ANTHRAX: WORSHIP MUSIC (2011)
1) Worship (Intro); 2) Earth On Hell; 3) The Devil You Know; 4) Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't; 5) I'm Alive; 6) Hymn 1; 7) In The End; 8) The Giant; 9) Hymn 2; 10) Judas Priest; 11) Crawl; 12) The Constant; 13) Revolution Screams.
Okay then. Eight years into their personal history, Anthrax have finally reemerged with a new studio album. The birth process was long and painful: many of these songs had been recorded as early as 2009, with Dan Nelson on vocals, but after Nelson quit the band, the results were shelved indefinitely. Re-enter John Bush, for a little while, but, feeling somewhat odd about overdubbing his vocals on material with which he had not been engaged previously, re-exit John Bush and re-enter Joey Belladonna — who had no such qualms, apparently, although some of the songs still had to be re-recorded, and a few completely new ones added.
Anyway, Worship Music is a genuine Anthrax album with an authentic Anthrax lineup; not a «reunion», since the band had been active all these years, and definitely not a «nostalgia trip», because there are no conscious attempts here to emulate the sound of any particular «classic» album, be it Among The Living or Sound Of White Noise. Nor is it a trendy, «modernized» record that could try to suck up to nu-metal fans or some other crowd. It is 100% Anthrax — which explains the mostly positive reviews that critics gave it (and most of the critics that gave it positive reviews were Anthrax fans to begin with).
Unfortunately, I cannot join in, no matter how hard I try. Technically, everything is done right. We have crunchy riffs, wild solos, a strong vocalist who has not yet lost any of his youthful stamina, and a stab at «relevance» — Worship Music? More like Warship Music, as every second song on here is an aggressive battle cry, proving to the world that these days, it may need a thump on the head from the likes of Anthrax more than ever before. With that, I might even concur.
It's just that the material is weak. First, Belladonna's return does not imply the return of sarcasm and irony of the band's classic period. All of the songs are as dead serious and self-important as everything Anthrax ever did since John Bush led them into a firmly-clenched-teeth direction. And as good as Joey can be, he is much better off adding a comic, tongue-in-cheek whiff to the proceedings, than playing a heart-on-the-sleeve street hero.
Worse, the riffs are uninteresting. Now we know for sure that John Bush was not the problem — the problem was that, ten years into their career, Anthrax had thoroughly exhausted the small pack of ter-riff-ic chord sequences yielded by the supernatural forces. I see how, on many of these songs, they consciously try to come up with creative melodies — as the riffs get longer and more complex — but there is no individuality to any of these songs. The only thing that remains is pure brawn. 'Fight 'Em Til You Can't' is clearly the centerpiece here, and if you want to adopt it as your everyday anti-establishment anthem, you are welcome, but I find the main riff emotionally hollow, and the vocal melody only «vaguely» catchy. Maybe it's my personal problem — but then how the heck do we explain the entirely different reaction to Sound Of White Noise?
Most of the songs, with the exception of several brief instrumental links, follow the exact same formula — fast thrash rockers (only 'Crawl', true to its title, slows the tempo down a bit), many of them with the exact same Martial Punch, which might be a good thing to lift up the spirits of a pack of Freedom Fighters on a particularly long march, but is fairly boring if you are just sitting in your room, imagining the Fight for Freedom in the confines of your mind. I was hoping that at least a song called 'Judas Priest' would turn out to be more inspired than the rest — on the contrary, it is one of the album's lowest points, an empty mess of aggression with not a single unusual ear-catching moment.
If this is the best that Scott Ian and co. can come up with in eight years, both of my hands, thumbs and all, openly vote for the band to call it a day — or, at least, become a certified «oldies act», particularly now that they are together with Belladonna again. Go back, relisten to Among The Living or Persistence Of Time and remember them when they were so much more experimental, diverse, catchy, and funny. Actually, that might be their only chance — try and get some fun back into the music. Trying to get somewhere on the strength of «fight the power» alone will get them about as far as it gets every one-trick heavy rock band. The gutter.
Thumbs down, even though I may be alone on this, judging by the near-universal acclaim — but I'd still like to explain it by the mere fact of fan hunger for new material. I mean, it's a new Anthrax album! Loud! Crunchy! Aggressive! Joey on vocals! A headbanger's paradise! Under those circumstances — who the hell needs creative songwriting?
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