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Worship Music

Nuclear Blast (2011)
Rating: 7/10

After a lengthy series of setbacks, Anthrax returns in 2011 with Worship Music. The album is the band’s first to feature vocalist Joey Belladonna (who fronted the band during the height of their popularity) since 1990’s Persistence Of Time, an album long considered to be the band’s seminal offering. Worship Music was produced by the band as well as guitarist Rob Caggiano and Jay Ruston and was recorded over the last four years.

Worship Music’s first proper song ‘Earth On Hell’ is a straightforward affair led by probably the best drumming of any Anthrax song ever and a snarling Joey Belladonna letting the world know that he means business this time around. The guitars are on fire, riffing away and coming dangerously close to the thrash sound they are most associated with. ‘The Devil You Know’ and ‘Fight ’Em Till You Can’t’ continue the breakneck, riff-heavy metal that the album is forged around (which also includes ‘Revolution Screams’, the album’s closer, and ‘Judas Priest’). Belladonna just tears it up like a man possessed, hitting every note with precision and passion, especially on the opening trio of songs. ‘I’m Alive’ and ‘The Giant’ change the dynamic a bit, adding more groove and a darker feel to the big picture, reminding me a lot of the material on We’ve Come For You All (2003) and, to a lesser degree, Stomp 442 (1995). ‘In the End’ and ‘Crawl’ are of the more commercially viable (bright sounding, anthemic, and slightly more thought-provoking lyrically) variety that Anthrax fans have gotten used to over the last 20 years and sound as if they could have been extremely comfortable on We’ve Come For You All. ‘The Constant’ and ‘Judas Priest’ are the only real stinkers here and, really ‘Judas Priest’ isn’t all that bad musically; it’s just goofy to hear these guys acting like fanboys.

With all the chaos at camp Anthrax over the last few years, it’s kind of hard to listen to this album and stay objective. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure it can be done with so many questions looming, the big ones being “Why was Joey Belladonna the band’s third choice for a vocalist (and was Neil Turbin considered)?,” “Would they even have extended a hand to Belladonna had it not been for The Big Four shows?,” and “How much of this album was actually written with Dan Nelson in mind?” In the end, we’ll likely never know and all we have to judge the band by is Worship Music.

Despite my annoyance with Anthrax’s treatment of vocalists and the fact that I prefer the John Bush years, Worship Music is a damn good album and a career-defining performance by Joey Belladonna. I hear a lot of people comparing this to Persistence Of Time but it’s a lot more straightforward sounding than that. As a matter of fact, I’d say that this is the most balls out, straight metal album Anthrax have recorded to date. It’s a logical follow-up to We’ve Come For You All and an excellent addition to any metal fans’ collection.

Mark Fisher