The American punk rock band known as Bad Religion was first formed out of Los Angeles, California in 1980. High school students, Greg Graffin, Jay Bentley, Jay Ziskrout, and Brett Gurewitz had their first public performance when they opened for another punk rock group, Social Distortion at a warehouse opening. The first show Bad Religion performed on its own was on November 11, 1980, at a bar in Burbank, California. In 1981, the group released a six-song extended play (EP) for the Epitaph Records, which was founded by fellow bandmate, Brett Gurewitz. Gurewitz still owns and runs the label to this day. It was also in 1981 the group recorded and released its first studio album. Jay Ziskrout, who was the band’s drummer, quit before the recording was complete and was replaced by Pete Finestone.
Bad Religion Reputation
Right from the start of Bad Religion’s recording career, the group’s lyrics revolved around controversial topics related to the media, politics, religion, science, and society. The band is well-reputed for combing its melodic performances with an extensive amount of three-part vocals. Over the years, Bad Religion experienced a considerable amount of lineup changes, aside from Greg Graffin, who has remained as the only constant member. Jay Bentley and Brett Gurewitz have also been with the band the longest, followed by Brian Baker when he joined as the group’s guitarist in 1994.
Bad Religion Discography
So far, Bad Religion has recorded and released seventeen studio albums, three compilation albums, two live albums, three extended plays (EPs), and two live DVDs. With a strong fan following, Bad Religion remains one of the best-selling, internationally recognized punk rock bands of all time. From the 1980s into the early 1990s, Bad Religion mostly catered to the underground music scene as the revival of punk rock hadn’t quite jolted the North American audience as it already had with the UK and the rest of Europe. When Bad Religion moved from the Epitaph label to Atlantic Records in 1993, this is where mainstream success for Bad Religion officially began.
17. The New America
The range of reviews revolving around the eleventh studio album recorded by Bad Religion stretched from unfavorable by Ox-Fanzine to favorable by AllMusic. (The New America) was the final album released through the Atlantic Records label before the group returned to Epitaph. The album was re-released on September 15, 2008, by Epitaph Records. None of the songs made a solid enough impression to make them standouts, but (Believe It) has received the occasional radio play.
Bad Religion’s sixth studio album, (Generator) had finished recording in 1991 but wasn’t released until March 13, 1992. The main reason behind the delay was the album’s visual artwork that rubbed the band members the wrong way. It wasn’t until a final decision on something the group approved of did the album find its way onto store shelves. This album is noted for the experimental music styles Bad Religion began to dabble in, namely with the songs, (Atomic Garden), (Two Babies In The Dark) and (The Answer). The group did maintain its hardcore punk roots with the rest of its songs. While on tour, the fan-favorite songs from the album, (Generator), (Heaven Is Falling), (No Direction), and The Answer) are often played as staples. Atomic Garden has also become a huge fan favorite and also holds history as the first song Bad Religion did a music video for.
15. Recipe for Hate
(Recipe for Hate) was Bad Religion’s seventh studio album, which was released on June 4, 1993. This marked the final recording the group produced with Epitaph, before signing up with Atlantic Records and then returning to its original label nine years later. (American Jesus) and (Struck a Nerve) both became popular hits on music radio stations while (Recipe for Hate) and (Skyscraper) both became fan-favorite staple songs that continue to be performed at live shows today.
14. No Substance
Bad Religion’s tenth studio album, (No Substance), was released on May 5, 1998, and received mixed reviews from the critics, as well as the fans. It was the fifth album in a row that demonstrated the popularity of Bad Religion and its music is greater among Europa and Oceania than it is on the group’s home turf. It was re-released on September 15, 2008, by Epitaph Records, which introduced a new breed of Bad Religion fans to the group’s style of punk rock music.
