Monday, April 15, 2013

Anthrax - Anthems

Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment

With the release of ‘Worship Music’, long running New York (U.S.) based melodic thrash act Anthrax managed to do the near impossible. Not only had the band managed to complete a brand new album with vocalist Joey Belladonna on board (His last appearance with the band in the studio was some twenty years ago), but the album was critically acclaimed from both fans and critics alike (Something the band couldn’t claim for much of their studio output for the last twenty years).
So with the band back on top, it’s not surprising to see them capitalising on the fact and spending much of their time out on the road reinforcing their return.
With the overwhelming success of ‘Worship Music’, there’s no doubt that the idea of recording some new music has crossed the minds of those within the band. But with barely two years since the release of their last album, and so much time spent on the road touring, it’s not at all surprising to find the band a little short of complete songs for an official follow-up studio album to ‘Worship Music’. But obviously there’s a need to get something new out there, so what could Anthrax do? The solution – record a covers E.P. of course! And so during some downtime on the road, and small pockets of time in the studio, Anthrax has finally unveiled their new stop-gap release ‘Anthems’.
Anthrax’s love of recording covers is well known, with many of the band’s b-sides and bonus tracks full of cover versions from a whole range of different genres. But does an E.P. dedicated solely to covers actually work in Anthrax’s favour? Well, most of the time it does.
The band open up ‘Anthems’ with ‘Anthem’ – the classic Rush, um... anthem, from 1975’s ‘Fly By Night’. Those familiar with the track will no doubt be curious as to how well Anthrax pull it off, but suffice to say they do it very well. Belladonna manages to pull off Geddy Lee’s high octane vocals well (Even if he does sound like he’s straining a little at times), while Charlie Benante’s drumming is an obvious stand out performance here. Frank Bello’s bass is nicely captured here and given plenty of prominence in the mix (Courtesy of lead guitarists Rob Caggiano’s recording and Jay Ruston’s production and mix), while Scott Ian’s guitars are right on the mark with the raw edge of the original reproduced. Overall, Anthrax’s cover of ‘Anthem’ is a little loose and raw, but fun.
The cover of AC/DC’s ‘T.N.T.’ (From the band’s 1975 album of the same name) is perhaps a fairly obvious choice, but worthy of inclusion solely because Belladonna does a fantastic Bon Scott impersonation, while Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ (From 1976’s ‘Jailbreak’) is another example of Belladonna’s truly diverse vocal abilities (He has Phil Lynott’s attitude and mannerisms perfected), and features a short but authentic classic rock sounding guitar solo from Motörhead’s Phil Campbell.
Boston’s classic ‘Smokin’’ (From Boston’s self titled debut from 1976) is given a great makeover from the band, with Belladonna and guest keyboardist Fred Mandel (Whose worked with Alice Cooper, Queen, Elton John and Pink Floyd in the past) capturing the sound of ‘70’s hard rock, without making it sound too retro or by the numbers, while the cover of Cheap Trick’s ‘Big Eyes’ (From 1977’s ‘In Color’) is by far the heaviest track on the E.P., and another favourite on the E.P.
Finishing up the run of covers is the band’s take on Journey’s ‘Keep On Runnin’’ (From 1981’s ‘Escape’), which is without a doubt Belladonna’s crowning moment on the E.P. This song rocks big time and Belladonna simply sounds incredible.
Finishing up the E.P. is the studio version of ‘Crawl’ (From ‘Worship Music’), and a remixed version of the same track, which is given a makeover from Michael Lord with the addition of orchestration. Although a solid enough addition, both versions of ‘Crawl’ don’t add a real lot to the E.P. overall.
In the end, ‘Anthems’ is a cool little release from Anthrax. It’s a fun listen too, and that’s all it was ever intended to be from the band. And as long as you look at it from that perspective, you won’t see this as a disappointing follow-up to ‘Worship Music’.

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© Justin Donnelly

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