Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Anthrax Worship Music
Anthrax Worship Music
Release Date: September 13th, 2011
Anthrax and I go way back. Sometime around the spring of ‘84, I bought Fistful Of Metal on vinyl while a tender aged sophomore in high school back in my hometown of Wheeling, Illinois. I was probably the first kid in my high school to own copies of Kill ‘Em All and Show No Mercy (amongst others from the period), and I was also eagerly snatching up just about anything released by Metal Blade Records and Megaforce Records. A year or so later, the monstrous Spreading The Disease (still my favorite album from Anthrax) was released, and I distinctly remember an absolutely killer ‘Thrax show at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago in support of that album, sometime in early ’86, I believe. I remember Scott Ian standing in the sound booth next to me in the balcony area before the show started (I forget who the openers were, probably Chicago’s very own Zoetrope), only learning later that he was probably overseeing the set up for a live recording of “Madhouse,” which later appeared on vinyl as a single. The cover photograph of that single is the Metro show, and you can barely see me on the right hand side of the cover, buried amidst the crowd next to the stage.
I stayed with Anthrax through thick and thin over the years (besides the band’s obvious classics, I also like, surprisingly, Stomp 442 and Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real; Persistence Of Time much less so). As the late ‘80s faded, though, Anthrax became less prevalent in my mind as I became increasingly enamored with death metal and, later, black metal, but I bought every album released by Anthrax, for better or worse. I caught the band in concert a couple of times over the years, most recently in the spring of ’08 in support of Iron Maiden at Irvine Meadows in Irvine, California, with the ill-fated Dan Nelson on vocals.
Speaking of Dan Nelson, the soap opera surrounding Anthrax has been dutifully documented by many, and, frankly, does not bear repeating here. So, after all of that drama that seemed to stretch out for years, how does Worship Music (speaking of Megaforce Records) stack up? Well, as you might expect, the album is a bit of a mixed bag. First and foremost, Worship Music is a very accessible album with catchy songs and opportunities for Joey Belladonna’s vocals to shine with plenty of choruses that are obviously intended to showcase his talents. There’s good songwriting and, of course, stellar musicianship as you would expect from a band of this stature and longevity.
Plain and simple, Worship Music is a mainstream metal album designed for the masses. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Worship Music is a weak sounding album, as the production is organic, thick, and full of crunch, but there’s a decided lack of aggression that I was really hoping would be present; at least, to some degree. I find myself waiting for that out and out thrasher that occurs on just about every album from the band, but that moment never comes. Charlie Benante’s drumming, though struck with emphasis for the tempos being played, never really seems to break through and give the album a devastating sense of weight (Benante is given the opportunity, though, to solo during a short interlude). Similarly, Frank Bello’s bass is not given a chance to stand up on its own, except for a few fleeting moments here and there. Instead, the rhythm section on Worship Music seems to exist to support Ian’s and Rob Caggiano’s riffing and, most importantly, Belladonna’s soaring voice.
Worship Music is ultimately a decent to good album that plays it safe with some good songs and others that are not so good. It’s not a bad album, but Worship Music is nowhere near the classic status of some of Anthrax’s past efforts (Spreading The Disease and Among The Living are still my “go to” albums from the band; admittedly, that will probably never change). But, Worship Music is also probably the album that Anthrax needed to make after such as tumultuous decade. If nothing else, Worship Music serves as a good reintroduction to Anthrax for lifers such as me, as well as for a newer generation of fans.
By the way, stick around ‘til the very end of the over fifteen minutes long “Revolution Screams,” as, yes, there’s finally a bit of the old ‘Thrax.
Score: 3.5/ 5
Special thanks to Heidi Ellen Robinson- Fitzgerald.