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Anthrax - "Worship Music" (2011) Review
A Massive Comeback for the East Coast Thrash Masters...
Anthrax - WORSHIP MUSIC (MegaForce Records, 2011)
14 Tracks, run time: 60:54
Saying that Anthrax's new album was "Long Awaited" would be a severe understatement. Though they were once considered to be the flag bearers of the East Coast thrash metal scene, Anthrax struggled during the latter half of the 1990s, and their camp 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 favor of a 2005 reunion with his predecessor - Joey Belladonna, who'd fronted the band during its most acclaimed (and best selling) era in the mid to late '80s. The band's reunion tour with Belladonna was highly successful, yet the frontman suddenly chose to exit the band yet again in 2006, leaving the remaining members scrambling for a replacement. Anthrax attempted to move forward with the previously-unknown Long Island native Dan Nelson on the mic and began working on the album that would eventually become Worship Music 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.
Rather than release the album with Nelson's vocals on it, Anthrax reached out to Belladonna again, who agreed to go into the studio with them to 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.
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, and the result is 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 walls of chunky guitar riffs and thunderous drumming. "The Devil You Know" kicks things up a few more notches, building off of a chugging bassline 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 sounds more energized than they have 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 haven't been keeping up with what Joey Belladonna has been up to in his time away from Anthrax, but wherever he's been, he has 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. Whether you're a Belladonna purist or a Bush diehard, Worship Music should quickly prove once and for all that Joey is the only man who should front this band. Scott Ian has summed up their 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!
"Fight'Em Till You Can't"
In January 2013, Anthrax announced the departure of longtime guitarist Rob Caggiano, who'd been associated with the band since 2001. Rob cited a desire to return to work as a recording studio engineer and music producer as the reason for his exit, however shortly afterwards it was reported that he'd joined Danish groove-metalists Volbeat. Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donais was hired as a temporary replacement to fill Caggiano's slot for some 2013 tour dates, but by the end of the year it was announced that Donais would be joining Anthrax permanently.
"The Devil You Know"
© 2011 Keith Abt