Worship Music is the long-awaited follow-up release to 2003’s We’ve Come For You All. In the years since that album’s release, the band has been beset by lineup changes, criticism from the press and fanbase that they had become irrelevant, and a painfully public feud with short-timer vocalist Dan Nelson, who was rumored to have recorded the entire record with the band, only to see it scrapped and to be fired (or to leave, depending on which side you believe). After 8 tumultuous years, 2011 could be described as ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ for Anthrax, as they have re-emerged as a relevant and solid band capable of competing with any of the other members of the “Big 4” of Thrash Metal. In addition to the highly publicized and successful “Big 4” concerts, the year saw their defining vocalist Joey Belladonna return to the fold, and they put their flag in the ground, defying everyone out there to doubt their renewed vitality as a band.
With that said, Worship Music is, to this reviewer, the band’s best output since at least The Persistence Of Time.
Although I am a fan of John Bush, especially his work in Armored Saint, I never felt that he completely jelled in Anthrax. Although his time with the band spanned over a decade and 4 studio releases, it seemed that during this era of wandering in the wilderness the band’s output was mostly mediocre with hidden gems like Sound Of White Noise’s “Only” or Stomp 442’s “American Pompeii”. The band essentially misplaced their ability to write consistently memorable hooks, and replaced it with a post-thrash-groove-hardcore vibe, only with a capable singer.
Worship Music, is quite simply, a stunning collection of songs that thrash, groove, and most importantly hook themselves into your psyche. The first 5 songs contain more memorable hooks than the last 4 Anthrax records combined, and returning vocalist . After a short intro, “Earth On Hell” blastbeats you into submission while Joey Belladonna wastes no time in proclaiming his triumphant return to the microphone. The next track is the mid-paced single “The Devil You Know” which features one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard from any band in years. The throttling does not let up there, though, as they go directly into the first single from the album, “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t”. This track thrashes away with abandon then gives way to another anthemic hook. Zombie apocalypse, trademark Anthrax thrashing, and a mountain-sized chorus. What’s not to like?
When you think you may have exhausted the album’s supply of awesome, the brooding minor sounding chords of “I’m Alive” allow you to catch your breath. The slow buildup of this track culminates into a head-nodding groove punctuated with a hook that can stand up with the best arena rock out there.
After a short intermission, church bells signify the beginning of the crushing “In The End”, a slower number dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell. Because of the slower tempo, it gives Belladonna a lot of room to work, and he makes excellent use of the space. Filled with soaring melodies and subtle nods to the work of both of their friends, this song is a victory on all levels.
Snapping back to thrashier territory, “The Giant” is up next. This song is a perfect example of a track that most likely would have been mired in mediocrity had Joey Belladonna not covered it in memorable melodies. It’s a great example of a song where a strong vocal can turn a fairly simple song into something killer.
“Judas Priest” is a curiously titled track, mainly because most people will assume incorrectly that it refers to the band of the same name. Not so, says Scott Ian; it literally means a turncoat priest. It features a similar vibe in the songwriting to older material that could have been found on the seminal Among The Living or State Of Euphoria albums, with multiple bridges, all featuring catchy melodies and pit-worthy thrashing.
The next song is “Crawl”, which is a bit of an outlier as compared to the rest of the album. Beginning with a section that recalls 90’s grunge-pop balladry, then building to a mid-paced chorus featuring a cool call & answer vocal line. The band experiments with a touch of orchestration during the more up-tempo second verse, which is a nice departure from Anthrax’ usual MO. This song might require repeated listens relative to the rest of the album, but it’s worth the effort to let it grow on you.
Next up is “The Constant”, which begins with a half-time riff reminiscent of something you may have heard on one of the band’s early 2000s output, then it moves into a chorus reminiscent of something from Persistence Of Time. The bridge in this song is guaranteed to get the pit going in a live setting, and it features a great solo by lead player Rob Caggiano.
The album’s closer, “Revolution Screams” is a song filled with tempo changes, switching from all out thrashing to a mid-paced chorus to a classic double-bass filled bridge. Lots of changes in vibe throughout this song, and it culminates with a blastbeat right at the fadeout, echoing the intro to “Earth On Hell”. At 11:24 there’s a hidden track, “New Noise”, which was written by Refused. It’s a cool track and is well done.
Long story made short…..Worship Music is like finding your favorite pair of jeans after thinking they were lost forever. A triumphant return to form, and essential for any fan of Anthrax or heavy metal.