Choosing the words with which to describe my feelings about WORSHIP MUSIC (order now on iTunes), the long-awaited and severely-overdue new album from ANTHRAX has proved challenging. In title alone, the album lends itself to a barrage of cheesy, overtly punny phrasing involving imagery of religion, worship, praise, and prayer – none of which you will find me slathering upon it like many of my peers no doubt will.
In history alone, there is so much of a back-story to the album – one that’s been well-documented elsewhere, so much that it feels like beating a dead horse – that the discussion of the band gossip of recent years seems to overshadow what’s really important much of the time… the music.
My personal ANTHRAX coming-of-age took place within the John Bush-era of the band. I was 16 when SOUND OF WHITE NOISE hit stores in May of 1993, and while I’d later come to appreciate the ANTHRAX that came prior, WHITE NOISE was the first ‘Thrax album that I’d literally walked into a record store and purchased. The “big hair” era of Joey Belladonna had passed before my time, and as a teenager, I only cared about “the now.” As we all know, times change and so goes the voice of ANTHRAX. Fast-forward to the present, and Joey Belladonna is back at the front of the band which he originally departed in 1992.
WORSHIP MUSIC is a great album, one of 2011’s best by far. The first proper studio record from ANTHRAX since WE’VE COME FOR YOU ALL was released in 2003, and the first to feature vocals from Belladonna since PERSISTENCE OF TIME in 1990, listeners will realize that the road to it’s completion – no matter how twisted and titillating the story – has finally been eclipsed by an 11-song set of precious metal.
One of The Big 4 of thrash metal, ANTHRAX, much like their colleagues in METALLICA, have matured into a force far bigger than the genre from which they were spawned. The current lineup consisting of Belladonna, guitarist Scott Ian, drummer Charlie Benante, bassist Frank Bello, and guitarist Rob Caggiano is as tight as they come. Loaded with hard-hitting riffs, and layered with beautiful melodies accented by acoustic guitars and cello, WORSHIP MUSIC must be absorbed through repeat listens (of which I have enjoyed many). The packaging features the work of longtime ‘Thrax artist, supporter, and friend Alex Ross adoring the multi-gatefold CD booklet (for all you non-digi buyers) alongside live photos from noted photographer Ross Halfin.
Having previously discussed with them their affection for horror films and literature at length during my time at Fangoria a few years back, the guiding creative force of Scott Ian/Charlie Benante is ever-present. Lyrics on The Devil You Know pay tribute to the 2008 Swedish Vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, while the zombie apocalypse brought forth by George A. Romero in his influential 1968 film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is tackled in Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t. Joey’s delivery of the lyrics? Phenomenal. Those expecting a direct continuation of his prior work with the band will find that time has been good to Belladonna’s vocal range, as he works the lows just as well as he’s always handled the highs.
In the End stands tall as one of my personal favorites on the album. Bells chime as as the song builds into a solid groove-metal pattern, breaking free as the chorus arrives – a cinematic epic that would be well-suited to soundtrack an army of darkness marching into battle. The Constant brings a southern groove that would make the late Dimebag Darrell proud, while Revolution Screams closes the album by questioning “Whose Side Are You On?“
I’m on the side with ANTHRAX.
The Rock Father Rating: 4.5/5 Stars