Stream Review: Anthrax XL is XL Anthrax
The members of Anthrax don’t say a word during their fortieth anniversary streaming event. On the one hand, that might seem surprising, given the momentousness of the occasion. On the other hand, they’ve been doing nothing but talking for weeks, via a series of career retrospective videos… and they’ve got goddamn music to play.
Because Anthrax have a colossal legacy. I know that goes without saying, but really, I don’t think you realize how many classic songs this band has written until you’ve watched them play for 2¼ hours and still not have time for every cut you wanna hear.
Which is precisely what happens here. Over the course of 132 minutes, the band plays 22 tracks, all of which are “famous,” for lack of more elegant way to put it. The only respite comes via a few brief videos featuring congratulatory messages from prestigious friends and admirers (including members of Iron Maiden, Kiss, and Slipknot, to name but a few). There’s not a single song you don’t know. And it wasn’t until my post-stream sit n’ think that I even realized they’d missed (“missed”) a few essentials.
Anthrax’s career is an embarrassment of riches.
The stream, which is available through July 25, is a worthy celebration of those riches. For one thing, it looks great. The streaming shows we’ve all been watching for the past year-and-change have been of very mixed visual quality, and this one is definitely top-notch. Short of somehow landing Jon Donais’ job, this is the closest you will ever get to knowing how it must feel to be on stage with Anthrax.
More importantly, the stream sounds great. Little wonder: the sound is by Jay Ruston, who produced both Worship Music (2011) and For All Kings (2016). The mix is perfect. I’ve never heard every detail of a live Anthrax performance so clearly. Hopefully the band considers releasing the audio at some point; I know they already have multiple live albums, but I really can’t stress that this performance sounds extra-excellent.
Of course, the fact that Ruston has something worth making it sound this good is all thanks to Anthrax, who can still bring it after all this time. They sound tight, and they put on a show. Keep in mind that of the four members of the band’s “classic” line-up who remain in the fold, the youngest, Frankie Bello, is 56. Joey Belladonna is a full-blown sexagenarian. Scott Ian is stomping around now with as much intensity as he ever did; I got tired just watching Charlie Benante. Okay, yeah, Belladonna’s voice falters a little as the show goes on. Have I mentioned he’s turning 61 in October? He’s no Vince Neil; straining for some high notes isn’t a show-ruiner.
I really only have one pretty minor gripe with the performance, which is an obvious one, given my position as an apostle of John Bush: they don’t play a single song from that era. And hey, I wasn’t expecting them to play a lot from that era. But maybe “Only” would have been nice? Just to acknowledge that Bush was on a third of their discography to date, and that they wrote some awesome music during that time? Am I totally alone on this?
In any case, the band does bring out a special surprise guest near the end of the show. I won’t spoil his identity. But I’ll give you a hint: it’s not Dan Nelson.
The stream costs a very reasonable $15; for an extra $5, you can also watch a 47-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that includes rehearsal footage, a few bonus performances, additional celebrity tributes videos, and a tour, guided by Scott Ian, of locations in downtown Manhattan that were important to Anthrax back in the day. This segment is, in my opinion, worth the five bucks all by itself, especially if you’re a local; listening to Ian talk about CBGB, Joe’s Pizza, Forbidden Planet, and the delightfully semi-seedy world of west 8th street will instill you with no small sense of hometown pride.
Watch the stream here.