Bad Religion The Empire Strikes First

After reigniting their stalled and floundering career with 2002's The Process of Belief — the reunion with founding guitarist Brett Gurewitz that resulted in their finest disc in more than a decade— the SoCal melodic punk godfathers are showing no signs of slowing with their 13th offering — 14th if you count the barely-heard new wave experiment, Into the Unknown. Striking back with an album that lyrically recalls the anger and intensity of the seminal Suffer and No Control albums, The Empire is a musical wake-up call for a nation under siege from within. Gurewitz and vocalist Greg Graffin once again share songwriting and production duties — with a guest rant from Non-Prophets MC Sage Francis thrown in — and, as with the last album, still appear to be having fun working together again. It was going to be interesting to see if they could maintain the momentum of their last disc and clearly they've done it. Who would ever have thought that after the disappointingly mediocre offerings released during their ill-fated major label stint, they would come back to be more relevant than ever? (Epitaph)