How Could Hell Be Any Worse?

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How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 19, 1982
RecordedOctober–November 1980 and January 1981
StudioTrack Record, North Hollywood, California
GenreHardcore punk, punk rock
55:14 (2004 re-release)
ProducerBad Religion
Bad Religion chronology
Bad Religion
How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
Into the Unknown

How Could Hell Be Any Worse? is the first full-length album by American punk rock band Bad Religion, released on January 19, 1982 by Epitaph Records.[1][2] Released almost a year after their self-titled EP, it was financed by a $3,000 loan by guitarist Brett Gurewitz's father. Its success surprised the band when it sold 10,000 copies in under a year.

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, drummer 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, provided 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.

The front cover photograph was taken by Edward Colver near the Hollywood Bowl, while the back cover featured one of Gustave Dore's illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy.[3]

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, lacking money at the time, recorded most of 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, replaced by his friend and roadie Pete Finestone. Vocalist Greg Graffin said regarding Ziskrout's departure: "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 returned to recording How Could Hell Be Any Worse? again in January 1981 and finished the album over the weekend.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars (original)[6]
AllMusic3/5 stars (2004 remaster)[7]
Christgau's Record GuideB[8]

Critical reception to How Could Hell Be Any Worse? has been positive. Johnny Loftus of AllMusic awarded the album 3 out of 5 stars and stated 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 Nietzsche, 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]

1."We're Only Gonna Die"Graffin2:12
2."Latch Key Kids"Graffin1:38
3."Part III"Bentley1:48
4."Faith in God"Graffin1:50
5."Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell"Graffin2:48
7."In the Night"Gurewitz3:25
8."Damned to Be Free"Graffin1:57
9."White Trash (2nd Generation)"Gurewitz2:21
10."American Dream"Gurewitz1:41
11."Eat Your Dog"Graffin1:04
12."Voice of God Is Government"Bentley2:54
14."Doing Time"Gurewitz3:00
Total length:29:40
2004 Remaster
No.TitleWriter(s)Originally appears onLength
15."Bad Religion"GurewitzBad Religion1:49
16."Politics"GraffinBad Religion1:21
17."Sensory Overload"GurewitzBad Religion1:31
18."Slaves"GraffinBad Religion1:20
19."Drastic Actions"GurewitzBad Religion2:36
20."World War III"GraffinBad Religion0:54
21."Yesterday"GraffinBack to the Known2:39
22."Frogger"HetsonBack to the Known1:19
23."Bad Religion"GurewitzBack to the Known2:10
24."Along the Way"GraffinBack to the Known1:36
25."New Leaf"GraffinBack to the Known2:53
26."Bad Religion"GurewitzPublic Service1:48
27."Slaves"GraffinPublic Service1:07
28."Drastic Actions"GurewitzPublic Service2:31
Total length:55:14


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, containing all of the band's 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 video Along the Way. The remastered version of How Could Hell Be Any Worse? contained the same track listing as 80–85.



  1. ^ "How Could Hell Be Any Worse? | Discography | The Bad Religion Page - Since 1995". January 6, 1981. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  2. ^ "Bad Religion - How Could Hell Be Any Worse? at Discogs". Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "History of How Could Hell Be Any Worse?".
  4. ^ "History of the Bad Religion EP".
  5. ^ Greene, Jo-Anne. (May 23, 1997). "Addicted to the Opiate of the Masses". Goldmine: The Collectors Record and Compact Disc Marketplace.
  6. ^ a b How Could Hell Be Any Worse? at AllMusic
  7. ^ How Could Hell Be Any Worse? at AllMusic
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (1990). "B". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Retrieved August 16, 2020 – via
  9. ^ Zack de la Rocha, Matt Skiba, Geoff Rickley and more weigh in on three decades of Bad Religion: Soundcheck Blog: Orange Country Register
  10. ^ Zack de la Rocha quotes[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ How Could Hell Be Any Worse? at Discogs

External links[edit]