Is it fair to call Worship Music a comeback album?
The last studio effort heard from Anthrax was 2003’s We’ve Come For You All. At that time, John Bush—who had taken over for ex-singer Joey Belladonna back in 1992—was still with the band. We’ve Come For You All was hailed as a triumph from critics and the band had so much momentum it was scary. Since that time, Anthrax has seen so many changes it’d make Axl Rose’s head spin.
Anthrax welcomed Joey Belladonna back for a reunion tour that ended with Joey once again out of the band. New singer Dan Nelson was recruited and a new record was recorded with him. However, Nelson left under a storm of controversy, and that time with him has been described by drummer Charlie Benante as, “a very bad emotional rollercoaster.” After Nelson’s departure, Belladonna returned for a third stint with the band that seems to have worked out better—to the point that Anthrax went back in the studio, reworked the album originally recorded with Nelson, and released their first studio album in eight years, Worship Music.
Truth be told, the record was written before Nelson even came on board. Five of the tracks were re-worked with Belladonna back on board. It would almost seem that half the fun in listening to Worship Music is trying to pick out what portions of the record they kept from when Nelson worked on it and which portions were written as new with Belladonna back. I say “almost,” because trying to find those songs is nearly impossible. The reason for that is that Worship Music sounds like the last 21 years never happened.
The band sonically picks up right where 1990’s Persistence Of Time left off. “Worship” is a short opener that leads into the fiery riffs of “Earth On Hell.” Together the tracks are a triumphant declaration of the band’s resurrection that can be expected to open the band’s headlining tour with Testament later this year. The remorseless riffs of Rob Caggiano and Scott Ian hold hands with the juggernaut rhythms of Benante and bassist Frank Bello for a double clothesline of an experience.
“The Devil You Know,” the record’s lead-off single, is commercial enough to be a single but yet the sound is trademark enough for there to be no mistake which band this is. Just in case there is, next is the album’s signature track, “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t.” Released on the band’s website before “The Devil You Know,” “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” is nearly six minutes of patented violence. Tension-building introduction, Belladonna in top form, Scott Ian screaming a background refrain, an excellent solo from Caggiano, and a winding tale of undeath all come together to form a song that Anthrax will be remembered for just as much as “I Am The Law” or “Madhouse.”
From that opening, the record embarks on a journey of classic metal that in no way, shape, or form sounds dated at all. Unless you count the fact that you can actually understand the words coming out of Belladonna’s mouth and there is an utter lack of tempo changes just for the sake of doing them. In that respect, the record sounds actually fresh compared to much of the fare offered today in the world of heavy metal. Each track is crafted for maximum firepower but still laid out in a fashion that can be followed, creating a ride that stands out as what should go down as the best metal album of 2011 whether it can be considered a comeback or not.