Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Anthrax - Worship Music review

When I was a teenage metalhead, Anthrax were part of my orbit but not a big part - I was more a Metallica fan in the big four playoffs. However, I did have a bunch of their albums, thought I'm the man was pretty funny and really loved Persistence of Time which featured the best Joe Jackson cover ever. A lot of people thought the band went off the rails when lead singer Joey Belladonna left the band but I actually like the 90's stuff featuring John Bush. Faced with label difficulties, Anthrax limped on through a bunch of line up changes until Belladonna returned full time and this is the first album of new material featuring the (almost) original line up (lead guitarist Dan Spitz left the band some time ago to become a watchmaker - I'm not even joking). So with all that hoo-ha, how does this record stack up in the Anthrax oeuvre? Well, it sounds like a natural successor to Persistence of Time funnily enough - it's as if the band just picked up where they left off in 1992 when Belladonna departed - and that's not a bad thing.

The record starts with the 1,2,3 punch of Earth On Hell, The Devil You Know and Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't which are remarkably strong tracks for a band this far into their career - complacent they are not. What I find surprising about this record is how much it owes to classic metal and the band seem happy to embrace a more British influenced sound. To be honest, I don't remember Belladonna having such a Dio/Dickinson-esque tinge to his vocals in the past but here it comes out loud and proud (mainly during the choruses). In some ways the record sounds like it's lost in time as it could have been easily made in the 80's and not be out of place. This is big, non-ironic rock - I mean they have a song called Judas Priest which actually seems to be about a Judas priest rather than, y'know, Judas Priest. Whatever the case you can't argue with the double kick drum attack of Charlie Benante who is sometimes forgotten in the pantheon of great metal drummers.

The centrepiece of the album is undoubtedly In The End, a tribute to Dio and Dimebag Darrell, which just has the hallmarks of a classic metal tune - great riff, thrashy break down, squealy guitar solo and a lot of melodrama. The only really dips are some short filler tracks between songs and an ill advised cover of Refused's New Noise. Anthrax have long used covers as b-sides and bonus tracks (surprisingly, their cover of Hüsker Dü's Celebrated Summer is actually pretty rocking) but Belladonna is not the man to sing this song and while the cover is probably heartfelt, it's a big miss (and if you're a fan of the original, hard to listen to). That being said, if you ever loved Anthrax or old school metal, there is a lot to enjoy here. Time to dust off your denim jacket and studded leather gloves - it's metal time!


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