Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Worship Music - Anthrax - 2011

Worship MusicAny dedicated fan of horror films should agree that Halloween 5 is a damn good sequel, produced long after the series should have run out of steam. It maintains all of the conventional requirements of any good horror film, builds upon its immediate predecessor and still manages to honor the original while expanding the overall mythology of the series. Worship Music, then, is Anthrax's Halloween 5. No, naysayers, it isn't Among the Living or Persistence of Time. The band released four studio albums of originals following Joey Belladonna's departure and none deserve to be disregarded (save for maybe Volume 8, the Halloween III of the bunch?). Coming way too late after 2003's superb We've Come for You All, Worship Music, Joey Belladonna and all, is a continuation of the ongoing Anthrax saga and fits in very, very nicely with the arc of the band's sound across the last quarter century.

Whereas some fans may have wanted an H20 moment, with Joey Belladonna in the Jamie Lee role pretending as if a bulk of the series never even occurred, those who have enjoyed the entire discography cannot be anything but absolutely pleased with Worship Music. Is it 100% thrash?  Hell, no. Is it overly melodic?  Yes, indeed. It plays to Belladonna's vocal strengths and is a better album for it. This is not Anthrax in 1990. This is Anthrax in 2011. They've evolved a bit along the way and, fear not, no matter how you try to label it, it's still metal.

The seemingly obligatory atmospheric opener to every metal album is included here in the form of the immediately forgettable and disposable "Worship," which leads into a proper kick-off in "Earth on Hell," a fierce, fast throwback to classic 80s-era Anthrax. "The Devil You Know" was released for mass consumption as the second free download prior to Worship Music's release and, in my opinion, is a low point, sounding like little more than the Damned Things with a competent vocalist. Thankfully, this is immediately remedied by the band's first free teaser, the ferocious, apostrophe-laden zombie apocalypse anthem, "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't." This has all the classic Anthrax hallmarks in all the right places. Fun, visual lyrical content, rock-solid insane Ian riffery, sparkling leads from Rob Caggiano, drums-n-bass that make you wanna cry, and a nice gang chorus that will look great on a t-shirt. It's a centerpiece the band should be proud of and one that fits comfortably among the canon of established classics.

"In the End" is the second-half highlight, a grandiose, groove-laden monster. It's surrounded by reminders of both the early Belladonna- and Bush-era sounds in the hard-edged forms of "The Giant" and "I'm Alive," respectively. I was most looking forward to hearing "Judas Priest," expecting some all-out tribute to its rock namesake and I was really surprised and pleased with, instead, a mini-epic surrounding an excommunicated evil, a destroyer of worlds.

"Crawl" is as forgettable a Foo Fighters facsimile anyone could ever conjure. "The Constant" comes in immediately after, segueing directly into a simple, stomping rocker and would have been an effective closer if its sequence was flipped with the just-OK "Revolution Screams" (along with a final, hidden Refused cover, "New Noise").

In the end, Worship Music is fun, plain and simple. Is it "as good" as Persistence of Time?  That's subjective, but probably not. But, like any good horror film sequel, it's still a great experience that reminds you why the original is a classic. It's lively, varied and sounds good loud. There's a potent vibrancy to it that, frankly, was absent from recent Big 4 releases like Death Magnetic and World Painted Blood (both albums I liked, for the record) and, in my opinion, these guys are currently sitting high at the top of that heap.

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