EP REVIEW: ANTHRAX – “ANTHEMS”

Anthrax - "Anthems"

Anthrax – “Anthems”

by Ryan Meehan

Out of all of the “elder statesman” of the metal world, Anthrax has put out the best material as of late. Their last album “Worship Music” (which we reviewed on this site back in November of 2011) was my #1 metal album of that year.  These guys are pushing 50, and they are still every bit the real deal…

Last Tuesday, Anthrax released a covers record that featured some pretty unique choices for rearrangements. When reading this review, keep in mind that my opinion of classic rock is that it has a very narrow margin for bands that have immeasurable lasting impact. In my mind, classic rock is composed of two sections: 1) Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin; and 2) Everything else. Another thing to take into account is it’s very hard for me to give a great score to a cover of a song by a band I’m not a huge fan of, even if that cover is being done by a band that I consider to be much heavier and more impactful. What I’ve had to continue to remind myself is that these are songs that Anthrax felt severely influenced by, and/or have a blast playing. I’m convinced that a lot of these records are made for the band themselves to look back on in years to come, as opposed to making a record that fans would love to see and construct the track list for. Eventually the time will come when fans can vote on which cuts they would like to see an artist cover, and then the band will record and release whichever ten songs are most desired. Until then it’s up to the artist themselves what versions of which song you’ll hear, and that’s what I heard on this CD…

1. “Anthems” – Rush 7.4/10.0

"No 'Cold Fire'?  Denied..."

“No ‘Cold Fire’? Denied…”

This is hard for me, because I’m not really a Rush fan. I was when I was much younger, Bowser and Miller were really into a lot of the prog-rock stuff so I was around it a lot. Dubsism from Sports Blog Movement is probably going to lay me out during the next Blastcast for ever thinking that Rush doesn’t walk on water, but I might find myself making an electruction joke if it works.  I will say this – You notice how you never hear a lot of Rush songs being done at a karaoke bar? That’s because they are very difficult to emulate vocally. So, I have to hand it to Belladona here as he does a pretty good job. And at a karaoke bar, you don’t have to play the rest of the instruments which isn’t an easy task at all when it comes to that group.   And even though this is not the best Rush track in the world (By the way, It’s “Subdivisions” if you’re wondering) it does transition well into the next song…

2. “T.N.T.” – AC/DC 8.6/10.0

As seen in Australia

As seen in Australia

If you’re learning how to play guitar, this song is a great place to start. Save the ending, it’s one of the simplest and memorable guitar lines in all of rock history. Although I can’t say I’ve ever tried to do it, I couldn’t imagine that it would be impossible to play this song on guitar and drums at the same time. JB does a really good job here trying to tone his voice to that of Bon Scott and he gets it closer than anybody else I’ve heard. Sort of a predictable choice, but it’s a classic so I can see why they did it.  And it was about to get smoother, as their next selection was…

3. “Smokin'” – Boston 9.2/10.0

Priceless

Priceless

It’s right around this point that I’m starting to think that maybe Anthrax was only picking songs by bands that I wasn’t a fan of to spite me, but then I took my medication and I was fine. I loathe Boston – it’s too clean for me and the guitar tone annoys the shit out of me. But this version is damn near perfect. When you think about it, it should be: Joey has always been very good at harmonizing on studio albums and that’s been a staple of Boston’ signature sound. This song fucking jumps right out of the speakers and doesn’t come off as a typical simple man’s soundtrack at all. They even got somebody to play the keyboard solo in the middle and it rules, as the vintage analog synth sound is nailed. I was taken aback by this one because I honestly expected this one to be the one track on the record that I couldn’t sit through, and I was sorely mistaken.

4. “Keep on Runnin'” – Journey 6.5/10.0

Above:  Not in Anthrax

Above: Not in Anthrax

This song isn’t the most popular Journey song in Team J’s mulletastic catalog, and certainly it isn’t on their Greatest Hits collection. This one is a little bit out of place here because it’s not a very recognizable hook, and when it comes to rock domination Steve Perry will always be in the arena rock category to me. It does sound a lot like Journey though, so you can take that for what’s it’s worth, but I didn’t take it for much.

5. “Big Eyes” – Cheap Trick 6.9/10.0

Why not?


Why not?

