Throwback Review: The album that was cast Into the Unknown

Bad Religion’s creative departure that took them off track.

By Justin Stevens

Devout followers of punk rock — or even Bad Religion fans — would not hold it against you if you have never heard of Bad Religion’s second album, Into the Unknown. Few hard copies of the album exist today. For the majority of band members, that is something they are quite prepared to live with. It is often joked by the B.R. guitarist, Brett Gurewitz, that the band “[sent out] 10,000 copies and [got] 11,000 back.” The album, released in 1983, still stands as Bad Religion’s most controversial musical production, mostly due to the unprecedented change in style. The album took a progressive rock turn, with a more heightened focus on keyboard and acoustic guitar. Needless to say, Bad Religion’s core audience was not impressed. However, fences would eventually mend themselves with the release of their next album, aptly named Back to the Known.

[pullquote]Into the Unknown does not stand as the group’s most punkish and hard rocking endeavour, but it is a worthy of recognition.[/pullquote]

Although the album stands to the artists as a “creative departure” filled with “youthfulness, naivete and inexperience,” it is my view that the album was just released to the wrong demographic at the wrong time. It is one of their best works. Into the Unknown does not stand as the group’s most punkish and hard rocking endeavour, but it is a worthy of recognition.

Into the Unknown’s relationship between acoustic guitar and keyboard is what ultimately ties the album together: the keyboard captures the album’s themes of space and its wonder, while the acoustic guitar, accompanied by thoughtful lyrics, lets us really stay connected with the songs. The songs on the album range from the energetic and upbeat, like “It’s Only Over When”, to fun and sing-along worthy “Billy Gnosis”, and ultimately to the somber and thought-provoking melodies for which the band is better remembered, as in “Time and Disregard”. All of these songs together make the album a truly unique experience. While it is by no means a head banger, it will leave you pleasantly surprised and relaxed. Into the Unknown is best enjoyed with a beer in one hand and an open mind, along with a dash of affection for science fiction.

Bad Religion has continued to laugh and joke about the failure of this album, rather than celebrating their attempt at something different. The band played it safe from then on, sticking to the signature sound that made them famous. For the majority of fans, this is something they are fully prepared to live with. However, part of me will always wish they would adventure back into the unknown.