02. Hell On Earth
03. The Devil You Know
04. Fight ‘Em Til’ You Can’t
05. I’m Alive
06. Hymn 1
07. In The End
08. The Giant
09. Hymn 2
10. Judas Priest
12. The Constant
13. Revolution Screams
Worship Music is Anthrax‘s most recent album. I don’t think any of you don’t know who Anthrax is but if you don’t, I am more than obligated to say you’ve obviously been living under a rock. But for those rock-dwellers, Anthrax are one of the pioneers of thrash and progenitors in metal and alternative metal. Having dominated the 80’s with their signature brand of thrash and pushed through the 90’s with some of the best material of that decade, Anthrax have always had staying power and the music to back it up. I have always been a fan of thrash having grown up with parents that grew up in the 80’s. It was commonplace for me to be listening to Anthrax as a toddler and through my formative years. They have always been there.
You could say I am biased, but my tastes have changed in time. I am no longer the obsessive kid who listened to nothing but Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer. My tastes have turned to things more inaccessible and more obscure. Coming back though, after years of nay-saying and thinking I was above these bands (enforced by Metallica’s digression), I never thought I would hear good material from a thrash progenitor again; it just seemed like a lost cause. Metallica doing jams with Lou Reed; Judas Priest on American Idol; Jeff Hanneman of Slayer saying “a Slayer album speaks for itself now. I think people know what they are getting into with a new Slayer album.” It was tiring and I just shut it all out after a while. Though, Anthrax has finally broken this trend. Here we have something fresh; an old attitude with new aesthetics; a fantastic new record breaking through the stagnant era of the Big Four.
Worship Music opens slowly with feedback and a voice chanting the album title in a slow crescendo. It’s calming. It’s Anthrax saying “hey guys, you have no idea what to expect.” Then it hits you in the face—Anthrax are back. They come in with sheer aggression on the track ‘Earth on Hell,’ with the rhythm going insane with gallops and relentlessly attacking you with anger. Then you hear Joey Belladona’s voice and it immediately becomes apparent that Anthrax are back in full form. The band wastes no time getting settled in. There is no needless filler and no overly-apparent imitating. This record sounds like a classic Anthrax record, without being self-indulgent or recycled.
Anthrax didn’t show up empty handed. They have a new bag of tricks to use. Just in the first track alone, they use a plethora of captivating tools. Behind the primary theme of the song, you might hear the bassist doing a fill beneath a flurry of drums and guitar or there might be an interesting lead somewhere in the mix. It’s really cool. The band chemistry here really shines. The production stays the hell out of the way and lets the band do their thing. The songs are loaded with variety too, but I would rather talk about the band’s ability.
The instrumentation is fantastic. Charlie’s drumming is refreshing as it stays away from the constant double kick or blast beats that I hear so often. Fortunately, we get to hear Charlie’s best performance. The snare sounds excellent and the drums are generally mixed very well with the kick, snare, toms and cymbals all being very audible. Charlie’s drumming is a reminder why Thrash drummers are so revered. Instead of just going nuts, he actually composes his fills and beats masterfully. I am constantly impressed by his performance on Worship Music. On the string end of the spectrum, Scott, Rob and Frank all hold up on there end too. While Scott is in charge of playing the main guitar track here, Rob gets time to play around and shred. Anthrax have never really been known for their ability to play leads and solos, but rather having a very focused rhythm section and power chords. This changes though. With Scott being such a strong rhythm guitarist, they can slip in a blazing solo or crazy lead every once in a while, all while maintaining the integrity of the song without undermining the composition. This goes for the bassist too. It’s pretty much the same scenario where the bass has never been more then a foundation for the music. Though in Worship Music it rumbles and rolls with the track instead of under it, sounding clear as day. Frank also gets the spotlight throughout the record.
Lastly, Joey Belladonna. Oh how I missed Joey. His voice is like that of no other. Carrying a punk attitude, with a metal intention and a true frontman’s aesthetic. After listening to Worship Music, I can say that Joey’s voice really holds up. Being the backbone for the album, his wonderfully diverse voice adds much depth and contrast to the crazy instrumentals. Whether he is singing a really catchy hook or a rushed punk-esque verse, he is undoubtedly an awesome vocalist. Though over time he lost some range in his voice, it has become apparent that he has really progressed as vocalist and matured as a musician. Even when he is singing about killing zombies or giving power to the people, every word comes with conviction and his phrasing is nothing short of genius. To conclude my showering the band’s technical ability with praise, I just want to say that while the riff department is lacking the band’s songs are incredibly memorable. I am perfectly happy with this stuff being played along side the classics. In fact, this album is a classic.
Everything I just stated leads to one thing and one thing only — great songs. Whether it be the fists-in-the-air ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Till You Can’t’ or the anthemic ‘I’m Alive’, I can’t help but feel like these songs will stand through the test of time. The songs are all paced really well with tonnes of variety. Anthrax constantly ensure that you are listening and not simply hitting play. There is never a dull moment in any track. I can’t express how perfect it is. With an hour’s worth of content, I am nothing but blown away for its duration. Not to mention there is an appeal for crowds both old and new. For example, the intro for the track ‘The Giant’ would totally appeal to a kid into djent, while the same track would appeal to an Anthrax fan of 27 years with its accessible chorus and sing-songy verses. It is just so good.
I don’t know what re-invigorated the band. I can’t say what it is, but this album is a turning point. It has set a new standard for the Metallicas and Slayers of the world. It has truly set the bar and abolished the credibility of all excuses. No longer can a band be in the industry for 30 years and not have a good album left in them. For that, I can’t give them any less than top honor.
Anthrax – Worship Music gets…
P.S. I found this album so inspiring that it compelled me to get an Anthrax tattoo of sorts. No time soon, but one day I will be rocking the most dedicated of fan services.