Bad Religion albums are prickly philosophically, and New Maps of Hell continues surveying ardent, erudite topography. Now, however, the band maps an über-strident mix, interring trademark three-part harmonies deep within the roiling chords. The majority of this album harks back to the group's thrash foundations (familiar chord progressions abound, though most effectively in "New Dark Ages," "Requiem for Dissent," and "Dearly Beloved"), but there are as many bards as hooks.
The band's bruised tropes become strained at times, as most songs are caked with artificial, distracting overdrive. You won't find anything as overtly radio-friendly as Empire Strikes First's "Los Angeles Is Burning," but "Honest Goodbye" and nigh-prog "Fields of Mars" get the closest to eyeing mainstream territory.
It seems truly dubious that the members of Bad Religion will ever change the world or themselves. But this latest disc says to hell with it; Bad Religion has always championed the concept that it's better to be heard advocating sanity than to herald false saviors politically, religiously, or musically.