Bad Religion – The Process of Belief

Bad Religion
The Process of Belief

First came the good news: The mighty Bad Religion would be rejoining Epitaph Records for the band’s next album, and coming along for the ride would be guitarist Mr. Brett, who left the band a few years back, largely due to disagreements between him and bassist Jay Bentley.
Then came the bad news: Drummer Bobby Schayer would never drum again due to a chronic progressive shoulder injury. He was replaced by Brooks Wackerman, who had previously played with bands like Suicidal Tendencies and The Vandals. And so life moved on.
Mr. Brett, Jay Bentley, and lead singer Greg Graffin formed Bad Religion in California when they were teenagers, and it has been a long and winding road since then. A notable landmark was the release of Stranger Than Fiction in 1994, considered by some to be the band’s best effort. Many criticized the albums that followed (1996’s The Gray Race and 1998’s No Substance), finding them to be evidence of an aging punk band that was slowing down and losing the vitality of the numerous albums that came before Stranger Than Fiction. The New America came in 2000 and made a turn in the direction of disproving those critics but failed to silence them completely, which brings us to 2002, and the release of The Process of Belief.
Track-by-track analyses of an album can often be tedious and dull, but my little pea brain has for some reason deemed it necessary in this particular case, so please stay with me. With the history that came along with this album, I came into things with a little trepidation, but all of that was blown away by the opening sounds of “Supersonic,” in which Graffin sings, “I’ve got to go faster / Keep up the pace,” and though he isn’t actually referring to the tempo of the song, it still fits. “Prove It” keeps the absolutely furious pace going, while “Can’t Stop It” is one of the heaviest and fastest Bad Religion songs ever. You finally get a chance to breath with “Broken,” but unlike some of the band’s recent efforts, the slower moments on Process of Belief are just as intriguing and enjoyable as the faster ones. “Broken” is tinged with an acoustic guitar, but don’t let that fool you. Then comes “Destined for Nothing,” a song that comes close to defining this band, chugging along at a steady pace, filled with “whooooaaaahhh” and “aaahhhhhh” choruses, reminiscent of Generator era material. “Materialist” is another fine track, but is blown away by the pair of songs that follow: “Kyoto Now!” and “Sorrow.”
Those two tracks are also proof that the band still has something to say. “Kyoto Know!” is the band’s political commentary on the scandalous disregard international governments shared in regards to the Kyoto Treaty on the environment, while “Sorrow” is a classic Bad Religion song that makes a potent statement about the sad state of the world, why it is in the shape it is, and what needs to be done to change it. All admiration for this band aside, “Sorrow” is one of those rare songs that sends a shiver down the spine. Next comes “Epiphany,” which is another example of a slower but equally good punk song, and if you disagree, “Evangeline” will definitely get your foot tapping and your blood pumping. “The Defense” is one of the album’s darker moments (“Ain’t it beautiful to be alive? / Yeah right”) and is followed by the equally good “The Lie” and then “You Don’t Belong,” which is an even better song about young punks with what appears to be a clever Descendents reference (“Milo went to college but you knew about that”). Things eventually come to a close with “Bored and Extremely Dangerous,” which keeps the momentum of the album going until the very last moment.
Some will say that this album suffers because the band has not successfully found a way to change its sound since it started so many years ago. They tried to change, it didn’t work out, and now they have returned to the style they are most at home with, which is good old-fashioned punk rock, but with the benefits that come from years of experience, which is obvious in the assorted studio tinkerings that add a clever polish to the entire album. With all of the cookie-cutter punk acts that pop up and quickly fade away, Bad Religion has stood the test of time and remained a band that carries a great deal of weight. They are old enough to be the fathers of some of the kids who now claim the band as an influence, and The Process of Belief is proof that, despite what even the most diehard fans may have feared, this band is not going to just fade away. Turn it up, put your fist in the air, and enjoy.