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Friday, July 16, 2010

Anthrax: We've Come For You All


1) Contact; 2) What Doesn't Die; 3) Superhero; 4) Refuse To Be Denied; 5) Safe Home; 6) Any Place But Here; 7) Nobody Knows Anything; 8) Strap It On; 9) Black Dahlia; 10) Cadillac Rock Box; 11) Taking The Music Back; 12) Crash; 13) Think About An End; 14) W.C.F.Y.A.; 15*) Safe Home (acoustic); 16*) We're A Happy Family.

The album title is, more likely than not, a gruesomely black-humored nod to the «anthrax scare» of the psychologically unstable post-9/11 period, and, be that in bad taste or not, it is easy to un­derstand the desire to capitalize on the stroke of luck that befell the band when every person in America inadvertendly added one more Greek word to his/her lexicon.

Of course, Anthrax the band came for «all» no more than any of those letters with white powder: on the contrary, the band's ninth album is their most rigidly thrash-dedicated in years, as they ei­ther purge out outside influences or assimilate them and their carriers. Can you tell, without loo­king, that none other than Roger Daltrey himself guest stars as second vocalist on 'Taking The Music Back'? The song is certainly a little poppier than on the average, but Daltrey's contribution to it, for the most part, sounds like John Bush's echo — and it is only the 'Won't Get Fooled Again'-style scream at 2:29 into the song that gives him away, and only if you are listening to the song with the utmost attention because you happen to be writing a thesis on the album.

Nevertheless, the conservatism works well; Volume 8 had some catchy material, for sure, but here, with the addition of new lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, they also tighten up the accompany­ing sound. The guitars never manage to reach the fearsome heights of White Noise, but neither do they all blend together in a boring sludge mess. No single riff is worth a special description, no single chorus is worth particular admiration, no single piece of lyrics deserves its own praise, but the overall impression is positive all the way through. Yes, a few of these choruses may veer too close to «nu-metal» ('Superhero'), but that is no immediate reason to anathemize them — Anthrax have too deep and honorable a pedigree to debase themselves to the shallow extremes of this un­happy sub-genre.

With nothing but metal purism in mind, there are no ballads here, but the lead single, 'Safe Home', was actually the closest they got to unabashed sentimentalism on the album, and, although some metalheads were disappointed, I think it is no crime to buy into this — Bush is quite capable of carrying on a straightforward Love Anthem, plus Caggione comes up with a tremendous, flaming solo that is definitely the album's highlight. (Some editions of the album also add an early acous­tic demo of the song as a bonus track where it is a ballad, and a good one).

What with heavy metal's unfortunate tendency to degenerate into sludgy boredom or shameful self-parody, these days, if a non-groundbreaking metal album manages to avoid both, it's already a terrific achievement — one that We've Come For You All definitely achieves. (John) Bush-tolerant Anthrax fans will love it; (George W.) Bush-tolerant Republican fans will hate it; non-metalheads like me might listen to it with moderate interest. These three points merit some sort of conditional thumbs up, I suppose.

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