13. The Gray Race
(The Gray Race) was the ninth studio album recorded and released by Bad Religion and was among the first internationally recognized albums the group produced. It was actually far more popular among the European nations than it was on its own home turf of North America, which actually set the stage of how the rest of Bad Religion’s heaviest musical influence played itself out. With the International Federation Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Finland, The Gray Race became certified gold not long after its February 27, 1996 release date. It was the first of Bad Religion’s albums not to feature Brett Gurewitz as the group’s guitarist as he opted to stay with his creation, Epitaph Records as its owner and manager. There were two singles released from the album that earned chart success, starting with (A Walk), which charted at number thirty-four on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay and at number thirty-eight on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. (Punk Rock Song) was a European release that peaked as high as number five in Finland, at number twenty-one in Sweden, and at number twenty-nine in Germany.
12. The Process of Belief
On January 22, 2002, Bad Religion releases the album, (The Process of Belief) as its twelfth studio recording. It was also the first album released by Epitaph as the group left Atlantic Records and returned to their original label. Both the fans and the music critics gave the album favorable reviews, as did the single, (Sorrow), which peaked on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart at number thirty-five. Now with Bad Religion returning to Epitaph, its original guitarist, Brett Gurewitz, rejoined the band’s lineup. On the UK Rock & Metal Singles Chart, (Broken) climbed as high as number twelve.
11. New Maps of Hell
The fourteenth album, (New Maps of Hell), was released on July 10, 2007, and received favorable reviews from the music critics and the group’s fan base. In the US, the album sold 21,000 copies within the first week and debuted on the US Billboard 200 at number thirty-five. For Bad Religion, this was the highest album debut the group ever received in their home nation. Its hit single, (Sorrow), was a number thirty-five hit on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.
10. The Empire Strikes First
Bad Religion’s thirteenth album, (The Empire Strikes First), was released on July 8, 2004, and was regarded as one of the group’s best albums to date. There were rumors it, along with New Maps of Hell, was to serve as a double album, but this was denied by the group as it was intended for the albums to be released as separate entities. The song, (Social Suicide), has since been featured on two different video games, namely Tony Hawk’s Project 8 and MX vs. ATV Untamed. The single, (Los Angeles is Burning), charted on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart at number forty and was directly aimed as a protest against the sensationalism mainstream media had been long criticized for. In the UK, the single was immensely popular on its Rock & Metal Singles Chart as it peaked at number three and was a number eleven hit on the UK Independent Singles Chart. On its official UK Singles Chart, it also appeared at number sixty-seven.
9. How Can Hell Be Any Worse?
(How Can Hell Be Any Worse?) was Bad Religion’s debut album, which was released on January 19, 1982. The recording proved to be an unexpected success as it sold 10,000 copies in less than a year. (We’re Only Going to Die) was the album’s opening track and remains to be a fan favorite to this day. Overall, How Can Hell Be Any Worse? received positive reviews and it took Bad Religion by surprise that it had become so successful. It served as an inspirational trigger that spawned a new breed of punk rock bands, as well as served as an instrumental jolt to the entire music industry that seemed to be in dire need of it.
8. Into the Unknown
Bad Religion’s second studio album, (Into the Unknown), was released on November 30, 1983, and served as a very different album than the debut. Instead of the hardcore punk style bad Religion is best known for, the tempo was slower and there was more usage of electronic organ and piano instrumentation. It was also the most controversial album to Bad Religion’s entire discographic portfolio, despite the fact it received favorable reviews from critics. Because of the controversy, it was a commercial failure. Gurewitz admitted there wasn’t much thought that was put into the album and that it was quickly strung together on the heels of the band’s debut album. At first, the group didn’t take themselves seriously as a world-class talent. Because the music was so different from the debut recording, drummer Pete Finestone and bass player Jay Bentley both quit the band. This album showed Bad Religion more like a progressive rock band as opposed to punk, which was the style Bad Religion preferred before getting serious as a hardcore punk band. The album was designed to show Bad Religion’s original roots, something which not all of their fans chose to recognize, let alone appreciate. Into the Unknown was reissued in 2010 as part of the box set, (30 Years of Bad Religion).