One thing that most American metal bands have in common is that they all seem to be big Cheap Trick fans. You don’t have to trip over any of the master tapes of the libraries of Cheap Trick covers that Smashing Pumpkins have done since the mid nineties to realize how much of an effect they’ve had on hard rock. Although not considered to be a heavy metal band by critics, their influence on classic rock is undeniable. That being said, I don’t really dig the song but the guitar playing is something that Rick Nielsen would no doubt be proud of. I do like the breakdown at the end…it has a very hardcore type of feel to it.

6. “Jailbreak” – Thin Lizzy 9.5/10.0

Artwork?  A plus

I have to admit, I’ve always been a huge fan of this song. I think that two of the best classic rock songs of the seventies are this song and Thin Lizzy’s cover of the old Irish folk song “Whiskey in a Jar”, and since Metallica already went ahead and ruined the latter about a decade or so back this is a great cover choice. Although this has been available for a while, it took sitting down with this album and seeing more of why it made sense.  This track is easily the best song on the record, and I love the fact that they chose it to be the last cover on the album. When you think about it, the bridge of this song was almost designed for thrash metal, which technically did not exist in popular form until well after Thin Lizzy’s prime. They’re another great example of a band that you won’t hear done in bars or on a karaoke machine because Phil Lynott’s voice is almost impossible to replicate.  Very impressed with this cut and the production is great.

7. “The Crawl” – Anthrax 4.7/10.0

anthraxpic1

Since this is the same version of the track that’s on “Worship Music”, I’m going to just copy what I had written in the original review and deduct one half point since the song was previously released and wasn’t exactly one of my favorite off of that record. – “The beginning of this one sounds like “Black” by Pearl Jam, not really sure what that’s about. This is definitely my least favorite song on the album. Not a lot to say here, it’s pretty stock.”

8. “The Crawl” (Remix) – Anthrax 6.2/10.0

There’s a lot of weird piano on this remix, and a lot of ambient synth noise. I can’t say that it’s not a different approach, and it does make the main hook a little bit better because of the increase in dynamic, but my disappointment of this probably comes from he fact that I’ve heard good Anthrax remixes before that smash this. (The 1000 Homo DJs remix of “Hy Pro Glo” would be a great example, and I’ll address that here in a second…)

Overall Score: 7.9 /10.0 without the last two songs and a 7.3 as pressed

I don’t usually trust Amazon.com’s reviews because they are all user generated and that can usually make for a lot of uneducated opinions about metal and what it’s supposed to sound like. However, one of the reviews had a line that did catch my eye – “If you’re looking for a face-melting new Anthrax album, this isn’t it”. I couldn’t agree more…They’re probably going to sell a lot of T-shirts that go along with the release of this record, but when you look at their catalog in 50 years this EP isn’t going to hold up next to “Persistence of Time”, “Among the Living” or “Sound of White Noise”. Perhaps it was very difficult to put this disc out after “Worship Music”, but it could have been a lot worse. If you don’t believe me, download a record by Skid Row called “B-Side Ourselves”, which features forgettable covers of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” amongst plenty of other examples of audio butchery. “Anthems” is much better than compilations like that, and the record kind of left me wishing for some more fun cover songs as opposed to two essentially unnecessary versions of the least pleasurable song on the last album. For example, wouldn’t it have been cool to hear them do something from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or both? And wouldn’t it have been even cooler than that to hear them do some Exodus or Slayer? Still not doing it for you? How about these suggestions – “I Was Made For Loving You” by Kiss, “The Strut” by Bob Seger, or possibly even “TV2” by Ministry?

Of course, the point here is that I’m kind of being ridiculous – a covers record is a very personal thing because it usually consists of music that a band has been heavily influenced by and has helped them to create their own sound. I could sit here all night and tell you how much I’d enjoy the shit out of hearing what L7’s version of “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane would sound like, but other than that being the greatest song ever written and the fact that you’re probably laughing your balls off at that thought right now…who am I to say they should do it?

Most metal fans will be able to enjoy this disc for what it’s worth, but I can’t see paying the full price of a regular length record for it. Thankfully, this CD is available on Amazon for only $6.49 so it’s not like they are charging their fans an arm or a leg for it. Plus, you can’t fault one of the best thrash metal bands in history for having a little fun between albums.  It’s a lot of fun and that’s the most important thing, and Anthrax isn’t going to get Las Vegas on us tomorrow.  Hopefully this was a warmup for greater and more metal things to come in the very near future.

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.

Meehan

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