The release of a new Anthrax studio album should be a big deal, a genuine occasion in the metal world. After all, not only is Worship Music the band’s first studio effort in eight years, it’s their first release with beloved lead singer Joey Belladonna since 1990, and yet, in spite of the histrionics you can’t help but detect a palpable aura of apathy surround this release.
Anthrax are legends, this goes without saying, and 2011 has been a huge year for the band who finally took their Big Four reunion tour with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer to the UK and North America, but rather than stoking the fire of anticipation it feels that the world has hardly had the opportunity to miss Joey Belladonna, let alone Anthrax.
The band have toured relentlessly, delivering the same polished set across the world with an alarming frequency typified by the fact that they’ve played Sonisphere Festival three years in a row. It’s fair to say that Anthrax’s have over-saturated the market, and yet, a new album presents the band with the vehicle to spice up their setlist and alter their direction, providing the perfect solution to Anthrax’s inherent staleness.
Unfortunately, Worship Music is not a bold step into the unknown; and while it represents more of the same, it in no way hints at complacency or a band running out ideas. In fact, as the band tear into the horribly named “Earth On Hell” the track’s blistering thrash appears strangely vital. Belladonna speaks of a “ticking time bomb”, as he rages about repulsive violence, the streets being occupied by malicious forces, and regular citizens sitting awake in their beds fearing the night to come. Sound familiar?
For a good 90 seconds it appears that Anthrax have capture the fear, frenzy and hysteria invoked by the London riots, sadly before the track threatens to capture the zeitgeist one of the corniest and eye rolling choruses imaginable comes into play. Still, “Earth On Hell” represents a noble effort, and a promising start.
From there on in Anthrax offer up a suitably theatrical thrill ride rooted firmly in the Bay Area thrash of the 1980s. The choruses are inherently cheesy and over the top with film and music references sprinkled throughout, but the band are absolutely on fire instrumentally, with the satisfying meaty chords of “Devil You Know” and Scott Ian launching into a salacious spiralling solo on the sensational “Fight ‘Em ‘Till You Can’t”.
At times Anthrax flirt with a full on career renaissance and Worship Music is remarkably consistent, showcasing a veteran band who are entirely comfortably within their own skin, able to viciously let rip at will with a blustering pedal to the metal attitude.
Disappointingly, Worship Music’s gleaming edge is diluted by an hour long run time that stifles the record’s urgency, making the records more considered constructions harder to bare. Still Belladonna and Anthrax have nothing to be ashamed of. Worship Music may not be an illusive rejuvenation of a career in stasis, but it is a brazen statement nonetheless: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and never mistake consistency for complacency, as Anthrax are anything but washed up.
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