Anthrax - "Worship Music" Album Review
Anthrax - "Worship Music"
(MegaForce Records, 2011)
14 Tracks, run time: 60:54
Calling Anthrax's Worship Music a "long awaited" album would be a severe understatement. Though they were once considered to be the flag bearers of the East Coast thrash metal scene, Anthrax struggled against the musical trends of the day during the latter half of the 1990s, and the band had been in a near-constant state of turmoil since the release of their last studio album, 2003's We've Come For You All.
First the New Yorkers made the controversial decision to jettison long standing vocalist John Bush in 2005 to reunite with his predecessor, Joey Belladonna. Joey had fronted the band during their most acclaimed (and best selling) era in the mid to late '80s. The band's reunion tour with Belladonna was highly successful, yet the front man suddenly chose to exit the band yet again in 2006, leaving the remaining members scrambling for a replacement.
Anthrax attempted to move forward, hiring a previously-unknown Long Island native named Dan Nelson as their new vocalist and began working on new material in 2007. The album was in the can and ready to go by the Spring of 2009, but Anthrax's relationship with Nelson abruptly turned sour and he was subsequently shown the door.
Not wanting to release the new album with Nelson's vocals on it, Anthrax reached out to Belladonna again, who agreed to go into the studio with them and re-work the recordings. The finished product was finally ready in time to capitalize on the wave of thrash nostalgia that had been ignited by the series of "Big 4" festival concerts in which Anthrax played alongside the other three Big Kahunas of the '80s thrash metal scene - Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. Fans welcomed the "classic" Anthrax back with open arms, and Worship Music became the band's highest charting album since 1993's Sound of White Noise, debuting at #12 on Billboard when it was released in October of 2011.
"Fight'Em Till You Can't"
The Nitty Gritty...
Of course, none of the above would've mattered worth a damn if Worship Music wasn't any good. Fortunately, Anthrax must've realized that they were truly in a "do or die" position with this album and upped their game accordingly. The result was their finest work since 1990's still-revered Persistence of Time. After the brief intro "Worship," the opening track "Earth on Hell" quickly sets the tone and proves that these guys can still crush with the best of'em, as Belladonna's authoritative tone powers through Scott Ian's walls of chunky guitar riffs and Charlie Benante's thunderous-as-ever drumming. "The Devil You Know" kicks things up a few more notches, building off of a chugging bass line by Frank Bello and a chorus that sticks in your head after only one listen. Old school thrash fans should be particularly pleased with the zombie-killing ode "Fight'em Till You Can't," an absolutely killer speed burner that sounds like it could've come off of the 1985 classic Spreading the Disease, while the epic "In the End" starts off with a moody cello-and-strings intro before blasting into a crawling doom-metal punisher that would make Black Sabbath proud. "Judas Priest" salutes the band that is one of Anthrax's biggest influences and album closer "Revolution Screams" ends things on an appropriately apocalyptic note, with Belladonna wailing for everything he's worth.
In a nutshell, Anthrax sounded more energized than they had in ages throughout Worship Music. Charlie Benante continues to demonstrate why he's one of the finest thrash drummers ever to handle a pair of sticks and Scott Ian has apparently uncovered a bottomless well of killer guitar riffs. I honestly hadn't kept up with what Joey Belladonna had been up to during his time away from Anthrax, but wherever he was, he remained in stellar voice and sounds like he never left. I was never a big fan of the band's work with John Bush on vocals; though I loved Bush's prior band, Armored Saint, I never felt that his gruff vocal tone was a good fit for Anthrax and I get the feeling that a lot of fans agree with me. Worship Music quickly proved once and for all that Joey is the only man who should front this band. Scott Ian has summed up the current lineup situation by saying "This will be Anthrax till there is no more Anthrax." If they can continue to come up with material this strong, then Worship Music should be the beginning of an impressive "next phase" for them. Highly recommended!
"The Devil You Know"
© 2011 Keith Abt