy Goldman joined the group.
In the meantime, the band's lineup was undergoing some more shakeups.
Gurewitz had to take 1984 off to recover from various substance
abuse problems, leaving Graffin as the band's only original member.
In addition to Graffin, the 1984 incarnation of the band featured
former Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Tim Gallegos,
and returning drummer Pete Finestone. Bad Religion's next release,
the harder, punkier Back to the Known EP restored faith among
the group's devoted fans. After its release, the group went on
hiatus for three years.
When Bad Religion returned in 1987, the band featured Gurewitz,
Graffin, Ziskrout, Hetson, and Finestone. They released Suffer
the following year, a record that re-established the group as
prominent players in the U.S. underground punk/hardcore scene.
They followed with No Control (1989) and Against the Grain (1990).
By the time of their 1993 album, Recipe for Hate, alternative
rock had become popular with the mainstream; in addition, the
band's following was quite large. These two factors contributed
to Bad Religion signing a major-label contract with Atlantic Records.
Recipe for Hate was originally released on Epitaph, but it was
soon re-released with the support of Atlantic. The group's first
proper major-label album was 1994's Stranger Than Fiction; it
was also Gurewitz's last album with the group. Before the release
of Stranger Than Fiction, Epitaph had an unexpected hit with the
Offspring's Smash, causing Gurewitz to spend more time at the
label; reports also indicated that he was displeased with Bad
Religion's major-label contract. The group replaced Gurewitz with
hardcore veteran Brian Baker for their supporting tour, which
proved to be their most successful to date.
Bad Religion released their second major-label album, The Gray
Race, in early 1996, but it didn't achieve the same results as
its predecessors. No Substance followed in 1998, and two years
later the band returned with New America, which was produced by
Todd Rundgren. Although it featured Bad Religion's best work in
years, Atlantic subsequently dropped the band, which returned
to the Epitaph label. In the summer of 2001, Gurewitz rejoined
the lineup after a six-year absence, and the group began work
on The Process of Belief. The album appeared in February the following
year, and was widely hailed for its re-calibration of the Graffin/Gurewitz
axis. The band's next project was the re-mastering and issuing
of its early catalog. The discs began appearing in April 2004
with the release of Generator and How Could Hell be Any Worse?.
The former included relevant 7" material from the era, while
Hell took the place of 80-85, which had previously accounted for
the band's earliest output. Both were fully remastered, as were
subsequent reissues of Suffer, No Control, and Against the Grain.
Bad Religion then returned in June of that year with Empire Strikes
First, a typically acerbic LP that reflected the surge of anger
and defiance in the punk and indie music communities toward the
policies of the Bush administration.