Monday, September 12, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Anthrax 'Worship Music'

Disclaimer: I love Anthrax.

We're not talking casual love, we're talking about the kind of love I had to confess to my wife before we got married - fortunately, she shares my affinity for the greatest hard rock/metal band to come from New York that never recorded an album named Love Gun. I make this confession because I want there to be a frame of reference as I proceed - Persistence of Time is one of my favorite records of all time, I view Joey Belladonna and John Bush as equals, and Charlie Benante and Frank Bello are my holy trinity of rhythm sections (they're so good, they each count as 1 1/2 - Geddy Lee and Neil Peart can't be a trinity because they each count as two)...

Which brings us to Worship Music - the first Anthrax studio album in more than 20 years to feature frontman Joey Belladonna, their first album in more than a decade to not include an appearance by legendary Who frontman Roger Daltrey, and the band's second album in a row to feature the heaviest logo in metal, the twisted 'A is for Anthrax' pentagram. The album title says it all - Worship Music will restore our faith in metal and drop us to our knees as we beg for more. It's a game-changer in a day-and-age where the game has gotten so cluttered, not sucking has become high praise.

But Anthrax are about to change all that.

Worship Music is nothing short of brilliant. It isn't a half-ass collection intended to remind fans of a band's glory years, it is an hour of head-melting metal performed by a band that have not only rediscovered their superpowers, they've taken them to the next level.

At the forefront is Joey Belladonna, who unleashes the most impressive studio performance of his career - his vocals are like a wrecking ball metronome, a pitch-perfect demonstration of what can happen when you decry screaming and put a singer at the helm of a metal band. He pushes the sprawling "Judas Priest" to unprecedented highs, unleashing a vocal beast that matches the might of both "In My World" and John Bush's "Packaged Rebellion." The magic is in his control and restraint - where most metal throats sound like they're always pushing to 11, Belladonna is overpowering while never sounding like he needs to take it past 8. He's so good he doesn't even need to hit 10, but he never leaves us doubting that he can.

That's always been the beauty of Anthrax - they are masters of reeling us in, but never take us too far. They crush us with heavy, but they never sacrifice rhythm, melody or groove. Where most metal bands are about posturing, Anthrax are about the songs, and they bludgeon us with graceful nuances - instead of overwhelming us with noise, they leave us just enough room to thrash along in our mind's own private mosh pit.

Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano are an 18 wheeler of diesel-powered guitar strings, putting the pedal to the metal on opening track "Earth on Hell," tightening the reigns on "The Devil You Know" and laying a riff-driven battle charge on "Fight 'Em 'Till You Can't." "I'm Alive" downshifts, Anthrax unleashing an air-to-surface squadron that blankets the track in a dark veil of gang-powered choruses.

Picking up momentum as they go, "In The End" marks the midway point with an epic battle cry of looming dusk raging into the darker depths of the album's second half. "The Giant" thrashes with an unrelenting fury, Belladonna's vocals again packing a punch that rivals the power of anything in the Anthrax catalog, while "Crawl" is a fire-breathing climb into the stomp of "The Constant" and the blitzkrieg of the closing colossus "Revolution Screams."

And it wouldn't be an Anthrax album without a mind-blowing cover - this time around we're delivered a foundation-rattling run through "New Noise," originally recorded by the Swedish punk and underground favorites Refused. It's a hidden gem that kicks in just past the 11-minute mark of the six-minute "Revolution Screams."

Worship Music is more than just the hard rock/heavy metal album of the year, it is an immediate classic in the Anthrax catalog, its name to be proudly hailed in the same breath as Among the Living and Persistence of Time... Yes, this album is that fucking good.

Worship Music on iTunes
Worship Music on Amazon


Dan Minser said...

A well written review of a new album from one my all time favorite bands! I can't wait to hear it. Putting this album up there with Among The Living and Persistence Of Time? Wow, I must have this album!

Nathan Kam said...

Couldn't agree with you more. This album is a must have! \m/

Anonymous said...

Scott Ian posted this review on his official twitter ;)!/Scott_Ian