How Could Hell Be Any Worse?

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How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
Studio album by Bad Religion
Released January 19, 1982
Recorded October–November 1980 and January 1981 at Track Record, North Hollywood, California
Genre Hardcore punk
Length 29:54
55:28 (2004 re-release)
Label Epitaph
Producer Bad Religion
Bad Religion chronology
Bad Religion (EP)
(1981)
How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
(1982)
Into the Unknown
(1983)

How Could Hell Be Any Worse? is the first full-length album released by American punk rock band Bad Religion, which was released on January 19, 1982.[1][2] Released almost a year after their self-titled EP, it was financed by a $1,000 loan by guitarist Brett Gurewitz's father. Its success surprised the band when it sold 10,000 copies in under a year. The sound of the record was vastly improved from their self-titled EP.

How Could Hell Be Any Worse? was recorded over two time periods at Track Record Studios in North Hollywood, California, during October–November 1980 and again in January 1981.[3] After the original recording sessions, Jay Ziskrout left Bad Religion and was replaced by his friend and the band's roadie Pete Finestone, who was brought in to complete the rest of the album. Though not yet credited as a member of the band, future guitarist Greg Hetson, who was in Circle Jerks during this time, also did a guitar solo on "Part III". How Could Hell Be Any Worse? was also Bad Religion's last album featuring Jay Bentley on bass for six years, until 1988's Suffer.

"We're Only Gonna Die" and "Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell" became fan favorites and are staples of the band's live show to this day.[citation needed] Many later punk groups cite this album as their main influence.[citation needed] On the back of the cover is one of Gustave Dore's illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy.[citation needed]

Background and production[edit]

Bad Religion had made at least two attempts to make a full-length studio album after the recording of their self-titled EP, which was finished prior to the sessions of How Could Hell Be Any Worse?.[4] The band, who was without money at the time, recorded the album for free at Track Record Studios in North Hollywood, California over two nights, from October 31 to November 1, 1980; seven songs were recorded on the first night and mixed on the following day.[3] Throughout November of that year, Bad Religion continued to write new material, and drummer Jay Ziskrout soon left the band and was replaced by his friend and roadie Pete Finestone. Asked about his departure, vocalist Greg Graffin replied, "It was for some really stupid reason. Like 'you guys don't listen to me enough, fuck you, I quit.' He walked out of the rehearsal studio, and left his drums and everything. We're halfway finished with How Could Hell Be Any Worse, and Bad Religion was without a drummer."[5] After "some quick practices" at Graffin's mother's garage, also referred to as The Hellhole, Bad Religion recorded How Could Hell Be Any Worse? again in January 1981 and finished recording the album over the weekend.[3]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars (original) [6]
Allmusic 3/5 stars (2004 remaster) [7]
Robert Christgau (B)[8]

Critical reception to How Could Hell Be Any Worse? has been met with positive reviews and ratings. Johnny Loftus of Allmusic awards the album three out of five stars and states that How Could Hell Be Any Worse? is "like cupping your ear against the garage door of their practice space. Greg Graffin's vocal style isn't fully formed here, nor is his lyrical agenda, but the building blocks are significant and affecting, bigger than piles of collapsed cathedrals."[6]

Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha spoke about Bad Religion to the OC Register during the band's 30 year anniversary in 2010. Speaking about How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, he said:"I remember hearing BR's How Could Hell Be Any Worse? for the first time in 1985, I was fifteen. The first thing I remember is pulling the insert from the sleeve of the record and seeing those drawings from Dante's Inferno, and that red wash over the blurry shot of Los Angeles, and I admit I was scared. A little terrified even. I had no idea what to expect.When the needle hit the record I have to say it was a defining moment for me. The music was darker than most punk records I had heard. It was almost gothic, and there was a genuine sadness to the melodies. Listening to the words I remember being overwhelmed. It wasn't some revelation that god didn't exist ... it was more like an injection of the sad truth. That our condition is the product of the mess of our own making ... and at fifteen that was as scary as the inferno drawings. I wasn't reading Sartre or Neitzsche, and I'm convinced now that if I was it wouldn't have had the same effect. Throughout the record there was very little relief from the sad truths except one: 'there are two things you can do ... one is to turn and fight ... the other's to go headlong into the night.' Truly one of the greatest L.A. bands.”[9] De la Rocha also said that the song Fuck Armageddon...This is Hell changed his life.[10]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "We're Only Gonna Die"   Graffin 2:12
2. "Latch Key Kids"   Graffin 1:38
3. "Part III"   Bentley 1:48
4. "Faith in God"   Graffin 1:50
5. "Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell"   Graffin 2:48
6. "Pity"   Graffin 2:00
7. "In the Night"   Gurewitz 3:25
8. "Damned to Be Free"   Graffin 2:12
9. "White Trash (2nd Generation)"   Gurewitz 2:21
10. "American Dream"   Gurewitz 1:41
11. "Eat Your Dog"   Graffin 1:04
12. "Voice of God Is Government"   Bentley 2:54
13. "Oligarchy"   Gurewitz 1:01
14. "Doing Time"   Gurewitz 3:00
Total length:
29:54
2004 Remaster
No. Title Writer(s) Originally appears on Length
15. "Bad Religion"   Gurewitz Bad Religion 1:49
16. "Politics"   Graffin Bad Religion 1:21
17. "Sensory Overload"   Gurewitz Bad Religion 1:31
18. "Slaves"   Graffin Bad Religion 1:20
19. "Drastic Actions"   Gurewitz Bad Religion 2:36
20. "World War III"   Graffin Bad Religion 0:54
21. "Yesterday"   Graffin Back to the Known 2:39
22. "Frogger"   Hetson Back to the Known 1:19
23. "Bad Religion"   Gurewitz Back to the Known 2:10
24. "Along the Way"   Graffin Back to the Known 1:36
25. "New Leaf"   Graffin Back to the Known 2:53
26. "Bad Religion"   Gurewitz Public Service 1:48
27. "Slaves"   Graffin Public Service 1:07
28. "Drastic Actions"   Gurewitz Public Service 2:31
Total length:
55:28

Reissues[edit]

How Could Hell Be Any Worse? has been reissued many times. It was first reissued in 1988[11] with a different catalogue number and Epitaph's then-current address. It was released on CD as part of the 1991 compilation 80–85; that album contains all of their material from 1981 to 1985 (except Into the Unknown) in its entirety.

A CD remaster for How Could Hell Be Any Worse? was released in 2004, along with Suffer, No Control, Against the Grain, Generator and a DVD reissue of their long-out of print 1992 live VHS Along the Way. The remastered version of How Could Hell Be Any Worse? contains the same as track listing as 80–85.

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]