The possibly-not-final cover art for Anthrax’s Worship Music

So I have a friend who works closely with Camp Anthrax. I obviously can’t tell you the friend’s name, but I can tell you that he once told me that the Dan Nelson version of Worship Music was awesome, and that I’ve been begging him to let me hear it ever since. Thing is, he doesn’t actually own a copy, and has never been able to get his hands on one. Security around the album was tight before the Nelson debacle, but after, he told me, “It was like Scott and Charlie were going door-to-door personally checking people’s hard drives to make sure everyone had deleted it.”

And so last night I got a text from this friend, I guess trying to make amends for the fact that he never did come through with that Dan Nelson record: “Just got the Belladonna version of Worship Music. U wanna hear it?”

I responded simply, “Be there in 20.” And I got my ass on the subway and I went over to his place.

And I gotta tell you, guys… it’s a weird record, and there are two MASSIVE, and massively tragic, missteps… but it’s pretty great overrall. It’s not really like any metal record I’ve ever heard before. Whatever else you wanna say about Anthrax, you can’t accuse them of refusing to experiment — this album is a huge, huge risk, often welding together vastly different styles and textures of not just metal but often other genres of music, too. I don’t know if people will go for this record or not, but I think it’s kinda brilliant.

(By the way, the above album cover is a carry-over from the Dan Nelson version of the record; apparently it may be scrapped in favor of something that “feels more like the album cover of one of the old Belladonna albums.” Which would be a weird decision, because, a few songs aside, this record doesn’t sound anything like any other Anthrax album.)

And so here it is — my track-by-track breakdown of what I heard.

You guys aren’t gonna believe this shit.

“Intro” — It’s like some white noise with buzzsaw guitars and then a high-pitched Belladonna scream rises up from the background. Honestly, it kinda reminded me of the beginning of Warrant’s Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. Then it segues right into —

“Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” — You’ve heard the live version of the song, so you know what you’re in for here — this is just a more polished studio version. What’s kind of amazing is that the production sounds almost EXACTLY like the Anthrax records of yore — particularly Persistence of Time. I don’t know if Belladonna’s been fixed in post or what, but it sounds like he recorded “In My World” yesterday. Even if I prefer Bush-era ‘Thrax, it’s hard for me to argue that this is a weak start. No surprises, I’m told this is expected to be the first single.

“Vampyres” — If “Fight ‘Em” sounds JUST like classic Belladonna-era stuff, then this sounds EXACTLY like old Bush stuff. Belladonna’s vocals, consequently, do feel a little out of place, but they make it work way better than I thought they would. Rob Caggiano’s solo on this song is KILLER, by the way — far and away his best work.

“We Die Young” — This is the first of those two missteps I was talking about. I mean, seriously? They put a cover third? Boy, they sure are proud of the new music they’ve made. By the way, Joey’s voice is really way wrong for this song. Also, no one in Anthrax is young, so I don’t know who the fuck they mean when they say “we.” I guess “We Die Middle Aged” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

“Revolution Screams” — Is like a Sound of White Noise/Spreading the Disease hybrid; the verse is a groove-metal kinda thing John Bush might have sung, and the chorus is fast n’ thrashy and perfect for Belladonna. It feels like the band trying to please everybody, and it doesn’t quite work– I think it ultimately feels like too much of it was pasted together, as though making a Frankenstein’s Monster of a song — although each section, taken on its own, is really quite good.

“Earth on Hell” — Okay, so this is when the album starts to get weird. This tune has lots of bizarre sound effects, but the riff sounds like it could be on State of Euphoria. The closest pre-existing Anthrax song I can think to compare it to is “Random Acts of Senseless Violence,” but it’s thrashier than that. The note I have written down is “Beck re-mixes ‘Be All, End All’.” I still think that’s an apt description.

“Down Goes the Sun” — If Crowbar wrote a power ballad, it would be “Down Goes the Sun.” Imagine Black Label Society’s “In This River,” but with banjo instead of piano, and it gets way heavy after the first verse, and, oh yeah, the vocals are by a whole choir of Belladonnas. Seriously — the vocals are like something off a Queen album. Totally bizarre.

“The Devil You Know” — Is a The Damned Things song with Belladonna vocals. That’s the only way I can describe it. It doesn’t even sound like Anthrax. There’s enough cowbell to outfit an entire herd. That being said… it rocks. It’s cheesy as hell, but it’s twice as good as anything Velvet Revolver or Buckcherry every wrote.

“The Giant” — IS A DUET WITH SEBASTIAN BACH, Scott Ian’s old Damnocracy bandmate. I nearly shit when my friend told me, but as soon as the vocals kicked, The crazier thing is, this was by far my favorite song on the album. If “Fight ‘Em” sounds like old Belladonna shit, and “Vampyres” sounds like old Bush shit, then this sounds like way, way, way old Turbin shit. It’s like one glass-shattering vocal away from being a Judas Priest song.

“Little Boy from Long Island” — A nine minute epic with acoustic guitars, a full orchestra (and it’s apparently not synths), steel drums, harmonized vocals by Belladonna, Scott Ian’s wife Pearl Aday, and  her father/Ian’s father-in-law, Meatloaf, and also crazy section full of blast beats and guest vocals from Frank Mullen. This has to be the craziest Anthrax song I’ve ever heard. It also attacks Dan Nelson with staggering specificity: “Good luck workin’ with Bostaph, Little Boy from Long Island.”

“Bring the 21st Century Noize” — HOLY SHIT, CAN YOU BELIEVE THEY’RE CALLING A SONG THAT? Worse still is that the thing is six minutes long — almost twice the length of the original — and is now overflowing with guest rappers. Yes, I said guest rappers. Not only is Chuck D. back, but now there are extra parts for Ice Cube, Fred Durst (!), and B.o.B., and then there’s like a weird breakdown-thing with vocoder vocals by T-Pain. Not only can I still not believe that this song exists, I can’t believe they closed the album with this. The upside, I guess, is that you can turn the album off before this ever plays.

It’s so bad and so silly it almost derails the whole thing — but everything up to this point, save the Alice in Chains cover, has been so interesting it almost doesn’t matter. The eight songs on this album that work REALLY work. For all the shit I’ve given the band up recently, they really, really did something fascinating here, and re-defined Anthrax for the 21st century in a big, big way. I’m told the record is gonna get an official release date for the fall any second now; I don’t know why the band is waiting so long. I can’t wait for you guys to hear it.

(4 1/2 outta 5 horns)



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