Songs of Praise
The accepted divergence point for Anthrax fans is the 1992 departure of charismatic front-man, Joey Belladonna. His firing marked a further shift towards darker, more straight-faced heavy metal which distinguished Persistence of Time from earlier material so the question is this. After 19 years in the thankless wastelands of solo recording, will his glorious return unite fans old & new in a golden era of peace, love & tongue-in-cheek thrash? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
Pointless Intro #32 passes easily enough & we find ourselves dumped in Earth On Hell. A dissonant wall of noise that gets boring in less than 20 seconds, I resist the skip button only so that you don’t have to, loyal readers. It was much better when it was called Be All, End All on State Of Euphoria. The Devil You Know is a timely step in the right direction. Traditional Anthrax mid-tempo chug reminds us all why Scott Ian is the best rhythm player in the big 4 whilst the infectious chorus allows Belladonna a chance to take on Bush on his home turf & you know what, he does pretty well. To save time, they’ve recycled the riff from Gridlock & passed it off as a punctuation fan’s wet dream in Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t. It is here we finally get something closer to classic Anthrax. Stop-start riffs, gang vocals & Benante’s meticulous drumming combined with a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on Among The Living.
Just as we are getting into the swing of things, I’m Alive brings things back down to earth with a bang. Sounding like Bush-era filler, it’s the last thing this album needs. They were pushing their luck at 65 minutes anyway. Things pick up again with In The End but the 2 minute church bell outro is massively unnecessary. Yes, we get it, you Worship Music. Worship music, church, very clever. The Giant piddles about somewhere between the 2 camps of fandom & it’s unlikely to please either.
Not content with recycling their own songs, Judas Priest is Sacred Reich‘s Crimes Against Humanity in everything but name. If Phil Rind isn’t getting royalties off this, then it is the biggest injustice since I lost out to Ricky Martin at the Latin Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Performance. Things end with a triumvirate of turds beginning on the disappointing Crawl before delivering some regrettable Southern groove in the form of The Constant. I’m not going to mention the hidden Refused cover at the end because I’m still trying to pretend it never happened so the last track is the overweight Revolution Screams which seems so totally lost & confused that it shambles on for a good 3 minutes past it’s welcome before someone mercifully puts it out of it’s misery.
Caggiano’s mix is inconsistent at best with the drums suffering particularly. Focus has fittingly been put on the vocals & at the ripe old age of 50, Joey nails every spot he’s given. My main complaint with Worship Music other than the shameless rehashing is the lack of any Belladonna-era trademark humour. Unless the ropey drum sound was all just very clever joke.
In answer to my initial question, no, this isn’t going to placate the Bush fans hoping for another croonfest after the brilliant We’ve Come For You All nor is it the old school speed thrash genius of the late eighties. No, Anthrax & Belladonna are two people who have aged considerably since their separation & are giving it another go for the sake of the
kids bank balances. After 4 years of pissing all over their own parade, I suppose the biggest surprise is that this difficult birth didn’t give us a Morbid Angel. There are hits & misses, shitty production decisions & songs Joey wasn’t built to sing. It isn’t perfect but the boys have proved they are still worth your persistence & time (geddit?).