Release date: September 13, 2011
Worship Music represents the best of classic and modern Anthrax. Some three years in the making, the band’s 10th studio effort is the first in eight years and the first to feature vocalist Joey Belledonna since 1990’s The Persistence of Time.
With the exception of lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, Worship Music finds the band’s seminal line-up back together for what turned out to be an audacious slab of crushing metal. Guitarist Scott Ian, the band’s only permanent member, drummer Charlie Benante, bassist Frank Bello, with Belladonna and Caggiano have given Anthrax fans reason to jump in the pit all over again.
Worship Music was originally completed in 2009 with Dan Nelson on vocals. The album was shelved when Nelson left the band, and with the return of Belladonna a major re-write and re-recording was undertaken. While it would have been intriguing to listen to the first version of the album, or what it might have been with long time vocalist John Bush (who temporarily signed back on), hearing Belladonna brings back strong headbanging memories.
One of my concerns, and that of many Anthrax fans going into Worship Music was how Joey’s return would impact the sound of this record, and even John Bush fans should be aptly impressed. This is Belladonna’s best performance with Anthrax to date.
The album opens with the table-setting intro “Worship”, which bleeds into “Earth On Hell”, which is a more than adequate sonic interpretation of where our world is at this moment. One can even find some death metal flavor here. This kicks off a solid hour of the finest Anthrax has had to offer since 1987’s Among the Living or The Persistence of Time.
Next up is the lead-off single “The Devil You Know”, which brings a modern feel to the classic Anthrax sound. The band have matured and settled in here. There is modern production and years of experience which washes away some of the rawness of the band’s early 80’s sound, but the music is by no means a mellowing of the band’s in-your-grill signature.
The old school pummelling begins in earnest on “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t” which is either a song about zombies or a very thinly veiled tongue-in-cheek shot at American politicians. I prefer the idea of the latter. The song starts off with a radio transmission warning listeners that the dead have risen from the grave to attack the living. Yep, sounds like politicians to me.
“I’m Alive” is a melodic bone crusher with some excellent guitar work from Caggiano. Church bells ring in the epic feeling of “In The End”, which is one of the album’s stand out tracks. A big chorus wrapped in tight riffing, and death march drumming from Benante.
Another of the album’s highlights is “Judas Priest” which melds a variety of metal styles into one unique and powerful track. Arguably the best all around song on the album. I could even hear the song’s namesake performing this track.
On “Crawl” you truly get a sense that Belladona has found vocal freedom on this record. Scott Ian has said the band really wanted to give Joey free reign on this album to make his vocal performances his own. Not just here but throughout the record, you get can feel Joey’s energy unleashed.
“The Constant” leads off with an almost Crowbar/Down type vibe. While not particularly sludgy, that doomy feel is there on the verses.
Benante and Bello save their best performances for the crushing finale, “Revolution Screams”. While the guitar drives the track it is the jackhammer drumming and rumbling bass lines that are the gut punch. In fact, throughout the album it is the combo of Bello and Benante that solidify that Anthrax signature more than anything else. “Revolution Screams” offers some serious mind, and finger, numbing fretwork as well. Ian and Caggiano wear their callouses thin on this beast. Just listening to the song is a full body work out.
Buried beyond the end of “Revolution Screams” is the hidden track, “New Noise”. A metal-hop cover of a song originally performed by Sweden’s hardcore punk act, Refused.
With Worship Music, the fourth member of the Big 4 has made a statement album that shows its still deserving of its place in this exclusive quartet. Belladonna sounds as good as he did two decades ago, and Ian and Benante have really amassed some of their best material in ages. Here’s hoping that cooler heads and common sense prevail, and this line-up stays together to usher in a new decade of Anthrax. Worship Music is a shot in the arm that metal needed.
Buy it, crank it, and let the Anthrax army rise again!