In 2011 Anthrax decided to get back into the Belladonna business. It had been eight years since We’ve Come For You All, and expectations on new music, particularly with Belladonna back in fold were high. Could the dude even still sing? Were those Journey-esque soaring vocals going to crash and burn with tepid hard rock or were the mosh masters going to come blazing back like it was 1987 all over again? Worship Music surprised the hell out of me, the tunes covering almost the entire spectrum of Anthrax’s career, but also putting to rest any fears that Belladonna wasn’t going to fit right back in.
All respect to Neil Turbin and John Bush, but Joey Belladonna defined Anthrax for me as much as Scott Ian’s beard and the band’s mosh stomping riffs. So to hear the rampant aggression of “Earth on Hell” was a blessed relief. “The Devil You Know” is another rager, taking more of the Bush-era radio friendly hooks but not forgoing the heavy riffing and absolutely killer solos. One of the things that can’t be over stressed is Rob Caggiano’s contributions to the albums, both on the solo and the production front. By the time of single “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” we’ve hit that mosh-ready riffing that harkens back to Among the Living, although again the chorus is so hook-laden it almost takes away from the classic vibe the song puts out.
But it doesn’t. That task falls to “I’m Alive,” and it’s a reminder that as strong as Worship Music is, there are moments where for me it falls flat. Not enough to kill my overall enjoyment of the album, but enough to realize that hey, pobody’s nerfect. Even when it’s a song I love, like “In the End” Anthrax starts to suffer a little from late-era Metallica syndrome, in that all the songs run like a minute too long. Taking “In The End” as an example (it’s why I embedded it for this post), This song could easily lop off the last 1:15, about when the bells toll again. Up until then it’s my favorite track on the album, but then it has to go to that reprise and I get kind of lost. “The Giant” and “Judas Priest” are also kind of forgettable, and the band sins further by naming a track after one of the greatest bands on this planet and making it kind of mediocre. “Crawl” feels like a Soundgarden song, and although I dig the weird doom alt-90s space it inhabits, I cannot help but wish Chris Cornell was singing it. “The Constant” fares better for me, with it’s nasty groove riff sitting just right. Likewise closer “Revolution Screams” – I dig bands leaving their heaviest stuff for last, and this one is a barnburner.
So why did they have to then make Worship Music jump the shark with the “hidden” cover of Refused’s “New Noise” ferchrisssakes? I mean, it’s okay, but it doesn’t hold a feather to the original, and for a band that has traditionally killed on covers, this feels like a misstep. Oh well, I still love you Worship Music for your front half and “In The End.” Glad to have you back with us.
A quick word on the physical packaging of Worship Music. Besides having “Revolution Screams” and the “New Noise” cover (the digital copy omits this and simply closes with “The Constant”) it was a nostalgic blast to check out the back over and see that Megaforce Records emblazoned – something that, if Is aw it on a cassette was I was a kid was a surefire way to get me to buy something.
Apparently some things never change…