'True North' - Bad Religion
Album Rating: 5/5 *****
Top Track: 'Hello Cruel World'
'True North' is the sixteenth studio album produced by punk rockers Bad Religion; the album was officially released on January 22nd 2013 although the band had already started streaming it on their YouTube page a week before (in a true f*** the system sort of way). 'True North' has been highly anticipated by Bad Religion fans since the release of 'The Dissent of Man' in 2010, but was the hype all in vain?
The album itself is just over thirty-six minutes long, and is composed of sixteen tracks generally following the short and fast conventions of the genre to condense a song into less than three minutes. Although the tracks are not particularly long, what they do offer in lyrical content and musical finesse more than compensates.
The concepts that frontman Greg Graffin tackles within the songs on 'True North' pay homage to their namesake of Bad Religion. The songs indulge in deep imagery, such as 'everything is golden', and 'in the emerald forest' ['Land of Endless Greed'] and the language that Graffin chooses perfectly complements the topic choice. This is particularly evident in the title song and second released single, 'True North', in which Graffin 'can't see the rationality' in moral decisions that people make in the world today. He acknowledges everyone has a different 'moral compass' though it isn't much use to anyone beside the person it belongs to; this requires people to make the conscious effort to 'keep searching 'til the end'. Bad Religion albums don't tell you how to think, but rather try to encourage you to think! I suppose that's an added bonus of having a singer-songwriter with a Ph.D.
Lyrically, the album is one of the best Bad Religion have ever released. 'Hello Cruel World' tackles dark themes which are relayed through a fragile narrative; Graffin gives an incredibly emotive vocal performance against a slower guitar riff and a strong drum backbone. Again, the language throughout the album is flawless and conveys a plethora of emotion at any one time; 'You are dust, and I am bone, and I will love your endless gaze of madness until I turn to stone' is a perfect example of the thought-provoking, reflective lyrics that Graffin writes and delivers in 'True North'.
After listening to the album, there is a sense of empowerment to be gained. It is rare to find an album which encourages thought on the level that this one does whilst maintaining incredible musicianship and talented, technical playing. 'Dept. of False Hope' and 'Nothing To Dismay' are songs which both include impressive guitar solos as well as delivering topical issues.
The album closes with 'Changing Tide', a song portraying that change isn't necessarily as bad as it seems. 'Wade into the changing tide', and 'embrace the times', because this track brings all of the other tracks together and finalises them. The entire album is a piece best listened to multiple times. This will allow different meanings to be extracted; alternative interpretations of the lyrics can be discovered, and even the way the instruments come together can be heard in a way you'd swear it hadn't been upon the first play through.
'True North' is an absolute gem of an album which any punk rocker should be proud to have as a part of their collection.
You can find the album stream published on YouTube here!
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