Review Summary: Now we're Anthrax and we take no shit. And we don't care for writing hits. The sound you hear is what we like. And I'll steal your pop-tarts like I stole your...Socks.
Anthrax was always the odd man out in the so called “Big 4 of Thrash”. They were never as satanically-inclined like Slayer, never popular like Metallica, and never technical like Megadeth. In fact, their main distinction was their image and the skilled vocalizations of singer Joey Belladonna. Anthrax incorporated many elements of hardcore punk into their sound as well. After the 80’s, Anthrax arguably went down the drain, shifting singers, guitar players and styles in a manner that the Anthrax sound became unrecognizable. After 2003’s We’ve come For You All
, Anthrax went on a hiatus of sorts while the other Big 4 were kicking it up with comeback albums and big tours. After coming back in 2009 with Phil Anselmo Sound-alike Dan Nelson, Anthrax started writing their latest record Worship Music
. Anthrax would also switch through singers again until landing on the classic choice of Belladonna. It’s taken forever to get this record out, with all the re-writes and re-recordings, but it’s finally here, and it is fantastic. Worship Music
is more than an exercise in thrash revival; it is the glory days of old school thrash, with all the high tops, long hair and denim jackets that you could ever want.
incorporates a myriad of sounds into the thrash whilst keeping the old school flavor the record provides. There are chugging stop-start rhythms and filters that echo the best of early Prong and mid era Pantera. There’s an industrial palette without ever incorporating industrial metal elements. It’s all under the banner of thrash metal, with a lot of old school sounds and breakneck-speed riffs, often propelled by Charlie Benante’s masterful double bass drumming. All of the songs remind of 1987 thrash, which Anthrax dominated at the time with seminal classic Among the Living
. “Fight ‘Em Til’ You Can’t” chugs along with fast tremolo riffs and a power metal chorus. “Earth on Hell” works a sort of echo-y sound on Belladonna’s vocals while Scott Ian’s rhythm guitar moves along at a propulsive pace, switching between various tempos and rhythms. Even though Dan Spitz isn’t on this record, longtime guitarist Rob Caggiano fills out the role of lead guitar nicely. His molten riffing and technical but never overindulgent solos delight here. He channels old school thrash like Bob Ross channels happiness in his forest paintings. That is to say, he channels old school thrash really well. He knows when to slow down and chug as well as he knows when to speed up and go all out. Rob plays his guitar with a fury that he never has before. Scott Ian fills out the rhythm guitar parts nicely, but his playing is never as flashy as Rob’s. Rob dominates this record almost as much as Belladonna does. Oh and Belladonna’s singing is incredible here. He can still switch ranges and hit high notes like a power metal singer in his 40’s as well as he could in his 20’s. His distinctive screech is never lost amidst the chaos of riffs and drums. Belladonna overpowers the whole damn record so much at times, you can’t help but focus on his singing more so than the actual song itself. He’s just that good. Anthrax is back in top notch form and it’s a huge delight.
Of course it wouldn’t be an Anthrax record without incorporating a few weird things here and there. Those weird things come into play as song titles (Judas Priest) and classical interludes, which only hang for 40 seconds before transitioning into the next song. It fills out the negative space on Worship Music
nicely, offering a calm before the next storm of all out thrash. It’s beautiful in a way that a destroyed environment is. A beauty among all of the chaos, so to speak. If the interludes (“hymns” here) are the calm, beautiful space, then the actual songs are the destruction. They impose a sort of anarchy on the record, songs frustrated with years of lame metal populating the musical environment while thrash sits in the backseat of it all. They want to bring the thrash, and they do. They bring the thrash so goddamn hard that it kicks in the butt of the aforementioned lame metal and takes it spot. This is the second comeback of thrash.
Of course a record is not without flaws these days, and the flaw here lies in the production. The bass is lost in the mix, left to rumble behind drums and twin guitars. The vocals are perfectly placed of course, but the record has a muddy clarity in the rhythm section. Fortunately, it doesn’t do much to throw the record off. In fact, I perceive it as only a minor speck on the face of a great record. If thrash was ever gone and lost in the waves of bad metalcore and the rising of djent, it has paved its way and found a place for it to rest. Thrash gracefully sits on its legacy of fast music and fast lifestyles, with a mound of dank weed and trashy beer cans underneath. I reiterate; this isn’t thrash revival, this is thrash. Thrash personified in a new form that could only be brought by Anthrax. While they may not be the most popular of the big 4, they’ve certainly been the most inventive. Never getting lost in a wave of recycled material like Slayer and Metallica, and never losing their posturing like Megadeth, Anthrax have made the best “Big 4” record in recent years. Sure Endgame
was good, but Worship Music
is even better. It doesn’t reinvent Anthrax so much as redefine them, and I think thrash fans will be perfectly happy with that. Anthrax has made a new seminal classic, influenced equally by their classic records as much as their later records. Anthrax is the outer layer on the cake, and Worship Music
is the sweet, delicious, frosty filling that populates its insides. 4/5