Monday, September 26, 2011

Anthrax and the homecoming of Joey Belladonna

I'm halfway through my second full listen of Anthrax's new CD "Worship Music". Surprise surprise, it sounds exactly like Anthrax. Which Anthrax you might ask yourself? The original lineup that featured Joey Belladonna on vocals, or "The Sound Of White Noise" Anthrax that featured John Bush of Armored Saint on vocals? Well, a little of both except Joey's name once again graces the credits as the vocalist. The voice that you loved so much on "Persistence Of Time", "Among The Living", and "State Of Euphoria" has returned home.

There was a time when Anthrax stated that Joey's style never fit the band. They weren't going to continue their pursuits with him as the lead. It came as a shock to everyone, especially when John Bush took the stage with Anthrax and showed the world that along with Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), James Hetfield (Metallica), and Tom Araya (Slayer) he too could front one of the "Big Four". It came as a shock to me as well, considering that my favorite band wouldn't be my favorite band anymore without the original lead singer. Only a few have been able to pull off the magic trick of the singer switch-a-roo and still be successful. After hearing John sing I was sold on the new face of the band and I stuck with them. I grew to love the sound of Anthrax over the past few albums, but I must say it is great to have Joey back. He always had a way of melodically belting a chorus like no one else could.

The sound of "Worship Music" can easily be compared to the 2003 release "We've Come For You All". If you listen a little closer though, you'll find that the lyrical content is a little darker. It seems that Joey has traded singing about David Lynch films and Steven King novels, to singing about lies, rage and "dark devil nightmares" ("Now It's Dark" was in reference to the 1986 film Blue Velvet, and "Misery Loves Company" was based on the novel Misery). If you are trying to put a fresh edge on a band that has been around for well over two decades, I suppose changing your points of view in your songs is the way to it.

Anthrax had to try and do something special with this album considering that every band from their decade has decided to make a comeback. Although they have still been in the game, Anthrax could be lumped together with the "wash-ups".

Worship, track 1 on the new disk brought me in instrumentally. Anthrax has always been top notch when it came to intros that build you up into something you can throw your neck out to. A classic example was Intro To Reality from "Persistence Of Time". The song built you up to the journey that would eventually become Belly Of The Beast. This album followed the pattern and goes directly into the extremely hard hitting double bass of Charlie Benante on the song Earth On Hell. Without giving away too much of the song plot, lets just say it is reminiscent of everything you loved or hated about the band.
We are all well aware of the zombie phenomenon that has swept over our great country within the last couple of years. Vampires and werewolves have run their course. Anthrax, apparently has caught wind and threw their own take on zombies into track 4 Fight Em "Til You Can't. The spoken intro by an obviously fake newscaster sets the tone for this proactive take on fighting the undead.
The surprise for me on this album fell in the unlisted tracks. The CD only lists 11 songs, stopping at Revolution Screams. The disk itself actually pushes to track 13 and houses a hidden song at about 11min 08sec. At first listen, I stood up and had to backtrack to make sure what I was hearing was true, and it was! Anthrax covers the song New Noise from 1999 by a not so well know band called Refused. I can't explain how great this is considering that my all time favorite band decided to cover a song that I consider a personal anthem.
The other part of Anthrax that you may not know, is that the cover art on their last two major releases was done by the great Alex Ross. Alex is one of the premier artists in the comic book world. Many people would know his work from the graphic novel Kingdom Come, which featured the greatest superheroes of all times in old age.
As a long time fan of Anthrax, I have to say that I'm glad I spent the $10 retail price for the disk. It was somewhat of a challenge trying to find considering that Best Buy is one of the only places left in this town to purchase music besides FYI. I wandered around their newly remodeled and severely downsized two aisles of music before a clerk found a few left on an endcap. In other words, GO BUY THE CD!!!

by Greg Waldrop

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