It's one thing for a band to merely manage to stay together for 20-plus years, but it's an entirely different thing altogether to effortlessly remain relevant and vital along the way. Bad Religion
has already proved their skill, releasing solid albums every few years for a while now, and New Maps of Hell
is no different. It finds that the guys don't just still have it, but they sound goddamn rejuvenated, bristling with electric energy and undeniable fervor -- their sharpness ultimately a testament to all the years playing together, especially in the complementary songwriting skills of Greg Graffin
and Brett Gurewitz
. Though their discography is already ripe with anthems, this entire record is a call to arms, where Bad Religion
, still obviously discontented by much around them, urge the apathetic to finally take a stand. The band's richly textured, melodic hardcore arrives in full force, sweet vocal harmonies and crisp rhythms melding into invigorating track after invigorating track. "Requiem for Dissent" is overt, calling to "raise the rebel from his grave," while other songs further zero in on usual topics like the never-ending war, dissatisfaction, and government corruption. Even amid Graffin
's normal dose of scholarly observations, it's the music that really stands tall. Cuts like "52 Seconds" and "Murder" are quick jolts of pounding hardcore to get one's blood boiling. Elsewhere, the urgent professions of "Heroes & Martyrs," "New Dark Ages," and the excellently layered "Dearly Beloved" effectively kick in with charging guitars and machine gun drumming, relying more on big and tuneful choruses to get the fists in the air. Even when the band veers a bit from the blueprint, it works, and the raw and dirty "Honest Goodbye" -- more like a '90s alternative rock song with emotion laid bare in Graffin
's steady voice -- is an absolute standout. Leave it to the graying punk rockers to inject a much needed shot of adrenaline into the scene and show the kids how it's still done.