A new lease of life they badly needed to remain relevant

Since 2007, the legendary metal band known as Anthrax has been like the Titanic steering towards the iceberg.

They tried to find someone to man the helm, with attempts at bringing new blood in (Dan Nelson) and reigniting one past relationship (John Bush), but it just did not eventuate and the band’s future looked bleak. Yet the saying what is old is new again proved in the end to be quite valid as Joey Belladonna was welcomed back to the fold at last. Momentum started again with the Big 4 tours and now the long awaited and anticipated Worship Music has finally come to complete fruition.

Having been through as many changes as costumes in a Broadway production, no one was really sure what direction Anthrax were going to head in. Would it be a thrash album that hearkened back to their glory days or was it going to head in the modern metal direction they took when Bush was on board? I guess it’s time to find out…

The ominous introduction “Worship” fills the air like the calm before the storm until “Earth On Hell” blast (beats) right into gear with breakneck speed into three minutes of Anthrax intensity and groove with all of the elements – Belladonna’s howling vocal, Charlie Benante’s unique drumwork and Scott Ian’s right hand riffing away like it was 1988 again. I had to go look at the date just to be sure. Anthrax have just announced their return and they are NOT screwing around.

For those expecting a balls-out thrash album, Worship Music is going to raise eyebrows. No doubt it about it, these songs are heavy, forceful and move at a mid-paced groove, like “I’m Alive” that shifts like a modern version of “Keep It In The Family”. The aptly-named “The Giant” is bolstered by a gigantic stomping groove, “Fight ’em Til You Can’t” just screams to be a single with its chorus that seems a little out of place and even a bit too melodic, and “The Devil You Know” is just downright catchy.

Some songs differ from the norm like the dark and ominous duo of “Judas Priest” (featuring some killer fretwork from Ian and Rob Caggiano) and “Crawl” where Belladonna shows off how his vocals have shifted from his higher end 80s attack to a lower register. On the anthemic “Revolution Screams” he shouts like a tyrannical leader preaching  to the masses and “In the End” is a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell with a start/stop rhythm that will initiate heads banging and fists pumping.

As good as some of the material is on Worship Music, the album has a bit of filler. Many of the tracks tend to sound similar, samey riffs tend to rear their head once or twice and the same drum beats roll around. The brief “Hymn” interludes just seem to be taking up space and could have been chopped off. There is also a hidden bonus track – a cover of seminal Swedish hardcore artists Refused’s iconic track “New Noise”. Musically it isn’t too bad, but this doesn’t really suit Belladonna’s vocal style and is more of a space filler at the end.

Admittedly it isn’t the 1980s anymore and their Among the Living days are long gone, but it would have been nice had they incorporated something reminiscent of their faster and thrashier days to keep the die hards happy. But the shining light for Worship Music is that Joey Belladonna’s voice has stood the test of time and he works hard to pull off quite a performance. Even with its pitfalls, Worship Music lives up to the long wait that the fans have had to endure and all the drama that has followed it. Is it on par with albums such as Among the Living, Persistence of Time or even Sound of White Noise?  Yes and no. Is it a positive representation of Anthrax in 2011 and onwards? Sure. It gives Anthrax that new lease of life they badly needed to remain relevant in today’s music scene.

1. Worship
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. Giant
9. Hymn 2
10. Judas Priest
11. Crawl
12. The Constant
13. Revolution Screams
14. New Noise (hidden)