Album Review: Bad Brains – “Into the Future”

I was late to the Bad Brains camp. I started listening to 80’s hardcore in high school, but I didn’t get around to really checking out Bad Brains until my third year of college- something I’ve always regretted. But even after I had discovered the band, I could never really get the feel for anything other than Bad Brains and Rock for Light. It’s a stylistic thing; kudos to the band for branching out and adding more variety to their sound, but for me I was fine with the band playing at breakneck speeds before crashing into a 6 minute reggae wall. I mention this because Into the Future, the band’s ninth studio album and first since 2007’s Build a Nation, was touted by a handful of publications as a ‘return-to-form’ of sorts. However, being largely unfamiliar with a majority of the band’s work, I mistook that to think that this new album would find the band rocking out like they did in the early 80’s. I was wrong, as Into the Future combines elements of rock, punk, metal, funk, and reggae. In other words, it’s a Bad Brains album.

Not being a fan of albums such as I Against I or Quickness, I have no frame of reference to readily compare the new album to… although I imagine that it’s this amalgamation of styles which is how I Against I gained its legendary status. The album divides up nicely between aggressive punk (Yes I, Suck Cess, Come Down), the heavier tunes (Into the Future, Popcorn, Earnest Love, Fun) and the dub instrumentals (RubADub Love, Maybe a Joyful Noise, and the MCA-dedicated MCA Dub). From my understanding, this is what a majority of post-Rock for Light Bad Brains albums sound like.

There’s a certain level of irony in calling your album Into the Future when the music has been done before, by your very band nonetheless. I’m not knocking it; clearly Bad Brains have locked themselves into a groove that works well for them. Fans of Bad Brains and their post-ROIR output will most likely enjoy this, but anyone hoping for anything slightly more futuristic may want to look elsewhere.


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