Bad Religion’s first albums, the signing of NOFX in 1989, the rise of Pennywise, Rancid’s incredible ...And Out Come the Wolves, the Punk-O-Rama compilations, and the global success of The Offspring with Smash...To the greying skaters and quadragenarian punk rockers flung into the third millennium, Epitaph Records is the headstone of lost youth. Everyone remembers the expectation ahead of the Descendents, Millencolin, Satanic Surfers, The Distillers and New Bomb Turks, groups all hit by the ‘E’, that cult Californian recording studio.
Founded in 1980 by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, Epitaph carried the punk rock, pop and hardcore, easy-listening trend, especially during the 90s and into the 2000s. The release of NOFX's unstoppable S & M Airlines in 1989, closely followed by the release of Bad Religion's albums No Control and Against the Grain – selling 60,000 and 100,000 copies respectively – would allow Brett to rapidly expand the label’s catalog, from Down by Law, to Coffin Break, via RKL, SNFU, and The Offspring. The latter broke records by selling more than 11 million copies of 1994’s Smash on Epitaph, something no independent label had ever done before.
Involved from the start with the California scene, the label would quickly expand its musical repertoire with the creation of sub-labels. One was Hellcat Records, a cabin in the woods hosting anarcho-punk bands, ska, Oi! as well as dark hardcore groups such as Chocking Victim, The Distillers, Union 13, and Leftöver Crack, whose reins were taken up by Rancid singer Tim Armstrong. There was also Burning Heart Records, a subsidiary specialising in Swedish talent and which released the best albums of Millencolin, The Hives, and Refused. An industrious production it regularly synthesised the goings on of the punk community thanks to the Punk-O-Rama compilations (10 volumes published), and then in the collections Give 'Em the Boot (7 compilations released to date), which were more focused on street punk.
Sometimes caricatured for its skate punk side, its melodic sound, the very commercial approach to their roster, and some questionable artistic choices (one is reminded of pseudo-hardcore boy bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Falling In Reverse), Epitaph Records remains an honest, exciting and educational gateway into the world of punk rock.