7. The Dissent of Man
Released as Bad Religion’s fifteenth studio album, (The Dissent of Man) received positive reviews from the critics that saw its lead single, (The Devil in Stitches), chart as high as number thirty-eight on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart and at number thirty-nine on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. The Dissent of Man was released on September 28, 2010, and once again earned international success for the world-class punk rock group.
When (Suffer) was released as Bad Religion’s third studio album on September 8, 1988, it had been cited by many critics that it was one of the most important punk rock albums of all time as this contributed to the third wave of punk rock bands that were inspired by bands like Bad Religion. The majority of the songs featured on the album have all become heavy fan favorites, and have served as inspirational pieces for newer punk rock bands as they’ve covered much of the songs from the album. In 2004, through Epitaph Records, a remastered version of Suffer was released, along with the collection of albums Bad Religion recorded and released with its original label before signing up with Atlantic Records in 1994.
5. No Control
Released on November 2, 1989, (No Control) became Bad Religion’s fourth studio album release. At this point, the group had begun to develop a small fan following, especially among Southern Californians who had been exposed to hardcore punk music for some time now. For a group that received very little mainstream media attention at the time, the commercial success of the album saw over 80,000 copies sold. It also received tremendous praise from both the music critics and fans. The popularity of Bad Religion and their music was rising and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world would clue in how talented they are.
4. Against the Grain
The fifth studio album, (Against the Grain), was released on November 23, 1990, and was the best-selling album for Bad Religion before signing up with Atlantic Records. It sold over 100,000 copies despite receiving no promotion at all by radio stations or television networks. Prior to the album’s release, both the critics and fans were anticipating for this album to serve as an ideal follow-up to No Control. Against the Grain did not disappoint as the punk-style gospel performances Bad Religion is best known for were as epic as ever as the group was clearly raising the bar on how good, honest music should be performed. The single, (21st Century (Digital Boy)), has turned out to be Bad Religion’s signature song. Not only was it featured on this album, but on the 1994 Stranger than Fiction, as well as on the 1995 compilation album, (All Ages). 21st Century became a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and was a number forty-one hit on the UK Singles Chart. The song paid homage to King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man, which paralleled with the societal issues that have just as much impact today as it did at the time of recording.
3. Age of Unreason
True to Bad Religion’s form, the recording of (Age of Unreason) once again challenged the listeners with lyrical performances in punk format when it came to social-political issues of the times. After its May 3, 2019 release, the band’s seventeenth album received positive reviews from the music critics and was once again well received by fans on an international level. The album once again demonstrated how the taste in music among Europeans is quite different than North Americans, which shows in the chart rankings of the album where it’s at its highest in Germany at number eight and at number seventy-three on the US Billboard 200.
2. True North
The sixteenth studio album recorded and released by Bad Religion was (True North). On January 22, 2013, this album earned the most amount of global recognition than any other recording the group had ever produced so far. Although the album doesn’t have any certifications to show for it by any of the recognized music industries, it was among the highest-rated albums by the most amount of the music critics in the industry. Among the punk music fans, it was a favorite that saw long-term fans of Bad Religion show their loyalty and appreciation, as well as a new breed of punk music fans that may not have been familiar with the group’s earlier work.
1. Stranger than Fiction
Released on September 6, 1994, (Stranger than Fiction) was the eighth studio album recording produced, as well as the first with the Atlantic Records label. This served as the first real taste of mainstream success for the group as it since earned a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as from Music Canada. The title track was the first single released, which served as the first chart hit for Bad Religion. On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-eight. It was then followed by what was already a cult favorite, 21st Century (Digital Boy), which originally appeared on Bad Religion’s fifth studio album, Against the Grain in 1990. This time in 1994, 21st Century became a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, a number sixteen hit on the UK Rock & Metal Songs Chart, a number twenty-three hit in Sweden, and a number forty-one hit on the UK Singles Chart. (Infected) was the third single released from the album and charted on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay at number twenty-seven, as well as on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart at number thirty-three.