ANTHRAX: VOLUME 8 - THE THREAT IS REAL (1998)
1) Crush; 2) Catharsis; 3) Inside Out; 4) Piss 'N' Vinegar; 5) 604; 6) Toast To The Extras; 7) Born Again Idiot; 8) Killing Box; 9) Harms Way; 10) Hog Tied; 11) Big Fat; 12) Cupajoe; 13) Alpha Male; 14) Stealing From A Thief.
Self-produced, fortunately, and immediately a big improvement over the unfortunate Stomp. By now, we have a fairly good idea of what to expect from a Bush & Ian-led Anthrax: a series of kill 'em all style Panzer attacks (or was that Pantera attacks, given the near-complete merger of the two bands' styles?), a few alt-rock style acoustic ballads, and a couple ridiculous, but engaging comic links to dress it all up. The only question is whether it works or it sinks.
I certainly had a better time trying to groove along to the sounds of Volume 8 than its predecessor. Either Paul Crook has succeeded in adapting to the band's mentality, or they simply spent more time sifting out the insipid, but both the riffs and the vocal hooks go at least one notch up. Here be just a brief going-over through the good moments: "Won't you crush on me, crush on me" from 'Crush', followed by some first-rate headbanging; "Angels in my heart, devils in my eyes" from 'Catharsis', steady good rocking tonight; "From on top of the world, I'll throw you down a rope" from 'Hog Tied'; "Carrying the weight of the world in my hands!" from 'Big Fat' — these are well-designed, melodic, meaningful hooks.
The funny country rocker (!) 'Toast To The Extras' and the closing ballad 'Pieces' (a «hidden track») rule by nature of being throwaways — if you heard these songs on, say, a post-reunion Lynyrd Skynyrd album, you'd probably throw up, but in the context of the usual Anthrax grinder, they bring in an element of coziness that may win you over.
All in all, they seem to be retreating back to the grungy atmospherics of White Noise, even if there is fat chance they will ever be able to completely reiterate its success. Still, switching back and forth between the tracks of the 1998 and the 1995 album, I can't help but be surprised at how consistently better they managed to sound this time. Really, most of it is about the guitar sound: on Stomp 442, loud as it was, it came across as muffled and muzzled — here, it's as if The Butcher Bros. left and took the muzzle along, so you not only get to hear all the snarling in the proper tone, you get to experience some real tearing at the throat. BLOOD! That's what you want when listening to post-Belladonna Anthrax, and on Volume 8, you do get some, though perhaps not as fresh and smokin' as a true metalhead usually likes it.